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Russian Academy of Sciences has seen several reorganization attempts in its history

August 18, 2013, 7:26 UTC+3
The Russian Academy of Sciences started organizing subsidiaries and research bases in the republics, territories and regions of the USSR
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MOSCOW, August 18 (Itar-Tass) - There have been several attempts to reform the Russian Academy of Sciences throughout the history of Russia’s leading scientific institution. In 1918, the People’s Commissariat for Education suggested transforming the Russian Academy of Sciences into an association of scientific institutions. The scientists were categorically against that. Though the Academy was preserved after their personal appeal to Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, it was also decided to develop a system of research institutes.

The Soviet state and the Communist party established control over the previously independent Academy of Sciences in the mid-1920s. In 1925, the Academy became subordinate to the Council of People’s Commissars (the government from 1918 to 1946) in 1925. In 1930 it was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR and was handed over back to the Council of People’s Commissars in 1933. In 1934, the Academy’s presidium and 14 institutes were moved from Leningrad to Moscow.

The Russian Academy of Sciences started organizing subsidiaries and research bases in the republics, territories and regions of the USSR. About 80 scientific institutions were affiliated with the Academy. It employed approximately 2,000 employees. The institutes’ number increased to about 150 by 1940. The number of scientific workers also increased to about 4,000.

The USSR Academy of Sciences saw major reorganization in 1961. It was the first large-scale reform of Soviet science. As a result, academic institutes that carried out applied research were placed under the jurisdiction of industrial ministries and state committees. The Academy of Sciences was vested with the task to supervise the development of natural and social sciences. The Academy retained its right to carry out methodological leadership of Soviet science, solve fundamental scientific problems and develop the most important technological projects.

In 1964, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev criticized the Soviet Academy of Sciences at a plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). “We do not need the Academy because science should develop in various branches of industry,” Khrushchev said.

After his resignation, Khrushchev was blamed for “gross errors” in running the Soviet science alongside with a number of other mistakes and miscalculations.

By the late 1980s, the scientific and technological potential of the former Soviet Union ranked second in the world after the United States. Almost the same number of Soviet scientists was engaged in R & D as in the United States, and expenses for research and development were on a par with those in the United States and accounted for approximately 2.3-2.4 percent of the GDP.

In November 1991, the Academy of Sciences of the USSR was transformed into the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In the early 1990s, many promising scientific programs and development were frozen for an indefinite period in connection with transition to market relations. The state radically cut the financing of Russian science. The only way of survival for Russian scientists at that time were foreign trips and participation in contests to receive scientific grants. Almost 100,000 scientists have left Russia since 1990. Starting form that time, the question of the Academy’s modernization has been constantly raised at various levels but no radical decisions have been made.

In 2002, the Russian leadership adopted a course of transition to innovative development. The Russian president approved a schedule of financing Russian science up to 2010. In a bid to improve the academy’s structure, the authorities cut the number of regional branches and areas of science from 18 to 9 in 2003.

On September 1, 2004, the Russian Ministry of Education approved a concept of Russia’s participation in property management in the sphere of science. Under the concept, the state planned to cut the number of budget-subsidized research institutes to a hundred. That caused indignation of the Russian scientific community. Many scientists staged protest actions. The Academy’s presidium demanded resignation of Education Minister Andrei Fursenko. The standoff lasted for two years. In February 2006, Russian Education Minister Andrei Fursenko and President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Osipov signed a joint concept of modernizing the structure, functions and mechanisms of financing Russian science. The Russian leadership recognized the Academy’s priority role in generating the Russian scientific thought and preserved state financing of research institutes. In turn, the academicians agreed to gradual market reforms.

On December 8, 2006, amendments to the law on science and state scientific and technological policy came in force. Now, the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences elected by academicians has to be approved by the president of Russia. The right to adopt the Academy’s charter and approve presidents of sectoral academies was handed over to the government, which also had the right to set the quota for academicians and corresponding members and regulate the size of their salaries on proposition from the general assembly of academies.

The reform had great consequences for the Academy. It had to cut over six percent of budget jobs in 2006 and another 14% of scientific positions in 2007-2008.

In February 2007, the government drafted the Academy’s charter that deprived the presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences of financial and administrative powers. A supervisory council consisting mainly of representatives of the authorities was supposed to run the Academy. The Academy of Sciences turned down the government project. On March 28, the General Assembly of the Russian Academy of Sciences unanimously adopted its draft of the charter which granted it the status of a state institution and made it an independent subject of budget planning. The government approved the Academy’s charter draft on November 19.

On February 27, 2008, the cabinet of ministers approved a program of fundamental research and allocated 253 billion roubles for its financing in the course of five years. The academies got the right to set priorities of scientific work. However, the management of monetary flows was in the hands of the coordination council, which comprised representatives of executive power bodies.

All in all, 89 scientific organizations and 58 organizations that serviced science and social sphere were liquidated in the course of reforms in 2008-2012. Two branches - of global problems and international relations as well as physiology and fundamental medicine - were created. Salaries to the Academy workers were raised.

On March 24, 2013, Education Minister Dmitry Livanov announced that the Academy was inefficient and suggested creating an alternative organization of ‘scientists of work-abled age. In response, Academicians Zhores Alfyorov and Vladimir Frolov quitted the public council set up under the Russian Ministry of Science and Education.

On June 27, the Russian government approved a reform of state academies of sciences. A new public state organization called the Russian Academy of Sciences will be created. It will unify the present Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences under one roof. A property management agency will run the Academy’s property. Besides, a three-year moratorium will be imposed on election of academicians of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The current titles of academicians and corresponding members will be replaced by the single title of Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

At present, the Russian Academy of Sciences has 436 scientific organizations, which employ about 100,000 people, including 45,000 research workers. By the start of 2013, the Academy had 511 academicians and 750 corresponding members. The average age of academicians and corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences is 70 and 66 years old, respectively.

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