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A its general meeting the Russian Academy of Sciences elected in a secret ballot prominent Russian physicist Vladimir Fortov as the new head. He received almost 60 percent of votes. He replaced Yuri Osipov, who has been running the world’s biggest research organization for 22 years. Academicians hope that the new president will start reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences that had experienced no drastic changes over the past 20 years.
In his official election programme that did not differ much from that of his rivals Vladimir Fortov promised to curb bureaucracy in the Academy, help young scientists and raise the rating of Russian science, the Kommersant business daily said.
“Our elections have attracted the widest attention. I hope that the Academy demonstrated what our society needs,” the director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Valery Tishkov, was quoted by Kommersant as saying. “Really free elections, without pressures, fraud and prescriptions and at the same time without insults and smear tactics. We have demonstrated once again that in culture there is the Bolshoi Theatre and in the intellectual space - the Academy.”
“We were outrun by Chinese and Koreans, we are losing out to the American science and in general to European one. India is snapping at our heels. The Academy has been waiting for a long time for some breakthroughs, some large-scale projects that will show to the society that Russia has world class science,” Tishkov said.
Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics Andrei Geim, who has been working abroad since the 1990s, made a tougher statement describing the Academy “a home for elderly people.” “Instead of arguing and saying ‘give us more money’, it is necessary to make up mind and to reform the system,” he said adding that some institutes at the Russian Academy of Sciences do science projects “at the kindergarten level.”
Fortov proposed to restrict powers of the Academy’s authorities - no more than two five-year terms for heads of departments at the Russian Academy of Sciences and even for members of the presidium, vice-presidents and president. As for the rest Mr. Fortov complains of insufficient financing, excessive bureaucracy, the lack of young scientists and fall in prestige of science in the society. He as well as other candidates promised to change all this, without disclosing any details. Much more important for academicians was a message between the lines: it is high time for the Russian Academy of Sciences to change and change very seriously.
Making his first speech in his new capacity Fortov confessed that he feels excited and proud for the Academy, RBK daily wrote. He also placed a focus on the theme which raises concern among all scientists. “I am confident that in our future work we will be able to find a common language with our opponents and those who still do not realize how the Academy functions, how it develops and how many useful things it can give to the state.” Vladimir Fortov also spoke about the Academy’s non-transparency. “There are too many ambiguities and often sincere untruth around the Academy. Everybody who works in the Academy should pay bigger attention to the media. We live in the 21st century and there should be new methods,” he said.
Novye Izvestia published an interview with Alexei Yablokov, Corresponding Member at the Russian Academy of Sciences, for whom the election results were quite predictable. “I knew that Vladimir Fortov will win,” he said. “Objectively, he was the most suitable person for this position out of a cohort of all candidates. He had huge administrative experience, he is a qualified scientist. Moreover, he is a scientist in technology, what we need. It is clear that the Academy should be run not by a humanitarian or biologist as I am, but a person close to technical science. By the way he is a good man in personal qualities.”