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Russian Academy of Sciences reform sets scientists and lawmakers at odds

September 17, 2013, 11:09 UTC+3
Deputies met scholars halfway
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A reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) remains in the focus of Russian lawmakers. On Tuesday, the State Duma lower house of Russian parliament will bring back to debates over a second reading of the bill on the RAS reform.

The deputies met scholars halfway and agreed to grant RAS regional branches with the status of a legal entity and withdraw a special agency from subordination to the Ministry of Education and Science. This special agency will manage the RAS property and state tasks for scientific institutes. However, the questions, on which the academicians failed to agree with the deputies, remain unsettled.

The agency created for this particular purpose, which will be particularly in charge of RAS property, will be subordinate not to the Ministry of Education, but to the government as a whole. RAS President Vladimir Fortov believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin will appoint the head of the agency.

One more amendment to the bill envisages that the agency will be vested with the powers to give state tasks “to do fundamental and fact-finding scientific research by scientific organizations.” The RAS president finds this decision wrong, because, in his words, the academy and agency should “have the functions divided.” The agency was also empowered to approve finally candidates for the posts of the chief executives of scientific institutes. They will be elected by the staff of their organization from the candidatures approved by the RAS presidium and the recruitment committee of the presidential council for science.

Vladimir Fortov noted that deputies and academicians “did not reach a common view” over scientific activity within authority of the RAS institutes, but not the agency.

The reluctance to come to terms made the society of scientific fellows announce a demand to fire 25 State Duma deputies on Monday, as plagiarism and document forgery were found in their theses. Over 400 people, including four academicians and 13 RAS corresponding members, signed the letter so far.

Deputy Vladimir Burmatov (United Russia), in a thesis of which plagiarism was also found, named an address of the scientists as “an attempt at petty blackmail” and “a short-sighted statement.” Head of the State Duma ethics committee Aleksander Degtyarev told Kommersant daily that even if the fact of plagiarism in a thesis is recognized this will hardly affect the fate of lawmakers, “Such things just do not relate to lawmaking. Only some ethnical condemnation is possible.” The deputy urged the scientists “to take these things without extremism.”

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