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State Duma brings back bill on Russian Academy of Sciences reform for second reading

September 18, 2013, 10:59 UTC+3
A scandalous bill, under which the Russian Academy of Sciences will change drastically, was approved by the State Duma at the end of the spring parliamentary session
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On Tuesday, the State Duma lower house of Russian parliament has brought back a heatedly debated bill over an ongoing reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) for the second reading. Scientists and lawmakers have serious disagreements; it is unclear how they will settle them. About 500 scientists, who oppose the reform, gathered near the State Duma building on Tuesday.

A scandalous bill, under which the Russian Academy of Sciences will change drastically, was approved by the State Duma at the end of the spring parliamentary session, the Novye Izvestia daily recalled. The first reading was held on July 3, the second reading took place already a day later. When the lower house of parliament was debating the bill quite rapidly, the document over the RAS reform stirred up a storm of indignation in the professional society of scientists. Last July RAS President Vladimir Fortov met Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss a bill over the reform of the state academies, which initially envisaged the shutdown of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. At the meeting President Putin proposed to Vladimir Fortov to head not only the academy, but also a special federal agency of executive authorities for the transitional period of time. A federal agency will be created as a result of the reform and will manage the property of the state academies (the conventional name of this agency is the Agency of Scientific Institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences). On September 9, the RAS general meeting approved a resolution, asking the State Duma to adopt “the proposals, which the RAS Presidium had drafted and the Russian president had approved” as amendments to the law on the RAS reform.

The State Duma did not argue that the bill needs to be elaborated, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily noted. The especially formed inter-faction group had been working in the State Duma all summer. Meanwhile, the group “was not just working, collecting something,” first deputy head of the United Russia faction Nikolai Bulayev said.

“We were working on those proposals, which the Russian Academy of Sciences moved in. We have met with the academicians several times last summer. All proposals were taken into account and all of them will be fixed in the amendments after the bill passes the second reading,” Bulayev said, acknowledging that “for 12 years of his work in the State Duma he did not see a law, which had been entangled in so many gossips and rumors that are not true at all.” He came to conclusion that many deputies did not read it at all. Therefore, probably, the main idea of the critics of the bill is that “nothing should be changed now, we will decide some day in the future what should be done.”

The inter-faction working group (included representatives of United Russia, LDPR and A Just Russia) with the participation of State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin had been seeking for a compromise with the leadership of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences for more than three hours on Tuesday evening, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported. After the meeting it became clear that no agreement was reached on the key issue to whom the RAS research institutes will be subordinate. Bulayev explained to reporters that it is impossible to remove from the text a clause that scientific organizations, which are subordinate to RAS now, will be transferred under the authority of an especially created federal agency, because this is a concept of the bill. The concept is approved in the first reading, one cannot dream about returning to the first reading.

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