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MOSCOW, January 17. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. President Vladimir Putin has launched a large-scale reform of the system of financing for Russian science. Financing of fundamental science switches to up-to-date standards used in many developed countries. In accordance with the president's directions, fundamental researches will not be financed from the budget through federal programs. From now on, scientists will have to receive grants on a competition basis from the recently established Russian Science Foundation, to which funds of the programs will be transferred. Scientists agree that the system of grants is really better for a number of scientific fields, but are concerned that there will be no openness in fund distribution.
This applies to fundamental researches and theoretical science aimed first at acquiring new knowledge, the Kommersant notes. At present, scientists receive funds from the state budget within various certain-purpose programs, and in addition, there are two state foundations that distribute grants — the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Russian Foundation for Humanities.
The president's decision radically changes the system. Fundamental science in Russia will be financed mostly with grants that will be distributed by the Russian Science Foundation established last year. Presidential aide Andrei Fursenko, a former minister of education and science, heads its board of trustees. According to him, the switch to the system of grants was long discussed by the government, but there was no unanimity — the Finance Ministry objected to it.
However, the foundation does not intend to take money from working programs. Some funds are already earmarked under contracts for years ahead, director-general of the foundation Alexander Khlunov said. Each federal program is corrected, and the president’s instructions will be carried out within such corrections. "I think the work will be completed in two-three years," he said.
"I support the decision. I see no strategic risks," Rector of the Higher School of Economics Yaroslav Kuzminov told the Kommersant. The system of federal programs does not correspond to the essence of fundamental research. Bureaucrats between organizations distribute money of programs, but in the foundation, scientists between scientists do it, he noted.
The foundation pledges to ensure transparency of expert examination and participation of foreign scientists in grant distribution. Members of the board of trustees will nominate 10-15 candidates, respected and recognized scientists, Fursenko said. The candidates, in their turn, elect active and much-cited experts who will consider applications.
According to experts, the switch to grant financing for researches through scientific foundations is a reasonable step that will reduce the practice of equal distribution of limited funds, the Vedomosti notes. It will stimulate competition between scientific staffs and improve quality and effectiveness of research. Budget financing of science will not be halted. Scientific organizations will receive money through the federal agency and for applied researches through federal programs.
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