The interdisciplinary approach, the emergence of new tools and forms of research are the distinctive features of modern science, creating a dimension of knowledge that used to be unthinkable in the past. The recent years have been particularly rich both in breakthrough scientific discoveries and in the development of new areas of research, the results of which are yet to come.
The development of science and technology in the 21st century is taking place within the context of global transformations that boost the effectiveness of research.
Disciplinary and sectoral boundaries in research and development are blurring: in the course of the research, objectives at the intersection of different disciplines are completed.
The volume of scientific and technological information is surging, it is becoming more accessible, and fundamentally new ways of organising and conducting research are emerging.
The innovation cycle, i.e. the time between the acquisition of new knowledge and the creation of technology, and their entry into the market, is accelerating.
These changes in the field of science speed up the progress in understanding the world.
According to the Web of Science Service, the number of scientific publications in international peer-reviewed journals as the key research performance metric increased by 23% from 2010 to 2016.
OECD data show that the number of patents within the framework of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) since 2006 has increased five-fold in China, more than two-fold in South Korea, by 60% in Japan, by 25% in France, and by 12% in the US.
In 2016 alone, mankind made many breakthrough scientific discoveries.
Existence of gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity has been proved by experiment.
Proxima Centauri b, the closest exoplanet to the Earth, has been discovered. In 2018, a telescope is to be launched into space to study it.
Artificial intelligence of immense complexity has been created: DeepMind, Google’s subsidiary, has developed a computer programme AlphaGo leveraging on neural networks that mimic the structure of the human brain.
The possibility of conception using the mitochondrial DNA of a third person has been confirmed by experiment. Scholars believe this will help avert inherited mitochondrial diseases, such as diabetes or deafness.
Modifying the genome of a living person is now possible: using CRISPR technology, Chinese researchers managed to “turn off” a patient’s gene contributing to cancer progression.
A discovery has confirmed the possibility of increasing life expectancy: based on experiments in mice, scientists could prove that removing aged cells (which have lost the ability to divide) can do the job.
Scientific priorities are country-specific and largely determined by the needs of the state and major businesses. For the next 10–15 years, Russia will focus on the areas that will create technology stimulating the domestic market of products and services, and securing a sustainable position for the country in the global market:
genetic research in the interests of healthcare and agriculture;
information technology in the field of quantum computing and big data;
technology in the energy sector – new sources of energy and higher efficiency of hydrocarbon production and processing;
creation of technologies inspired by nature, e.g. devices with ultra-low power consumption, new zero waste production, adoption of new approaches to storage, processing and transmission of energy.