29 may 2008

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addresses a general meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Vladimir Putin

General meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences

"Obviously, we cannot do without introducing modern approaches to organising scientific research, or without promoting competition in the scientific environment. This is the only way if we are to translate investments into the growing effectiveness of our science, into the creation of intellectual products."

Speech by Vladimir Putin at the general meeting of the Russian Academy of Science:

Good afternoon, Mr Osipov, friends,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation and for the opportunity to address such an august and representative audience. Today I would like to speak about the issues which, in my opinion, determine the prospects for Russian science, its role in modernising the economy, and securing the country's position in the global technological and intellectual competition.

We all remember the difficult situation our science was in only a short while ago. Many promising research programmes were curtailed or put "on the back burner". We faced a massive outflow of research personnel and a loss of continuity between generations and authoritative scientific schools.

It is still too soon to say that the situation has qualitatively changed. I am very well aware of this. But the state of affairs is changing for the better, if only gradually. Part of the credit for this goes to the principled stand of the academic community and the leaders of the Academy. Some major decisions were taken by the Council for Science, Technologies and Education. Today they are being put into practice.

It is in the framework of the Council that support has been given to the initiatives on preparing fundamental research programmes, developing innovative infrastructure and renewing the human resources of Russian science.

Federal spending on civilian science has been growing year by year. This year it will amount to about 125 billion roubles, and the total sum - including off-budget sources - will be about 200 billion roubles.

Let me add that just recently we discussed tax policy at a meeting of the Government Presidium. It was decided to bring in extra measures to support R&D in priority areas beginning from 2009. The amount that can be deducted as costs in the conduct of such work is to be increased by 1.5 times. Significantly, even if the result of such research is negative. We expect that this will ensure an additional inflow of money into our science.

We have already allocated major funds for the development of such cutting-edge spheres as nano- and bio-technologies, nuclear energy, aerospace, etc. In 2008-2010 under federal targeted programmes alone these activities will be financed to the tune of 600 billion roubles.

Government financing of the Academy of Sciences has increased substantially. Its budget in 2007 stood at 37 billion roubles and in the current year is expected to be about 45 billion.

In 2010 allocations will top 60 billion roubles. Let me remind you that in 2000 we were talking about a sum just under 6 billion roubles. Make a note of it: a tenfold growth within a relatively short space of time.

Of course, even that is probably not enough. I am very well aware of it. But we should match our expenditure with the potential of our economy.

Beginning from next year the bulk of the money allocated to the Academy will come under the Programme of Fundamental Research. The RAS will get more than 200 billion roubles over five years under that Programme.

The legal basis of scientific activities has been updated, including the Law on Science and Scientific-Technical Policy. A new Charter for the RAS has been adopted. The main thrust of the changes is to strengthen the independence of the academic community and develop the principles of self-government. Naturally, it implies enhanced responsibility for the results of scientific activities.

Obviously, we cannot do without introducing modern approaches to organising scientific research, or without promoting competition in the scientific environment. This is the only way if we are to translate investments into the growing effectiveness of our science, into the creation of intellectual products for which there is demand both inside the country, on our market, and in the world.

Of course, the academic sector should become more actively involved in innovative activities and tackle the tasks that really face society, the economy and business. It should interact closely with other research centres, notably with university science.

You know that last year we passed amendments to the law that brought down the artificial barriers that prevented academic institutions from engaging in teaching activities and prevented higher education institutions from using the infrastructure of the Academy.

I expect that the Academy will become an active partner in implementing one of our priority projects, the creation of a network of fundamental federal universities. As I said, the new laws permit that.

Federal universities are conceived as world-level research and educational centres. Their students and teachers must have a chance to work in the laboratories of the best academic institutions and to use other rational forms of integration between science and education.

We must substantially renew the material basis of science. The Ministry of Education and Science alone has created 56 centres for collective use of modern scientific equipment. But the overall picture is still far from ideal. Thus, the age of almost half of the machinery and equipment used by RAS scientists is over 11 years. The share of equipment aged less than 2 years is a little over 20%.

We will look for ways to solve that problem. We expect valid proposals from the RAS leadership. I understand that this is one of the key problems. I repeat, we will seek to solve it. If people are to go into science and fulfil their potential in their homeland, in Russia, they must have a chance to engage in full-scale research. They must see prospects for advancing their scientific careers. And equally important, they must enjoy comfortable and decent living conditions.

A pilot project of remunerating the work of RAS scientists is already underway. The average salary has more than trebled (from 6,000 to 20,000 roubles) in a little more than two years. By the end of 2008 it will reach 30,000 roubles a month, just like we have planned and agreed with Mr Osipov.

Let me stress that we are talking about the average salary. Many successful scientific centres remunerate the work of their scientists much better. Besides, the Academy has the right to independently determine the size of the payroll and the system of remuneration. It is quite fair that a scientist's income should be directly linked to the results of his research activities.

You know, of course, that the Government has decided to raise the additions to the salaries of the Full Members of the RAS to 50,000 roubles and of Associate Members to 25,000 roubles a month.

We should also put in place a system of incentives to encourage young people to stay in the sphere of science, education and high technologies. To this end it is necessary to support various forms of academic mobility, to introduce targeted financing of research conducted by young scientists, to enable them to work in the framework of leading scientific schools.

Practically all these themes are addressed in the new federal targeted programme Scientific and Scientific-Pedagogical Personnel of Innovative Russia for 2009-2013. It will shortly be discussed and approved by the Government of the Russian Federation.

And of course it is important to help young scientists with housing. We are aware that this is one of the key problems. I fully agree with Mr Osipov that the solution of that problem can make a major difference to the human resources situation.

All the resources should be used, including, as Mr Osipov has proposed, plots of land that are used by the RAS. I would like you to know that I have already instructed the relevant federal ministries to look into this issue thoroughly.

Dear colleagues,

For almost 300 years the Academy of Sciences has been serving Russia, setting the standards of creative science: responsibility to society, integrity, openness, continuity and a readiness for constant renewal.

I am sure that the Academy, preserving its spirit and traditions, will continue to march abreast of the times and make a tangible contribution to the development of our country.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Vladimir Putin's closing remarks at the general meeting of the RAS:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Osipov, I have looked at the resolution. We have resolutions everywhere, we in the Government have resolutions and you have resolutions. True, it is only a draft. I haven't read it all. But from what I read I very much liked some other things. For example, point 14: it shall be the civil and professional duty of scientists to ensure constant links with the media to propagate the achievements of science, to combat pseudoscientific ideas, obscurantism, in short, all kinds of prejudice. A very good idea. And to combat extremism. (Laughter, applause). Thank you.

Serious things.

I would like to draw your attention to two points:

The Presidium of the RAS shall continue the work aimed at retaining young talented personnel in the Academy, using for this purpose a system of long-term contracts with higher than average salaries, easy terms of obtaining housing and other necessary measures.

To strengthen support of young scientists working at the RAS by invigorating the activities of the Young Scientists' Fund and systematically organising contests and awarding prizes for innovative works.

I remind you that we have presidential grants for young scientists, even though they are not large. I can tell you that we are planning to enlarge them before the year is out. That's point one.

Point two: the main budgeting... Mr Fursenko, what is the cost of the innovation programme?

Andrei Fursenko: I think 80 billion roubles over 4 years.

Vladimir Putin: The Minister tells me that 80 billion roubles have been allocated to finance the programme I have mentioned, the training of scientific and pedagogical personnel. Most of the money will go for these purposes.

And item 9: the Presidium shall pay particular attention to renewing the instrumental base of the Academy. And then comes a very apt remark: ask the Government of the RF to allocate funding for the renewal of the instrumental base of fundamental science.

Mr Osipov has just said that you have spent 20 billion roubles for these purposes recently. In my opening remarks I said that of course the amount of modern equipment at the Academy of Science's research institutions is way short of requirements. Of course we must address that problem. But we would like to see clear and understandable criteria for judging how effectively the equipment we will buy is used. Of course we will buy equipment and of course we will tackle this issue. We have to know in advance what the result will be. In any case we must know what result we expect when we buy laboratories, equipment and instruments.

Finally, we should above all rely on the collective use centres.

I have some more remarks, but I will stop here.

Thank you.