Staunton, October 9 – On Friday, Aleksandr Sergeyev, the new president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said Russian science was “not in a complex situation but in a bad one” and could not be expected to achieve great results without larger investments in infrastructure (rg.ru/2017/10/06/aleksandr-sergeev-ran-dolzhna-stat-glavnoj-nauchnoj-organizaciej-strany.html).
The academician’s bleak assessment was in a way confirmed when over the last week, the Nobel Prizes were awarded, and again as has been the case every year since 2010 not one Russian scientist was named a recipient. One news agency offers four comments on the situation (rosbalt.ru/piter/2017/10/07/1651452.html and rosbalt.ru/blogs/2017/10/08/1651572.html).
Each of them provides insights into the broad problems now having an impact on Russian science and hence on Russia’s future.
Yegor Zadereyev, a senior scholar at the Institute of Biophysics at the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences, points out that fundamental breakthroughs require enormous infrastructure projects, the kind which Russia has not been building since the end of the Soviet Union.
Just how underfunded Russian science now is, the Siberian scholar says, is reflected in the fact that the Russian government provides about the same amount of money for the entire Russian Academy of Sciences as a single major university in the United States spends on its operations each year.
Aleksandr Nevzorov, a Moscow commentator, says that there is no conspiracy against Russians. Instead, the Russians are doing themselves in for how can one talk seriously about scientific research if there is a theology faculty at many supposedly scholarly institutions in Russia.
Now, he continues, “we are observing a cult of ignorance, darkness, and thoughtlessness. “For science to develop, there will have to be another state with a different ideology … All this will not appear,” he continues, “in that caricature in which we live.”
Andrey Stolyarov, an embryologist, agrees. He says that “in science there is no freedom, It has become clan-based, including in Russia,” and that makes it hard for individual scholars without a strong community and good infrastructure to break through. Moreover, “in Russia, there is no money for science.”
And Sergey Leskov, a journalist, says the situation is not only bad but getting worse: “With each passing year, the likelihood of the awarding of a major scientific award to a scholar working in Russia is falling. We are more likely to receive an Oscar for a film than a Nobel for science.”