• Saving Russian Academy of Science

Moscow, 4, July, 2013
Dear colleagues,
The Russian Government is currently trying to push through the Parliament (Douma), well known for its docility, a reform draft concerning the Russian Academy of  Sciences, which involves the transfer of all assets of the Academy along with its institutions to the hands of a special group of so-called “efficient managers”. No serious and elaborated program of reform is proposed, except for some drastic  measures with unpredictable consequences. Among them, the abolition of different regional branches of the present Academy, as well as of various other institutions (the Academy of Education etc.), and the creation of a new Russian Academy, which will be a sort of club for a few outstanding scientists endowed with annuities for life. What will happen to the numerous academic institutions and their fellows is not clearly articulated in the project.
The main purpose of this “reform” is  evident from its priorities: to deprive  the Russian Academy of Sciences of its independent status and to seize its property, which will allow  bureaucrats to dictate to scientists what they should do.
The project appeared all of a sudden on June 28th, , at the onset of summer holidays, and came as  a surprise even for the newly elected president of the Academy of Sciences, not to mention the other fellow members. It was prepared in secret, away from the scientific community, under flagrant violation of ethical standards and mandatory procedure, involving discussion and peer review (Government Decree N 159 of 22 February 2012 “On Approval of the Rules of the public discussion of draft federal constitutional laws and federal laws”). The first reading took place on July the 4th, the second one, contrary to the procedure according to which for the matters of such importance a period of 60 days is provided for introducing amendments, will take place on Friday 5th July. So, only 2 days for “discussion” no time for amendments. And this raw and adventurist project will pass the main steps of ratification! Could one imagine something like this in any democratic country!
While declaring to focus on improving the efficiency of scientific research, the project does not contain any constructive ideas that would promote science. Adoption of the law will strike a blow to the country’s science, the backbone of which the Academy has been and continues to be. Many scholars are scandalized by a humiliating attempt to persuade members of the Academy to support the “reform” by promises of status and cash handouts.
The 300-year history of the Russian Academy of Sciences – is not an empty phrase. It is the only social institution that for centuries embodied the unity of Russian history, culture and national identity. The history of the Russian Academy of Sciences is a unique example of a centuries-old succession – it should not be interrupted by a subjective hasty decision.
Our government’s attempt to create an efficient management of the Defence Ministry’s property culminated in corruption and collapse. Projects to create an oasis of 21st century  science in “Skolkovo”  brought  nothing but huge costs. All this inspires serious concerns about the future of science in Russia. We do believe that our colleagues all over the world must know what is going on in “democratic” Russia and have a right to express their opinion thereon.

Prof. Dr. Sergei Nikolsky
Deputy Director of the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

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