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Meeting of the Council for Science and Education

October 29, 2012, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

Vladimir Putin held the first meeting of the Council for Science and Education since its membership was changed.

The meeting is examining measures to promote scientific research and development, in particular through a more effective system of research support grants, budget funding for research and development within state programmes and objectives, use of targeted capital funds, and the legislative framework that will support the new funding mechanisms. 

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.

This is the first meeting of the Council for Science and Education in its new composition. Roughly two-thirds of the membership has changed. I hope that we will also seriously update our work and its content too. This Council must become a platform for open dialogue with the science community in order to produce concrete recommendations on the main state policy areas. After all, it is the level of technological, scientific, and education development and the quality of human resources in the broadest sense that determines leadership in today’s world.

Our common task is to carry out a steady and consistent policy that draws on the best in Russian and global experience to give our country an education and science environment that meets the demands of today’s world and the needs of our strategic development priorities. The Council should focus on addressing these objectives with the support of competent opinions from the country’s academic community and giving consideration to all constructive ideas that are realistic in Russia’s situation.

Today we will look at the important matter of financial support for science and how to make the instruments we use in this area more effective and produce better results. They should raise the returns on investment in science.

Federal budget funding for civilian sector science has increased substantially over the last 10 years, but we often hear the view and have the idea that there is not enough money for science. This is fair enough. At the same time however, let me draw your attention to a few figures. In 2002, we spent only 31 billion rubles [$1 billion] on science, but we are spending 328 billion rubles on it this year. This is a big difference.

Public sector average wages in research and development have almost tripled over the last 5 years, from 9,700 rubles [$320] a month in 2006, to 27,869 rubles a month in 2011 which is 21 percent higher than the average wage in the economy as a whole. Of course, it is still not much, but the trend is clear and positive at least.

Russia is one of the top countries in the world now for the absolute volume of state funding for research and development. Put into purchasing power parity terms, our figure comes out at $22 billion. Comparing this to the OECD countries’ respective figures, we are still a long way behind the United States ($157 billion), Japan ($33 billion) and Germany ($29 billion), but are ahead of countries such as France, Britain, and Italy, which have figures of $19 billion, $14 billion, and $11 billion respectively in purchasing power parity terms.

A number of our research institutes and teams are at the global forefront in their fields and enjoy a deserved reputation around the world. The programme to attract prominent scientists to Russian universities and laboratories is also starting to produce results. More than 70 research projects involving the participation of foreign specialists and Russians returning home to work are underway now. I already mentioned on several occasions, including at the opening of the new Federal University, about the grant support programme that aims to attract globally recognised scientists and offers laboratories, accommodation, and decent pay. We had ten applicants for every one place on the programme, with applications coming from the USA, Europe, Japan, and South Korea. In general, I think we are moving in the right direction. Of course, this is still not enough and we must go further and ensure steady development and a new quality of work in research and development in Russia.

Regrettably, the share of Russian authors in international academic publications and the number of citations of Russian research around the world continue to fall, and the number of patents issued is still not high. We are entirely justified in asking why the increase in budget funding has still not brought results in the form of patents, new technology and innovation. But the academic community for its part often says that this budget money is enough only to survive, not to develop. In some segments this is indeed the case, but to be objective, it is not the case throughout the sector as a whole.

I think that achieving any sort of effective results will require maximum clarity and precision in all matters concerning state support for science. We need a clear logic focused on obtaining results and on making budget spending on science more effective. We will have to adjust budget instruments, better target their objectives and use, develop a differentiated approach to supporting and financing the various stages of the research cycle, and establish clear and transparent links between scientific results and rewards for scientists. At the same time, we also need to give young researchers opportunities for creative growth and realising their professional potential, and provide them with decent living standards.

We are to encourage a transition to multichannel financing for research, with funds coming not just from the state budget but also from extra-budgetary sources, business, private companies. Many of you know the role the different channels play in funding for science in the world’s big research powerhouses. In Japan, for example, budget money accounts for only 23 percent of funding for science, while here it represents almost 75 percent.

Naturally, these new approaches will have to be introduced gradually, without radical upheaval to the existing instruments and institutions and realising that for now, budget money will remain the biggest source of funding for research and development in Russia.

I have several proposals to make in this context.

First, the basic research and development instrument — the state objectives – is in need of serious change. 

Currently, around three quarters or even more of the money allocated is spent on paying wages, utilities costs, and regular maintenance – routine expenses, in other words. This means that there is obviously not enough money for serious research, buying equipment and materials, and developing the infrastructure.

When setting the tasks to be carried out under the state objectives, there must be a clear separation between maintaining and developing the science infrastructure and the research and development work itself. We also need to aim for a regular 5–10 year cycle of upgrading the equipment and technical base at research and education establishments.

The way the funding system works at the moment it is focused on using the money from the state budget, gives only secondary attention to actually getting results out of research and development work and does not create incentives for developing the needed competition in science. One possible solution would be a shift to a system of permanent and short-term contracts as part of the state objectives framework.

We could offer permanent contracts to prominent scientists and researchers who achieve high results in their work, while others would work under a system of short-term contracts, joining strong teams for specific projects or research themes. Financing for institutions of established world renown must be guaranteed on an ongoing basis, as part of their medium-term development programmes, for example.

Second, we need a new quality of modern grant financing for science. This is an effective instrument that has already proven its worth abroad and here in Russia.

But the current kinds of short-term grants we have here do not enable us to give the full needed support for all projects. Essentially, grant funding is just an addition to researchers’ and post-graduates’ basic pay. This money is enough for attending an academic conference or buying a bit of equipment, but it would be practically impossible to carry out a big project from start to finish and obtain significant scientific results.

You know about our decision to considerably increase the national science humanities foundations’ resources. We plan to allocate up to 25 billion rubles [ $800 million] a year for this purpose by 2018.

We have already gone through all the details with the Finance Ministry and there should be no speculative talk that we are spending too much money and the budget will collapse as a result. Nothing is about to collapse. The matter has been planned and analysed. True, the organisational and legal form for further use of these funds has not been settled yet, but this is a matter for separate discussions in the Government or between the Government and the Presidential Executive Office. In principle, we could look at setting up some kind of additional bodies that would oversee grant support, all the more so as the grant system has proven its effectiveness.

We have to modernise our grant policy in order to ensure that the funds invested bring maximum return. As I just said, we need to focus it on supporting medium-term research and full-cycle big projects in areas that can produce results of a global level.

I also think it is important to shift research work undertaken as part of the federal targeted programmes over to a grant-funded basis. In this context we could discuss establishing specialised funds for supporting research and education activities.

Third, world practice shows that most applied research and projects are carried out with the help of extra-budgetary funding. I just mentioned Japan’s example. But many Russian organisations have only very limited possibilities in this area, especially if we are talking about non-commercial, fundamental research.

Targeted capital funds are an effective means of attracting private money into science and education. We have a law in this area that is in force and working, and we now have 70 such funds with total capital of 4 billion roubles.

This is not enough and we realise that this is still far too little for us to be able to talk yet about serious private financing for scientific research. This makes it all the more important for the state authorities to encourage the establishment and development of such funds.

I propose that we discuss all of these issues today in order to start moving forward. Thank you for your attention.


Vladimir Putin: Colleagues,

We have considered one of the key issues in the organisation of scientific activities in the Russian Federation: the issue of funding. It is clear that no task can be addressed without funding, so the question is how to organise it. We have seen that although the available funding may not be sufficient, it is nevertheless significant.

Keeping in mind the Government’s intention to increase this funding, we must take a very close look today (as some colleagues have said) at ways to attract funding and the results of our joint efforts. I agree that such assessment is not simple and it is not one-dimensional. It is clear that here, just like in any creative or academic endeavour, the approach to this assessment should be highly accurate, balanced and professional. However, it would be impossible to do away with the assessment.

We will certainly take your comments and suggestions into account in formulating the final version of this meeting’s outcome document. I want to draw your attention to the fact that the Minister [of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov] said, and I want to support him in this, that many things are already available for use within the existing regulatory framework, although I also agree with those who believe that it should be improved. All of this will be the subject of our future work, bearing in mind the plan of our joint activities that was proposed by Mr Fursenko [Aide to the President, Deputy Chairman of the Council for Science and Education].

Thank you very much for your work and for taking part in today’s meeting.

October 29, 2012, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region