Import substitution requires private investment and reform of the postgraduate education system, as stated in the feature on the situation in Russian science published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Irina Dezhina, Doctor of Economic Sciences and leading researcher at the Gaidar Institute, notes that if funding for science remains unchanged, the outflow of human resources may increase, and not because of emigration, but due to the fact that many areas of activity look more attractive in some respects than scientific research.
The import substitution goal will require a revision of the science funding system. The Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting (CMASF) has outlined a dilemma: either Russia increases its R&D funding to 2% of GDP, primarily at the expense of businesses, which will have to increase their investment fourfold; or the R&D costs do not change, but the number of scientists in the Russian Federation declines by another 30-40%. A reform of the postgraduate education system will also be necessary, with an increase in scholarships “at least” to the level of an average salary in a given region, according to the Higher School of Economics (NRU HSE).
Irina Dezhina said that when assessing the number of scientists and its movement, one should rely on data released by Rosstat, which annually collects relevant statistics. According to the data for 2020 (the latest available information), there were 346,500 scientists in Russia. In 2000, their number was 426,000. That is, over 20 years, it shrank by 18.7%. Also according to Rosstat, the number of scientists over the period 2010-2018 lost 5.7%. So, the assessments given in the preamble to these questions are close to the official ones. Data on the number of scientists for 2021 will be available in the summer, and data for 2022 will be released in mid-2023.
The expert pointed out the main reasons for the reducing number of scientists in this country. “The inflow of human resources into the science sector includes university graduates, graduate students, specialists returning after a break in their career, and those arriving fr om abroad. The outflow is associated with an occupational change or emigration. Emigration makes up an insignificant proportion of those leaving the science sector. However, the main reason for the human resources outflow from science has to do with the greater attractiveness of other areas of activity.
It is noteworthy that the necessity of increasing funding for R&D, mainly at the expense of the business sector, is stated in all the strategic documents adopted in Russia, starting with the Strategy for Scientific and Technological Development of the Russian Federation approved in December 2016. It says that funding for science should amount to “not less than two percent of the gross domestic product, including a proportional increase in private investment, whose level by 2035 should be not lower than that of government investment”. However, over the 5 years that passed since the adoption of the Strategy, there was no multifold increase in the amount of funding earmarked for science, and now it is just slightly more than 1% of GDP. The feasibility of a sharp increase in R&D investment is questionable in a situation wh ere resources are required in many sectors of the economy.
Irina Dezhina specified the most vulnerable areas of science. Mostly, these are the branches that require expensive modern equipment and auxiliary materials.
“Now, the research and develop projects with a practical focus will gain in importance - that is, those that can yield results that will be useful for the socioeconomic sphere. This does not negate the importance of fundamental science, which also has an important area at the “intersection” of fundamental and applied science, the so-called transformative research. Such studies aim at solving a fundamental problem with an eye to a result that could be understandable in the medium term. Transformative research began to be actively discussed during the pandemic, because it was then that science was required to provide some prompt solutions,” Irina Dezhina concluded.