The Impending Critical Situation in State Regulation of Science

A period of reform in the Russian scientific infrastructure began in the summer and autumn - the creation of a new federal agency for scientific organizations, reform of the three state academy systems and the planned creation of a new Russian scientific foundation.

The adoption of the law Regarding the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Reorganization of the State Academies of Science and the Introduction of Modifications to Various Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation was accompanied by fierce criticism on the part of the majority of the scientific community.

After two readings of the draft legislation, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) proposed the insertion of five basic amendments:


1. Not to dissolve the RAS, but rather reorganize it by combining it with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (RAMS) and the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences (RAAS).

2. Restate the basic goal of the RAS to be the conducting of fundamental and applied research.

3. Divide authority between the RAS and the Agency (hereinafter called the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations - FASO) in a way that FASO is charged only with the management of RAS property.

4. Return the status of legal entity to the regional divisions of the RAS.

5. Maintain the two-stage system of naming corresponding members and academics, and allow the RAS to retain the right to decide how and when to select new members of the RAS.


After the third reading, the RAS was able to force through most of the changes, including reorganization by combining the three academies, maintaining for RAS the functions of conducting fundamental and applied research and coordination of research in educational institutions, the reinstatement of regional divisions as legal entities and maintaining for the Academy the status as final arbiter of the scientific research budget, including providing for the activities of the regional divisions. Finally, the right to name corresponding members of the RAS was retained. However, the RAS lost its authority over the federal property reserved to the scientific organizations that were previously under its jurisdiction. As a result, the status of the scientific institutes ended up being quite uncertain.


The law was adopted on September 17[1], and at the same time the RF Presidential Decree Regarding the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations[2] (FASO) was issued. It was only after this that work on the operating principles of the FASO and its authority began. In fact, it amounted to a new Ministry of Science, to whose authority the complex of state academies was transferred.


The FASO status draft of October 18 (the latest version available for public scrutiny) proposes that all key issues related to the financing and property of the institutions, the social sphere, the purchase of equipment and chemicals are the prerogative of the Agency. The RAS is  mentioned only twice: 1) it is suggested that the proposals of the RAS be considered only in confirming state assignments to institutions to conduct fundamental and applied research; 2) the RAS participates in the formation of a scientific coordinating council, proposing its members as candidates. In this regard, the role of the council itself is not that great. Its "approval" is restricted to the resolution of a limited group of issues, including evaluations of institutions and proposals for the creation, reorganization and liquidation of scientific organizations under the authority of the FASO.


The possible medium term consequences of the reform of the scientific academic sector can be described as negative. It will lead to a decrease in the number of institutions, accompanied by a partial loss of trained personnel, including an outflow abroad. Consequently, there will be a loss in scientific capabilities on a national scale, at least for a certain period of time (measured in years). If asset management is to be carried out without consideration of the characteristics and values of scientific work, collections, museums and archives will suffer.


Methods for adopting decisions regarding the reform of the scientific complex, lack of coordination between related ongoing operations that can radically influence the scientific spheres and the low level of review testifies to the onset of a serious crisis in the state regulation of science.


I.G. Dezhina - head research associate, social economics workshop

[1] No. 253 of 9/27/2013;3586986
[2] No.735 of 9/27/2013;3587023