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Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

 Федеральный исследовательский центр «Красноярский научный центр Сибирского отделения Российской академии наук»

Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

Year of Science and Technology: What Scientists Need Apart from Words.

8 February 2021 г. FRC KSC SB RAS

Год науки и технологий: что нужно ученым кроме слов
By the decree of the President of the Russian Federation the year 2021 is declared the Year of Science and Technology. As noted by the Federal State Statistics Service, starting from 2016, the number of researchers in Russia has been decreasing by 2% annually. According to the HSE University, during the period from 2010 to 2018, the number of scientists in the country decreased by 7.3%. What could be the reason for the outflow of scientific personnel, what scares young people away from the career of a scientist, and what conditions are needed for a comfortable and efficient work of a scientist?

Scientists of the Federal Research Center "KSC SB RAS" tell the newspaper and web-based media “Science in Siberia” what the researchers are acutely lacking.


Anna Vitalievna Lukyanenko - Junior Researcher, L.V. Kirensky Institute of Physics SB RAS.

I am an experimenter. Our team is engaged in the creation and research of various nanostructures and devices. I study the surfaces of materials using atomic force microscopy, and I also make various devices using lithographic processes. For example, thin films, which are obtained at our institute, serve as a "raw part" for future devices. This requires different installation and the newer, the better. Modern devices open up more prospects for work. They allow fast measurements and analysis of numerous parameters with higher accuracy. Sometimes it is enough to update software rather than buying new hardware. But not all settings can be updated, most often the hardware itself becomes obsolete.

With a new device, a similar volume of measurements can be made not in a week, but in one day. The pace of life is accelerating, and our installations are working as slowly as they did 20 years ago. At the same time, in terms of efficiency, we focus on foreign colleagues. There is also new equipment, but we also do a lot on the old one. I have had a couple of installations since Soviet times. So, unfortunately, the efficiency  does not only depend on me. Once I had to measure 50 samples. But, it may take about a week to perform specific measurements. With more modern installations, I would have done everything much faster and spent the rest of the time on something else.

Ideally, in my job, half of the electronic equipment needs to be completely replaced every ten years. Otherwise, you immediately feel how it start to delay in functions. For example, the device we bought in 2012 is already outdated. Its functionality is related to electronic signal processing, and over the past ten years, manufacturers have taken a step forward in this area.

Another controversial point is the assessment of the efficiency by the number of published articles. Doing serious research and writing articles is a creative process. It seems to me that scientometrics is often harmful for it. If you write articles just for reports, then you don't have to come up with demonstrative experiments. You measure a sample, get a result, make a conclusion. In this format, science looks like laboratory work, and the scientific impact of such articles is not high. For example, you need at least a year and a half to perform the experiment, but you have no time, and by the end of the year a certain number of articles need to be issued. On the one hand, such a rating system encourages people to work, but on the other hand, it reduces the quality of publications. We need an approach which would motivate the quality of the papers rather than their number.
Another problem is the difficulty in publishing articles with negative results. The article should contain some results and scientific novelty, and nowhere will the paper with negative results be accepted for publication though such information would save scientists a huge amount of time and wasted reagents.


Alexey Vasilievich Panov - Candidate of Biological Sciences, Senior Researcher at the V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest SB RAS, scientific coordinator of the international observatory ZOTTO.

My colleagues and I are studying gas exchange between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere, in particular, how it is influenced by climate and environmental changes. At the moment, we are mainly engaged in measurements in the Arctic zone of our region, studying the ecosystems in the Arctic Circle.

As an employee of the laboratory specializing in instrumental research and dealing with measuring equipment, I think that science lacks technical support departments. Not just service workers needed to maintain the general infrastructure, but specialized departments with specialists in the design of experiments, equipment repair, and other issues. Such departments would make our work more efficient and would save much time.

As concerns scientific results, one of the main incentives is a healthy competitive environment. Otherwise, there is no motivation to work better. Such an environment can be created by ensuring the mobility of scientists, and this mobility is achieved through decent wages. We also need the stability in financing, through grants or budget, in order for scientists to be able to plan their research work.

Another important point is the scientists’ feeling to be part of a larger whole. In any case, a person should be proud of his position. Thus, it is necessary to restore the status and prestige of the Russian Academy of Sciences. When I entered graduate school, I was given a certificate with the symbols of the Academy. I was proud of being involved in the historical heritage. Multiple factors downgraded the status of the Academy. It is necessary to return the lost positions to RAS, to restore its "aura of greatness" and then, to work out a strategy for the development of all Russian science.


Oleg Vladimirovich Menyailo - Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor of RAS, Senior Researcher at the V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest SB RAS.

I am studying carbon cycle in soils and the role of soil microorganisms in the decomposition and accumulation of organic matter. In particular, my colleagues and I are studying the temperature dependence of carbon decomposition in soil in various terrestrial ecosystems. We investigate the behavior of soil organic matter, whose mineralization increases due to the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and entry of root exudates into the soil. In our research we combine laboratory and field work, which requires instruments, laboratories, and funding. But most importantly, this work requires motivated scientists, especially young specialists.

The interest of scientists is based on motivation. On the one hand, it is salary, which should be within an acceptable range, so that people could support their families, without combining dozens of positions in institutes, collecting a small wages in each position. Non-material motivation is the transformation of scientific advances into better working conditions, career growth, or increased awareness. There are problems with this in our science. The idea of how a researcher works, the provisions governing his rights and obligations, were formed in Soviet times and they are highly outdated.

For example, a graduate student under my supervision will soon defend his dissertation. Will he be invited as an employee to the institute or not? This highly depends on many factors including my personal talk with the director of the institute. It turns out that we do not have rather routine procedures or regulations for employing specialists. This concerns career growth, creation of new and abolition of old departments, fate of employees upon retirement, issues of renewal or termination of contracts. The opportunity for career growth is an important motivation and it is completely opaque and non-obvious in our country today.

Another aspect of non-material motivation is the state's interest in scientific results. Now the government is trying to convince us that the main purpose of our work is to receive a grant and write articles. But when I came to science, there was no grant system. What's going on now? The best scientists fight each other for very modest money. At the same time, world-class articles are expected from us! But the world level requires appropriate funding, but here, financing looks like in Mongolia, while the results expected from scientists must correspond to the USA level.

In order to succeed in science at an international level and to attract young specialists we need to change the relationship between government and science, raise wages, work out a normal management system, and regulate all business processes and rules.


Oksana Pavlovna Taran - Doctor of Chemical Science, Professor of RAS, Director of the Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of SB RAS.

There are many different directions of research in our institute. One of the main ones is the processing of natural organic raw materials and development of renewable energy sources, which is especially important in light of global climate change. We are engaged in the production of polymers, carbon and porous materials from plant matter, as well as chemicals to be used, for example, in industry. Cellulose, in particular, nano- and microcrystalline cellulose widely used in pharmaceuticals, is intensively studied. One of the new directions is prolonged-release fertilizers from wood waste, bark and sawdust with the addition of mineral components. It is expected that such fertilizers, unlike conventional mineral ones, will enrich the soil with humic substances, and nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, without being immediately washed out of the soil.

The directions being developed in our institute are different, and they require a lot of conditions: instrumentation, reagents, premises equipped to be used as special laboratories, as well as specialists in chemistry, chemical analysis, preparation of materials, and technologists. The enthusiasm of the employees is especially important. The driving force behind science is energetic research workers. Unfortunately, the prestige of a researcher has recently been lowered. In the Soviet Union, science was on the rise: scientists had good salaries, films were made, and books were written about them. Thus, there was a strong competition to enter the universities and now we are now struggling to fill a few postgraduate places. In order to attract young people, measures should be developed to increase the prestige of science and scientist.

Another issue is financing and supply. Funding, and the basic one, needs to be increased several times. The basic monthly salary of a French scientist, for example, starts at two thousand euros. It can be increased by improving publication activity, rather than through grants. Grants are used to support the work of postdocs and post graduate students. To talk about our situation is ridiculous. It takes a lot of effort, time and money to buy simple office supplies or consumables. Researchers have to take care of material supply, invoices, and I have to sign a huge amount of documents, as a director. These issues of supplying low-value consumables just aren't worth the time we spend on them.

The state and enterprises should pay attention to science. Nowadays, enterprises are often not interested in financing Russian developments, because it is easier to buy foreign ones. But this approach is not a panacea. Any technology most often needs to be modified to suit local peculiarities. At the same time, foreign equipment is supplied with its own consumables. The enterprise becomes dependent on materials and components that need to be purchased abroad for foreign currency. It is necessary to create and develop engineering centers on the basis of scientific institutes in order to unite technologists, chemists, specialists in electronics and engineering so that the developed technologies could become finished research products. This approach will improve the efficiency of research implementation. In addition, it is necessary to raise awareness of the business for it to be in the course of new possibilities.

It is important to invest in youth. For example, in many developed scientific countries undergraduates and graduate students must undergo training abroad. This raises the level of education, broadens horizons. For example, China has a good experience. There, a scientist who has worked for several years in Europe or the USA, after returning with good results, receives the title of professor and his own laboratory. Our students also go to other countries, but more often they stay there. It turns out that we are supplying foreign science with personnel. Young people can see that the financial and instrumental conditions are better abroad and they do not want to come back. We need to follow the example of other countries, remember successful practices of the Soviet Union, adapt and introduce them into our new system.