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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"

Science is not only about gaining knowledge, but also about critical thinking

9 February 2021 г. FRC KSC SB RAS

Наука - это не только получение знаний, но и критическое мышление
Science in Russia is at a crossroads. On the one hand, it demonstrates the growth of scientific publications for the first time in many years. On the other hand, its contribution to the development of new technologies leaves much to be desired. In an interview with the newspaper "Argumenty i Fakty", Yegor Zadereev, a Krasnoyarsk scientist and popularizer of science, shares his opinion on how Russian science feels today, if it is possible to catch up with developed countries and what is needed for this.

POINTS OF GROWTH

- In post-perestroika times, science was expelled to the margins. Federal universities and research centers have now been created, and even a whole national project with the same name has appeared. Can we say that the government has finally paid attention to this area?

- Over the past 10 years, there have been changes. In particular, one can notice that Russian scientists began to publish more articles, there was a partial update of the instrument base, since last year, targeted money has been spent on creating laboratory positions for young scientists. For example, 8 new youth laboratories were created at the Krasnoyarsk Science Center. But it is clear that all these years the scientific world has not stood still. And the most striking example is China. In the early 90s, there was almost nothing there in terms of science. And during only 30 years, the country has come out on top in the world in terms of the volume of scientific research in almost all areas, from high-energy physics to genetics. We have lost a lot over the years. There are certainly points of growth now. For example, Skolkovo, where there is good equipment, and the best scientists are attracted there, they receive a decent salary. And such points are appearing all over the country, but we are still far from China.

- In your opinion, our scientists have become more active in publishing their developments, but is there a practical application of their research?

- There is a usual problem with the research application in our country. The Russian economy is strongly focused on raw materials, because raw materials projects give a fast profit. If to talk about high-tech developments, they take a lot of time, and to implement them requires different thinking. It's easier to develop something which gives you quick money. Our natural wealth is a kind of brakes in science. Although, in the urgent cases, the knowledge of our scientists can give real results. An example is the coronavirus situation, when we were able to create a vaccine in a fairly short time, and not just one. Let there be a lot of controversy, but the drugs are already showing their efficiency, and maybe even better one than those made in other countries.

DEFENSE AND SPACE MONITORING

- The Krasnoyarsk Region has a large scientific community. Reports on new discoveries and experiments appear regularly. To what extent are our developments in demand in Russia and in the world?

- We have several traditional practices where we are strong. For example, scientists of the Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Technology have good results in the processing of mineral ores, in the extraction of valuable compounds from poor ores using high technologies.

We have a lot of unique classified developments related to the defense and space sector. There are studies that are at the stage of implementation, and their results will be in demand in the future lies behind them, for example, projects related to the analysis of satellite images. Some of them are already in use, for example, for monitoring fires. Others are only being tested for effectiveness. Among them is a project with farmers, when, according to satellite data, it is possible to predict the yield, calculate the optimum time for sowing and harvesting, and outline the territories where it is better to plant each crop. You can also recall the promising high-tech work on the creation of biodegradable plastics, the development of test systems for diagnosing diseases using luminous molecules.

- What other problematic subjects in the region, in your opinion, require a joint solution of the authorities and science?

- There are many of them, the most urgent is air quality in Krasnoyarsk as well as forest problems. Today, the taiga is still only a resource for us, but it is a planetary important ecosystem. Due to climate change, the forest burns more often, and various insect pests attack it. Therefore, forest conservation requires a large-scale program. There are separate attempts by different services and scientific communities, but their interests sometimes contradict each other. From the management point of view, forestry has severely suffered recently, and there is a disastrous shortage of people. I believe that there is a need to create a federal targeted program, such as “The Baikal Project" under the name Siberian Forest, where the interests of all departments would be brought together to be taken into account. Our taiga is also no less valuable and significant resource, and it must be protected until irreversible processes begin.

- Russia is trying to adopt amendments to the Law on Education concerning educational activities. They also concern work as a popularizer of science. What do you think about this?

- The trouble with these amendments is that they are broad and unclear. For the first time, the concept of educational activity is being introduced, instead of supporting it, attempts are being made to restrict it through legislative channel. Any training, master class, meeting with a famous person, even our conversation with you falls under this concept. That is, before speaking publicly, you must provide the program, the list of speakers and the content of the speeches so that they can be assessed for compliance with the standards. The amendments do not contribute to the development of science in any way. Naturally, this caused a storm of indignation among scientists, science journalists, popularizers of science.

- What is missing to catch up with China and other developed countries in development? Do we have the resources for this?

- First, we need to bring the share of funding for scientific research to 2.5% of GDP, which now only about 1%, while developed countries tend to allocate 3-4%. Today, the entire budget of the Russian Academy of Sciences, with its network of institutes, is comparable to the budget of one major American university. In some areas, we are keeping pace with other developed countries, in some areas even ahead, but overall we are far behind. We must be honest with ourselves. Are we satisfied with the current situation? If so, be content with the China’s success in science. If not, funding must be multiplied. There is no other way.

Source: Argumenty i Fakty




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