Last week Russia President Vladimir Putin held a session of the Council for Science and High Technologies; after listening to reports of Russia’s leading scientists, the president promised to increase financing of science in 2003 by one third at least. It was pronounced as a breakthrough in the attitude of the state toward science, but in fact the increase means just an insignificant rise. We should keep in mind that financing of science in Russia is on a poor level; what is more, half of the increase will vanish over inflation. It is nice that doctors of science will now be paid as much as ordinary office-cleaners, and wages of academicians will be on the same level with the wages of commercial bank secretaries. But at the same time we should keep it in mind that a lot of scientific achievements are done by candidates of science, young lecturers and students who have no academic degrees yet. Unfortunately, wages of these people who make great contributions in science will remain below the living wage even after the increase of financing promised by the president.
However, this is not the key problem. President Vladimir Putin calls for concentration of all efforts on priority trends of scientific development in order to make Russia go out of the West’s raw stuff source and turn it into a progressive technological country. But unfortunately, Russia in this sphere is so awfully lagging behind other countries, that even when intelligence service obtains elements of newest technologies, Russian specialists often fail to determine what the thing is and for what purpose it is used. To develop high technologies, Russia needs ultra-modern equipment that is not produced by the domestic industry, and the country not always has an opportunity to buy it. The domestic industry is experiencing setback in production and technological regress.
Russian Minister for Economic Development and Trade, German Gref says that the world economy is experiencing competition not in the sphere of commodities production, but in the sphere of intellect and in creation of scientific values. He called for realization of scientific achievements in the sphere of industrial production. But does the industry need any scientific achievements when it employs just primitive instruments and equipment? On the whole, it makes sense to develop high technologies only when they are in demand in the domestic economy. Russian oligarchs need no high technologies. It means that Russia will turn into the most highly qualified source of raw stuff for the West; the latter will be getting not only oil and gas from Russia, but also new scientific ideas that cannot be realized here.
The authorities must not appeal to scientists, but take up new industrialization (this must be post-industrialization, to be more precise) of the whole of the country. It is only the government that can carry out such industrialization by concentrating the basic economic resources in its hands. But this is the thing that can be only dreamt of in Russia.
There is a famous fable by Russian writer Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin where an eagle wanted to be a maecenas and for this very purpose he instituted “an academy of science”. But as sciences were not in demand in the eagle empire, finally a logical question arose, for what purpose should they have science at all. Following the question, education ceased to exist. Isn’t it likely that the same fate will strike Russia’s Council for Science and High Technologies.
Mikhail Antonov Especially for PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://politics.pravda.ru/politics/2003/1/1/1/5746_nauka.html
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