03.07.2013 [News]

Reform of Russian Academy of Sciences under debate

A month after the election of Vladimir Fortov as president of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), Russsia's science minister Dmitry Livanov announced a draft law that would merge RAS with two other science academies, strip it of control of its real estate holdings, and abolish the distinction between full-fledged academicians and scientists of a lower rank. The science ministry has asked Russia's parliament to fast-track debate on the law. The announcement was met with critisism by parts of the Russian science community.

The move would radically transform the 289-year-old Russian Academy of Sciences. Under the draft law, RAS would merge with two more specialized bodies, the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. The law would also establish an Agency for RAS Scientific Institutions that will manage the academy's real estate holdings and property. It would also promote scientists of a lower rank, called corresponding members, to full academicians, and impose a 3-year moratorium on election of new academicians.

While the need for RAS reforms in general is hardly debated, many scientists were irritated that the new law was apparently drafted without consulting the scientific community.

On Monday, 1 July, the presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences voted against the proposed reform. Its resolution says that if the reform is implemented, an amorphous organisation run on unclear and incoherent principles will be created. Sergei Aldoshin, the vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, expressed the hope that Russian President Vladimir Putin would soon meet the president of the RAS. Aldoshin told journalists that the Russian Academy of Sciences could improve the reform of Russian science which, according to many academicians, had started in an absolutely wrong direction.

'A change in subordination of the Russian Academy of Sciences institutions will destroy the principle of unity in managing fundamental science and will make either impossible or extremely ineffective the implementation of functions which the law fixes after the Russian Academy of Sciences,' the Academy’s presidium said in its resolution.

Sources and futher information: Science Magazine, Russkiy Mir Foundation