14.07.2013 [News]

Last word not spoken on controversial reform of Russian Academy of Sciences

The Russian State Duma will consider the bill on a reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in a third reading scheduled for autumn 2013. On 5 July the lower house of the Russian parliament passed the bill to reform the Russian Academy of Sciences, with 344 deputies out of 450 supporting the document in its second reading.

On 27 June, Russia's science minister, Dmitry Livanov, had unveiled a draft law that would fundamentally change the status of RAS. On 3 July, Putin met with the newly elected RAS leader, Vladimir Fortov, to discuss the proposal. On 5 July, the Russian parliament, endorsed changes to the original plan in the course of taking a second vote on the legislation. Final passage is expected this fall.

Under the latest version, RAS will not merge with the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. Instead, RAS will preserve its current status for at least 3 years while undertaking changes aimed at increasing its effectiveness. Putin also backed away from his attempt to erase the distinction between full-fledged academicians and scientists of a lower rank, called corresponding members. The revised law still gives corresponding members a chance to become full academicians on a competitive basis, but it does not define the status of those who do not pass the competition.

The authority to manage what is now RAS property would shift to a special agency created by the government. At their meeting last week, Putin asked Fortov to lead the new agency, and the next day Fortov accepted Putin's offer. But Putin rejected Fortov's plea to be given 1 year to carry out significant reforms at RAS before any major administrative changes are adopted. 

Instead, Putin decided not to delay the current draft legislation. 'Sometimes it is better to pass a document and then amend it rather than to flail around and do nothing,' Putin told Fortov.

Sources and further information: Science Magazine, Russia Beyond the Headlines