#1 - JRL 2009-183 - JRL Home

Russian researchers abroad urge steps to halt collapse of science

MOSCOW, October 2 (RIA Novosti) - A group of prominent Russian scientists working abroad have urged measures to end the ongoing brain drain from the country and prevent the collapse of science in the country.

In an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev published in the Vedomosti daily on Friday, the scientists highlighted "the catastrophic state of theoretical science" and put forward proposals to ensure the country's scientific and technological development.

"The regression is continuing, and the scale and danger of the process have been underestimated. The level of finance for Russian science is in sharp contrast with comparable figures in developed countries. Scientists' mass departures abroad have remained a major problem for Russia," the letter said.

The authors warned that the ongoing destruction of the Soviet era's solid scientific base, which guaranteed uninterrupted technological progress and the country's independence, would lead to an unbridgeable gap between generations of scientists, and the disappearance of international-level science.

The scientists said pure science in Russia lacked strategic planning and clear objectives. They also highlighted a decrease in the prestige of science and declining educational standards.

They said the president and prime minister should immediately adopt a plan to rectify the situation, including by ensuring transparent financing of science projects, integrating Russian science into global research efforts, introducing international assessment standards and resorting more often to the practice of independent grants.

Scientists said Russia hosting international scientific projects like a highest-energy particle accelerator, collider, would spur the development of science and technology in the country.

"We believe that urgent measures to prevent the looming collapse in science in the country, and efforts to draft and implement a new model of scientific and technological development, must be among the Russian leaders' top priorities," the letter said.

More than 40 Russian scientists working in the world's leading universities and research centers signed the letter. They also offered their expertise and knowledge in tackling the above objectives.

Many Russian scientists have emigrated abroad or abandoned scientific work in favor of higher incomes in commerce or other spheres since the Soviet collapse in the early 1990s.

Official statistics said 25,000 scientists emigrated from the country between 1989 and 2004, and another 30,000 went abroad under temporary contracts. Independent reports, however, estimate at least 80,000 emigrated in the early 1990s alone, causing the budget loss at $60 billion, the figure that did not include losses from the "export" of know-how.

The brain drain is believed to have increased considerably in recent years. Experts point to low incomes, a poor technological base, low prestige and excessive red tape behind reasons prompting members of Russia's research community to leave the country.


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