The city of Pushchino, population 21,000, is located 120 kilometers to the South of Moscow on the bank of the Oka River, a tributary of the Volga. The city was as founded in 1962 as home to Pushchino Biological Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Pushchino Research Center was created by a resolution of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences for the express purpose of bringing together a diverse research community to focus on current applied as well as fundamental problems in biology.
Realization of construction in Pushchino will allow for the creation of a new powerful center of biological research, having the necessary physical plant and supplied with state-of-the-art equipment. The creation of such a center will provide great possibilities for the use of biophysics and biochemistry in various branches of biology and for the conduct of deep, integrated theoretical research, the results of which will serve as the basis for the development of practical recommendations for the application of the acheivements of the biological sciences in agriculture and medicine... (Resolution of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences regarding Construction of Biological Institutes in Pushchino, Bulletin of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, v.6, 1962).
The institutes were designed to maximize the use of concepts and methodologies of physics, chemistry, mathematics and some fields of engineering to focus upon key issues of modern biology. This interdisciplinary approach was reflected in the make-up of the research faculty at the Center: from the beginning, 30% were biologists, while the remaining 70% were physicists, chemists, mathematicians, engineers and other research scientists. The Center included a Specialized Construction Bureau for Biological Instrumentmaking (currently reorganized as the Institute of Biological Intrumentmaking) to design equipment and instruments to fill the internal needs of the Center and also to facilitate the transfer of technologies developed at the Center by designing the equipment necessary for production on an industrial scale. These two factors, the range of specialists working in Pushchino and the experience in technology transfer, are important preconditions for the reorientation of the Pushchino economy given the changes in the funding situation for research in Russia.
Pushchino Research Center includes the following institutes of the Academy of Sciences:
Realizing the potential benefits of combining research and education, as well as the importance of diversifying the types of activities and sources of income at Pushchino, the leadership of the Center established Pushchino State University on the basis of the institutes of the Center in 1992. In the same year Pushchino Higher Biotechnological College was founded to provide undergraduate, graduate and vocational training in new technologies in the agricultural sciences, and to effect technology transfer in local farms and agribusinesses.
From the city's very beginning the citizens of Pushchino took an active part in the planning of the city to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape and create a clean, healthy and convenient city. The institutes are separated from the residential and commercial district of town by a broad wooded strip which runs the length of town, the streets and walkways are lined with trees, and apartment buildings are clustered around open courtyards with gardens and playgrounds. Pushchino is primarily a walking city, although it is also serviced by one local bus route and several routes to nearby villages and towns, in addition to regular bus service to the nearest larger city, Serpukhov; Moscow, and other cities. Within the residential district of Pushchino almost all of the streets are closed to through traffic. Most of the residents of Pushchino have plots in community gardens within walking distance of town. Pushchino also offers excellent conditions for outdoor recreation in the surrounding woods and on the Oka River. Directly across the river from Pushchino is located Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve, which is included in the UNESCO program Man and the Biosphere as an outstanding example of the natural landscape typical of Central Russia. The natural beauty, convenient location near to Moscow, and high quality of life in Pushchino make it an ideal place to live and raise a family, as well as work. These same qualities, along with the highly-trained workforce, can make Pushchino an attractive site to study or to do business.
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Grants and contracts are a new and increasingly important source of funding, despite the small number of funding agencies (both domestically and abroad) offering grants to Russian researchers. An Office of Grants and Research Development was established as part of the USAID Pushchino Project (see below) in 1994 to provide up-to-date information on funding sources and facilitate the process of applying for and administering grants. Institutes have recently established policy regarding overhead allowing for a portion of grant monies to be returned to the institutes. At present, the primary sources of research grants are the Russian Foundation for Fundamental Research, the International Science Foundation, and the International Association for the Promotion of Cooperation with Scientists from The Independent States of the Former Soviet Union. Pushchino researchers have also received support from NATO, the European Environmental Research Organization, the United States State Department, the United States Department of Agriculture, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, among others. A grant from the United States Agency for International Development provides support for a multi-faceted project for institutional change being implemented jointly by Washington State University, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Pushchino Research Center, Pushchino State University and Pushchino Higher Agrobiotechnological College.
Greater attention has also been devoted to government funding from sources outside of the Academy of Sciences. Contacts have been established and strengthened with numerous federal, regional and local governmental agencies with the aim of identifying needs which can be filled using the capabilities of the Center. In particular, the founding of Pushchino State University has brought into the city new funds from the State Committee on Higher Education. Researchers at the Center also participate in a number of government programs ranging from preservation of rare native breeds of cattle to destruction of chemical weapons. This expansion of the fields of interest has also brought about greater collaboration among institutes of the Center, with other institutes of the Academy of Sciences, and with institutes under the jurisdiction of other ministries, as well as participation in international research projects.
The long-term funding strategy of the institutes also includes encouraging the commercialization of technologies developed at the Center and the growth of high tech businesses, tapping the intellectual potential available in Pushchino to improve the local economy. Greater attention is devoted to businesses locally, in other regions of Russia, and abroad, as potential, and in some case already actual, clients of the institutes. Many of the institutes also support start-up businesses, as co-founders or on other basis, by providing free or reduced-rent space, equipment and utilities and allowing their employees to work part-time in new companies while maintaining their institute appointments. Work is under way to develop business support structures such as a small business development center providing legal and financial consultations, a research park (Pushchino Technopark), and an investment center providing improved access to sources of investments. An association Pushchino entrepreneurs has been established, and the institutes of the Center have agreed to participate in the Technopark, which will, among other activities, act as a middleman in patents and licensing through Washington State University Research Park.
One of the most important applications of the communications capabilities recently developed at Pushchino is the provision of access to current information on funding opportunities,which was developed jointly with Office of Academic and Research Services at the University of Tennessee and Office of Grant And Research Development in Pushchino. The collaboration between Pushchino and Tennessee also includes an Internet-based information service "Friends and Partners," designed to foster information and communications exchange on a variety of topics among individuals in the United States, the former Soviet Union and other countries. This project, begun less than two years ago, has grown to be one of the most active sites on the Internet, with 10,000 accesses per day of information on its WWW servers in Pushchino and Tennessee. Over 2,000 readers from 50 countries subscribe to its e-mail listserver. This project is to be featured in a demonstration at the upcoming meeting between Vice President Al Gore and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin as an example of how the Internet can be used to promote collaboration and active partnership between the United States and Russia.
Telephone communications is also an area of major concern for the administration of the Center and city. Despite Pushchino's location close to Moscow, the poor quality and availability of phone serives has for years left Pushchino isolated from Moscow and, all the more so, from the rest of the world. Attention to the issue of telephone service has brought about the installation of a new switching station allowing for international and domestic direct dial calling and a 50% increase in the number of phone lines available in the city. Since 1989 the percentage of private homes with phone service has increased from 40% to 70%. Improving the phone service will continue to be a priority in upcoming years, in particular for the provision of better access to the Internet.