NSF/EUROPE Report No. 75

February 1995

ASSOCIATION OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OF RUSSIA HOLDS SECOND CONGRESS IN MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 6-7, 1995


This report is based on information provided to Christine Glenday, Head, NSF/EUROPE Office during a visit to Moscow February 6-9, 1995. In addition to attending the Congress, Glenday interviewed several members of the Presidium of the Association, including the Vice Chairmen of the Duma's Committee on Education, Culture and Science. For further information, contact NSF/EUROPE Office, US Embassy, Paris, France. Tel: (33-1) 43.12.21.21, FAX:(33-1)42.66.97.83,Internet:cglenday@note.nsf.gov

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Association of Scientific Societies of Russia ("Soyuz Nauchnych Obshchestv Rossii" - acronym SNOR) held its Second Congress in Moscow, February 6-7, 1995. Established in July 1993 and presently comprised of 47 Russian scientific societies, the Association's goal is to revive in Russia the traditional role of scientific societies. By representing directly the views of the scientific community, SNOR aims to help form strategic partnerships between scientists, the government and the Parliament. The establishment of this unique and liberal Association is an important step toward self-organization of Russian science, after many decades of political dominance. One of the most prominent members of SNOR is the St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars (SPASS) which has played a key role in the establishment and planned activities of the Association. SNOR considers as its next important objective the development of international ties.

In addition to broad representation of the Russian scientific community, SNOR has influential political ties. In its Presidium are two pro-reform members of the Duma, both key persons dealing with government science policy, N.N. Vorontsov ( "Vybor Rossii" Party - "Russia's Choice") and M.K. Glubokovsky ("Yabloko" Party), both Vice Chairmen of the Duma Committee on Education, Culture and Science. Another influential Presidium member is Vice Minister for Science and Technology Policy A.G.Fonotov. Party leader Yegor Gaydar ("Russia's Choice") also attended the first day of the Congress, urging SNOR to communicate with all factions of the Duma to support an increase in the science budget, in view of upcoming budgetary discussions in Parliament. His presence at the SNOR Congress indicated the political significance of this gathering.

The Association adopted six important resolutions during the Second Congress:

  1. Agreement to contact all factions of the Duma to urge support for an increase in the science budget for 1995 to 7 trillion rubles (approximately $1.25-$1.75 billion USD) from the planned 5.4 trillion rubles.
  2. Support for a new Federal Fund, based in St. Petersburg, which will focus on multi-disciplinary, regional and international research.
  3. Support for a Ministry of Science and Technology Policy plan to create a national telecommunications network, linking 15,000 institutes across the country.
  4. Agreement to send a letter of gratitude to George Soros (see next resolution).
  5. Agreement to send a letter to the Duma refuting allegations made in recent Russian press publications, attributed to the Federal Counterintelligence Service ("FSK"). These reports have attacked Soros and other international foundations supporting Russian scientists. The Duma has scheduled a special hearing on February 20 on the topic of this press attack.
  6. Agreement to send a letter to the Moscow City Duma, urging financial support from the city budget for the scientific societies of Moscow, in view of the fact that they represent the largest segment of the Russian scientific community.

I. HISTORY OF THE ASSOCIATION

Discussions of the concept of establishing an association of Russian scientific societies took place in a number of scientific circles in Moscow and St. Petersburg from 1990 to 1992. The Association was formally created in July 1993.

The Association aims to be a significant new interest group for the support of Russian science, in addition to other major parties, such as the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy, the Academy of Sciences, and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. SNOR's goals are to promote the priorities of the Russian scientific community within the Parliament and the government overall, as well as to provide an open forum for the discussion of important scientific and technological issues. SNOR also plans to study and monitor current trends in the scientific community, such as the estimation of the overall situation in science, social health in the scientific community, attitudes of scientists to the government, and public attitudes towards science and the scientific community. These activities, traditionally pursued by Western scientific societies, have not been carried out in Russia.

Membership in the Association is open to all legally registered scientific societies in Russia. SNOR membership is open to societies only, not to individual scientists. Member societies are allowed a single vote during SNOR Coordinating Board Meetings and three votes during SNOR Congresses, regardless of the extremely varied sizes of the societies.

Through its 47 current members, SNOR represents a broad spectrum of the Russian scientific community. In addition, SNOR Presidium members include high level political figures, for example, two key figures in Duma science policy, N.N. Vorontsov and M.K. Glubokovsky, both Vice Chairmen of the Duma Committee on Education, Culture and Science, as well as the Vice Minister for Science and Technology Policy, A.G. Fonotov. (See Annex II for list of Presidium members.)

In addition to the annual Congresses, SNOR's Presidium of eight members (increased to nine members at the 1995 Congress) and its Coordinating Committee have met frequently over the past year.

The SNOR members fall into four general categories (See Annex III for full list of members):

  1. Traditional societies, dating from the 19th century, such as the Moscow Society of Naturalists and the St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists.
  2. New Academies of Science, established in the last five years (and unrelated to the current Russian Academy of Sciences). Examples are the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Academy of Technological Sciences, the Biotechnological Academy and the Engineering Academy.
  3. Professional societies, such as the Russian Physical Society, the Astronomical Society, the Vavilov Society of Geneticists and Breeders, and the Russian Society of Sociologists.
  4. Reformist societies, such as the St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars, and the Moscow and Far Eastern Associations of Scientists.
Outside these general categories are members, such as the Eurasian Association of Universities (representing rectors of all universities in the former Soviet Union; their current representative in SNOR is Prof. Victor A. Sadovnichy, Rector, Moscow State University), and a number of smaller specialized societies, for example, the Association of Spectroscopists, and the Parasitological Society.

During its first year of existence, SNOR's primary task was to become legally registered at the Federal level. Now that this goal has been achieved, SNOR is turning its attention to a broad agenda. This agenda, as well as current problems facing Russian science, particularly financial, were the primary themes of the Second Congress.

II. SUMMARY OF THE SECOND CONGRESS

1. SAVING RUSSIA'S SCIENTIFIC POTENTIAL:

The Congress opened with a discussion on the theme of "Saving Russia's Scientific Potential." The first speaker was Prof. Nikolai Vorontsov, a key figure in the science policy of the Duma. Along with Science and Technology Policy Minister Boris Saltykov, Dr. Voronstov is responsible for the science and technology policy of Yegor Gaidar's party "Russia's Choice" - "Vybor Rossii". Prof. Vorontsov is the Vice Chairman of the Duma's Committee on Education, Culture and Science, a newly elected Vice President of SNOR, and the Vice President of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. Prof. Vorontsov described the current situation in Russian science as "a real mistake," and called for a special program to attract back to Russia those scientists lost through the "brain drain," both as a result of deliberate government policies, as well as from the current poor economic situation. He emphasized the bleak financial prospects for the science budget, since science is in an "undefended" part of the Federal budget i.e., the portion of the Federal budget dependent on the outcome of tax collection. For example, the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy received only sixty percent of its promised budget in 1994, because the Government was unable to collect sufficient taxes.

Despite poor financial outlooks for science, Prof. Voronstov highlighted initiatives taking place in the scientific community that would have been impossible in the Communist era. A prime example is the establishment of many new scientific journals, mostly in English, through private initiatives, without support from the government or the Academy of Sciences.

2. YEGOR GAYDAR ADDRESSES CONGRESS

Yegor Gaydar, Leader of the pro-reform party "Russia's Choice," called for SNOR members to urge all factions in the Duma to support his party's position for an increase in the science budget (from 5.4 to 7 trillion rubles). According to Gaydar, such pressure is needed to counteract the strong agro-industrial lobby in the Duma, which hopes to receive the lion's share of any new money available through Value Added Tax , which could otherwise go to science. In his speech, he referred to Russia's "shadow economy", and the vast income lost to the Federal budget through tax evasion. At the same time, he pointed out that it is not in the personal interest of many Duma members to vote for tax reform. This loss of potential government income causes additional problems for the Government to create a strong economic base for investment, as well as to support an increase in science funding. Gaydar's appearance at the Congress was a possible indication of his interest, in view of upcoming Parliamentary elections in December 1995 and Presidential elections in 1996, in regaining the support of the scientific community, which he lost to some extent during his period as Prime Minister. During that time, the science budget was seriously reduced, much to the disappointment of the scientific community, who had given him strong political support.

3. PLANS FOR A NEW FEDERAL SCIENCE FUND

Professor Mikhail Glubokovsky, member of the liberal "Yabloko" faction and Vice Chairman of the Duma Committee for Education, Culture and Science, agreed with Gaydar on the importance of increased pressure on the Duma to expand the science budget. He described the competing pressures on the Federal budget, such as the cost of the war in the South, and the strong support of the Agrarian and Communist parties for increased defense expenditure.

Dr. Glubokovsky introduced a plan for a new Federal Fund, stating that Russia needed more competitive-based science foundations, providing support both at the individual and group levels. He suggested that about 25% of the science budget should be spent by such foundations. Currently, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research is limited by Presidential decree to only 4% of the Federal science budget. Two other Federal Foundations have been established: the Russian Foundation for Technological Development in 1992 and the Fund for the Humanities in 1994.

The new Federal Fund of Scientific Societies of Russia would be an independent ("self-governing") State organization supported by the Federal budget through the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy, and would differ from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research in a number of aspects. Firstly, the Fund would emphasize multi-disciplinary research. It would also support regional research in Russia and joint research in an effort to rebuild ties with scientists in the other former Soviet republics. Financial support from regional governments would be expected. In addition, the Fund would place special emphasis on the support of collaborative international research and the support of young scientists. The Fund's Management Board would consist of representatives from the Government, Parliament, regional governments investing finances in the Fund, and of scientists elected by the SNOR Congress. The Fund would rely on SNOR for the selection of experts to evaluate applications. The headquarters of the Fund would be located in St. Petersburg, in an effort towards decentralizing Russian scientific power and funding. The Duma Committee on Education, Culture, and Science, the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, have all indicated their support for the creation of this new Fund. Specific plans for the establishment and administration of this Fund have already been submitted to the Government.

4. COMPROMISE LAW ON SCIENCE IN PREPARATION

Emphasizing that Russian science needs both a budget and an appropriate legal framework, Dr. Glubokovsky also addressed the question of the three draft laws on science, one of which was drafted by the Yabloko party, which are expected to be re-written into a single compromise law by the end of March 1995.

In order to provide an open forum for the discussion of a new science law for Russia, a "Round Table of the Duma" was held in St. Petersburg in July 1994, in cooperation with the St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars (SPASS), SNOR, the St. Petersburg Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the St. Petersburg Government and St. Petersburg University. Over 600 scientists gave comments and recommendations on the texts of these draft laws during this open hearing. The hearing, first of its kind to be held outside of Moscow and the Parliament itself, was attended by most members of the Duma Committee on Education, Culture, and Science, as well as representatives of the Duma's Finance Committee and other Committees, and the Counselor to the Duma Speaker. The hearing was widely covered by the press, and was a significant indication of the ability of these scientific societies to work together with the Government to represent the views of the scientific community at large. The St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars (SPASS) played a key role in the organization of this meeting.

Dr. Glubokovsky also proposed the establishment of a new state program to provide financial support for Russia's top researchers in an effort to prevent "brain drain". He proposed that such researchers be paid a special salary of $1000 per month, which he estimated might require an expenditure of about 10% of the current science budget.

5. VICE MINISTER FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY ADDRESSES SNOR

Vice Minister for Science and Technology Policy Andrei Fonotov spoke highly of the activities of the St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars (of which both he and Dr. Glubokovsky are members) and its positive relations with the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy. More generally, he agreed with the previous speakers that science is not currently a high priority of the government, and spoke of the constraints on the Ministry for Science and Technology Policy, in view of the vast size of the scientific sector, and that fact that the Ministry controls only the "non-military" portion of the science budget. For example, funds for defense research are handled separately by the defense sector and other specialized ministries. The Ministry for Atomic Energy ("Minatom"), and the Air and Space Agencies control large research budgets. Even the budget for the Russian Academy of Sciences is currently a "line item" in the Federal budget, not subject to alteration by the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy. Financial problems at the Ministry are further compounded by the fact that even promised budgets have not actually been delivered by the Ministry of Finance. For example, only sixty per cent of the total budget was actually received in 1994, causing great difficulties for planning.

6. NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS NETWORK PROPOSED.

Mr. Vitaly V. Boiko, Head of the Department of High Technology and Scientific and Technical Progress in Informatics, Instrumentation and Conversion, Ministry of Science and Technology Policy, presented a Ministry plan to develop a national telecommunications network. The achievement of this national plan would be a critical and important step to improve the science and technology infrastructure in Russia, and to integrate Russia into the international scientific community. Despite ongoing efforts by the International Science Foundation (the "Soros Foundation") and other international foundations, computer linkage and general network access remain a large problem for many Russian scientific institutes. Current commercial links are often very expensive for the already strained institute budgets. The proposed Ministry plan would cost about $2.5 million USD in its first year and $1.5 million in its second year, with financial support from a number of different sources. The initial step in the plan would be to link institutes in the regions of St. Petersburg and Moscow, which together represent about 80% of Russia's scientific potential. Linking approximately 15,000 institutes across the country, the plan's next steps would be to improve electronic linkages in the regions of Samara, Ekaterinburg, Irkutsk and Khabarovsk.

7. PRESS ATTACK ON FOUNDATIONS OF GEORGE SOROS

Dr. Vsevolod Borisov, Executive Director of the International Soros Science Education Program, reported on the development of the Program and strongly criticized the recent press attacks, attributed to the Russian Federal Counterintelligence Service - "FSK", against Foundations and programs supported by George Soros and others.

8. A SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY IN ST. PETERSBURG

Dr. R.M. Granovskaya, professor at St. Petersburg State University and Member of the Coordinating Board, St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars (SPASS), gave a special presentation on a sociological study of the St. Petersburg scientific community, commissioned in 1992 by the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy, and carried out under the auspices of SPASS. This study involved detailed interviews with scientists at a broad variety of levels in specific disciplines in universities, Academy of Sciences institutes and specialized institutes and government ministries, and even surveyed the attitudes of elementary and high school children towards science. The study is a unique and valuable document (for example, there is no equivalent yet for Moscow or other major cities), detailing the effects on the scientific community of the drastic reduction in scientific funding since 1992 and the drop in prestige of scientific careers. The report reflects ongoing efforts to study the sociology of science, supported by SPASS and other organizations. This report, which could have a wide interest to those in the West studying Russian scientific trends, has not yet been published, due to lack of funding.

9. ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS OF THE ASSOCIATION

President Prof. Vladimir Kadyshevsky, Director, Dubna Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, reviewed the Association's activities over the last eighteen months, which have been chiefly devoted to gaining status as a legal entity with a proper financial structure. This has now been achieved, and the Association has formed a series of committees to deal with specific issues, including international relations, telecommunications, and subsidies for rising energy costs at scientific institutes. Prof. Kadyshevsky also mentioned the key role of the St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars (SPASS) in organizing the July 1994 Duma Round Table on drafts of the science laws, and in the preparation of documents submitted to the government for the establishment of the new Federal Fund to be located in St. Petersburg.

A crucial next step for SNOR is the development of international ties. Its International Committee is headed by Prof. Sergei Kapitsa. The establishment of these new ties will also be important for many international scientific institutions and associations (for example the International Council of Scientific Unions and the American Association for the Advancement of Science), who are seeking to broaden their contacts in Russia and to follow more closely these emerging "grass roots" developments in the Russian scientific landscape.

10. RESOLUTIONS OF THE SECOND CONGRESS

The Congress agreed to support the following six resolutions:
1) Letters to the Duma in Support of the Science Budget

In view of upcoming Parliamentary budget discussions, SNOR agreed to send telegrams to all factions in the Duma, urging that the Duma approve a science budget not below a total of 7 trillion rubles for 1995 (approximately $1.25-$1.75 billion USD).

2) Creation of a New Federal Fund of Scientific Societies of Russia

The Congress agreed to support the creation of the new Federal Fund of Scientific Societies of Russia, as presented by Dr. Glubokovsky.

3) Support for a National Telecommunications Network

The Congress agreed to support the plan of the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy to create a national telecommunications network, linking 15,000 institutes across the country.

4) Letter of Gratitude to George Soros

The SNOR Congress supported the resolution to send a letter to George Soros on behalf of Russian scientific societies, expressing gratitude for his financing of the International Science Foundation and Cultural Initiatives. Such a letter would have special significance, in view of 1) recent press articles (attributed to the Federal Counterintelligence Service) attacking Soros' efforts, and 2) the special hearing called by the Duma Committee on Education, Culture and Science, and the Duma Committee on Security to discuss this press attack, scheduled for February 20.

5) Letter to the Duma Expressing Importance of International and Foreign Foundations for Science in Russia

The Congress agreed to send letter to the Duma, expressing the view of SNOR of the important and critical role that international and foreign foundations have played in the support of Russian science during the past difficult financial years. (See Annex I for text of this letter.)

6) Letter to Moscow City Duma in Support of Science

The Congress agreed to send a letter to the Moscow City Duma, urging city financial support for scientific societies in Moscow, as these societies represent the largest sector of the Russian scientific community.

ANNEX I: TRANSLATION OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE 2ND CONGRESS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OF RUSSIA

LETTER SUBMITTED TO THE DUMA ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF INTERNATIONAL AND FOREIGN FOUNDATIONS FOR RUSSIAN SCIENCE

The Association of Scientific Societies of Russia, on behalf of 47 public unions of scientists, comprised of tens of thousands of highly qualified scientists in the country, takes note of the outstanding role played by the international scientific organizations created by George Soros to preserve the scientific potential in Russia in these years of difficulty for the country and for its science.

Through the foundations of George Soros, only scientists carrying out fundamental research are supported; the results of this research cannot be considered the property of individual institutions or countries, but belong to all humanity.

The work of the Soros Foundations is exceptional in its extreme effectiveness and precise channeling of help, in the openness and clarity of its goals and results of work, and in the preservation for the Russian side all intellectual property rights for scientific and other results achieved through the Foundations' grants. Many other widely known scientific foundations, such as the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, also work on the same principles in Russia.

The Congress takes note that the attempt to limit or close down the activities of such scientific funds could cause a serious financial blow during this critical period in the existence of Russian science; it could make international contacts more difficult for Russian scientists and could harm the prestige of the country.

The Congress asks the State Duma of the Federal Assembly to take into account this unanimous collective opinion of the Russian scientific community during the discussion of the question of the activities of the Soros Foundation on the territory of Russia. The Congress considers that the experience of the activities of national and international foundations clearly indicates the necessity of rapid revision and enactment of laws regarding charitable and non-commercial organizations, to create a legal basis for the activities of such foundations in Russia.

The Congress calls on the President, the Government, the Federal Counterintelligence Service, the Council of Federation (Senate) of the Federal Assembly and the Parliament with the request to express publicly their opinions on the material entitled "FSK Concerned about the Activities of American Researchers in Russia (from a report of the Federal Counterintelligence Service)", published on January 10, 1995 in the newspaper "Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Newspaper) under the heading "Document".

ANNEX II: LIST OF PRESIDIUM MEMBERS OF SNOR

President: Prof. Vladimir G. Kadyshevsky, Director, Dubna Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and Corresponding Member, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Vice Presidents (in alphabetical order):

  1. Dr. Nikolai Bochkaryev, Co-Chairman, Astronomical Society, Moscow
  2. Dr. Leo J. Borkin, Co-Chairman, St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars, St. Petersburg
  3. Prof. Andrey G. Fonotov, Vice Minister for Science and Technology Policy, Moscow
  4. Prof. Mikhail K. Glubokovsky, Vice Chairman, Duma Committee on Education, Culture and Science, Moscow, and Co-Chairman, Far Eastern Association of Scientists, Vladivostok
  5. Dr. Sergei V. Kozyrev, Co-Chairman, St. Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars, St. Petersburg
  6. Prof. Vitaly V. Mikhailin, President, Russian Physical Society, Moscow
  7. Prof. Nikolai N. Vorontsov, Vice Chairman, Duma Committee on Education, Culture and Science, and Vice Chairman, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Moscow
  8. Prof. Yuri I. Zhuravlev, President, Association of Pattern Recogniton, Computer Vision and Machine Intelligence, Member, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

ANNEX III: MEMBERS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OF RUSSIA (SNOR)