The year of 2011 saw intensification of the debate on two problems associated with attraction of foreign researchers: one of them concerned their age (whether it was mainly pensioners who came to Russia) and adequacy of assessment of qualification of attracted researchers using the h-index2. The data published at the closure of the competition for 2011 megagagrants showed that concerns about pensioners largely being interested in them were vain, as out of heads of 39 laboratories 41% aged 50 to 59 years and another 15.4% - 40-49 years.
Meanwhile, the proportion of laboratory heads who aged 70 and above was 17.9%, which is not a small figure, albeit not a critical one.
As to the h-index, most experts reckon it does not allow assessment of an applicant’s actual research qualification and should not be used as a selection criterion. According to Acad.
G. Georgiev, “the Hirsch index is applicable to an active average Joe”3.
Abstracting from precise metrics of foreign researchers’ qualification, it should be noted that it was papers coauthored by Russian and foreign researchers that ensured the Russian science’s higher level of citing of publications on the whole. As demonstrated by the data on citing of Russian papers published between 2003 and 2007, 93% of all the intensively cited papers was published in international co-authorship4.
Voropaev A. “Here I am back to my home town” // Science and Technologies in Russia.
The h-index is an index that attempts to measure both the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar. The index is based on the set of the scientist's most cited papers and the number of citations that they have received in other people's publications. The index can also be applied to the productivity and impact of a group of scientists, such as a department or university or country. The index was suggested by Jorge E.
Hirsch, a physicist at UCSD, as a tool for determining researchers’' relative quality and is sometimes called the Hirsch index or Hirsch number. The index displays a proper accuracy only under comparison of researchers of the same field of science, as citation traditions differ across different branches of science. Like other bibliometric characteristics, the h-index is not strictly correlated with the researcher’s profile and performance, because of string of parameters that bias its value, including for example time that has elapsed from the moment the article was published (this is why young authors cannot enjoy a very high h-index).
G. Gergiev. The Hirsch Index should be crossed out from assessment of academia. http://www.strf.ru/material.
aspxCatalogId=221&d_no=43481 17.11. 2011.
V. Pislyakov. High-class work//Poisk, No. 49, 9.12.2011, p.18.
Section Social Sphere So, like other kinds of international cooperation, megagrants should contribute to advancement of the national science. Besides, the initial megagrant outputs exposed a whole range of positive side-effects, namely: more attention is now paid to the English classes, research teams became more focused on a more efficient performance in the form of papers, and the culture of conduct of laboratory research started to change gradually. All these are steps towards the Western mentality which implies a constant proving of research credentials, rather than a lifetime resting on one’s laurels upon winning certain positions and titles, as it happens in Russian science.
That said, the work under megagrants helped expose a number of challenges which need to be address to ensure a maximum efficacy of laboratories’ performance. Those are, primarily, organizational and bureaucratic problems when it comes to procurement of equipment and reagents, customs procedures, invitation of foreign specialists for a short period of time (in that case they are not subject to the law on highly qualified specialists). As well, it was found out that a whole series of projects failed to regulate rights to created intellectual property objects.
Because of such challenges, heads of laboratories often were in a pensive mood. Here is a typical comment of one of victors in the megagrant competition: “The efficiency of spending (vis--vis Western programs) is 10-15% at best”1.
The challenges, though, are not associated only with the situation where huge funding has been allocated while the operational environment is far less conducive than the one at Skolkovo. The approach implying creation of less than a hundred elite laboratories within universities where other research teams operate in a routine mode and on modest money may have a further adverse impact on the research environment in general. It should also be noted that stimulating measures on promotion of international cooperation so far have not centered on internationalization of Russian science, ie. on making sure international researchers work hand by hand with Russian colleagues at Russian laboratories. There appeared elite visitors in the national science, but no progress towards circulation of cadres has so far been in place.
And if it were not enough, no internal circulation of cadres, such as, for instance, academic exchanges between different Russian universities, is encouraged, while such an initiative would be quite worth the federal budget support.
Presently, there is an ongoing debate on the possibility of spreading the megagrant program onto academic institutes under RAS. That would be a right move, provided the ultimate objective is to give a new look to the national science, rather than to “drag” university research to an acceptable level. The project aiming at ensuring a broader access to participation in the said program implies modifications of the size of funding available to laboratories: with a new format, it is planned to cut the federal budget allocations to Rb 60mn per laboratory.
5.4.5. Modifications in the Research Infrastructure of Science The public scientific policy has increasingly centered on the “infrastructure” area, that is, supplies of equipment and apps for researchers’ needs, including particularly complex and huge units, aka megascience. An important incentive in this process became the government’s commitment to expansion of international cooperation in the research area, which suggests unique equipment and apps at hand.
Sterligov I. New claims by owners of megagrants. http://www.strf.ru/material.aspxCatalogId= 221&d_no=42123 06.09.2011.
RUSSIAN ECONOMY IN trends and outlooks In Russia, one of popular forms of research infrastructure support is centers for collective use of equipment (CCUE). Originally, they were established to ensure research process in the conditions where every given research institute was unable to have much-needed equipment and apps. Plus, CCUEs became home to costly equipment that cannot be bought in mass quantities, while Centers made them available to a broad array of users. Presently, CCUEs also became a minor, albeit critical to research organizations source of extrabudgetary funding. Numerous initiatives sponsored by the RF Ministry of Education and Science suggest extrabudgetary financing. It is common knowledge that research organizations and universities are short of extrabudgetary funding, while the industrial sector is keen to sponsor corporate research only. That is why incomes from provision of services using the CCUEs’ equipment forms one of very few genuinely extrabugetary sources of financing. According to the Ministry, assignments the CCUES network fulfills include, on average, at 77% academic research projects and at 23%- delivery of services.
CCUEs can form a pivot to a further advancement of the research infrastructure, should the approaches to their financing and monitoring be modified. That said, CCUEs have so far evolved only from the perspective of increase in allocations for equipment purchases, while to date there has been no comprehensive assessment of their performance and operational efficiency.
Indeed, while the RF Ministry of Education and Science annually collects a string of formalized metrics with regard to CCUEs' performance1, there were no public assessments of their operational efficiency, including, inter alia, an assessment of unique apps installed therein.2 What's worse, the precise number of up and running CCUEs remained unknown, for there is no clarity as to which organizations qualify for this status. Even the website of the RF Ministry of Education and Science displays controversies in this regard. More specifically, judging the list of CCUEs, which comprises resource centers, technoparks, among other centers, their ultimate headcount is 4183. Meanwhile, an interactive map of the country posted on the very same web-site displays less than a hundred of them, including unique apps. Some experts hold there currently are between 434 and 63 CCUEs in the country (apparently, those ones that received target funding from the Ministry), with 11 centers in possession of 30% of all the research equipment placed with CCUEs 5. Lately, when the RF Government has begun allocating substantial funding for purchases of research equipment, numerous structures The Ministry requests the following kinds of CCUEs' performance indicators: the number of staff, including those holding a degree; equipment loading rate; costs of works; list of methodologies; the list and costs of works; the list of R&D projects, volumes of of their financing and conformity with priority avenues; the list of corporate users; the list of publications, research theses and patents produced with the use of the CCUEs' equipment. Source: http://ckp-rf.ru/news/science/Ezhegodnyj_monitoring_effektivnosti/ In his paper «Methodological approaches to assessment of centers of collective use of research equipment» (published in almanac «Science. Innovation. Education», issue 9, 2010 PP. 189-202), A.B. Gusev suggests a methodology of assessment of CCUEs, including their operational effectiveness; however, the paper fails to cite results of such an assessment, even a selective one. Official presentations by the RF Ministry of Education and Science offer a general perspective on capacity of the supported by the Ministry CCUEs, but not on their efficiency.
Most such CCUEs operate under universities, while in the corporate sector, there are just 11 CCUEs, including at 9 universities that have the status of public scientific center (PSC). Source: data of the RF Ministry of Education and Science.
Centers of collective use of research equipment in the sector of modern research and development.
http://www.fcpir.ru/doc.aspxDocId= On the basis of oasis. CCUEs quench the thirst for knowledge// Poisk, No. 10, 5 March 2010, p.7.
Section Social Sphere rushed to declare themselves centers for collective use and the competition for funds on support of the infrastructure has grown very fierce. That in turn potentially lowered chances for continuation of receipt of funding out of federal sources for the CCUEs for already several years in operation (though such funding has not ever been guaranteed for more than 1-years).
The question of the CCUEs' operational efficiency appears yet a more confusing one. That certain capacity enabling one to efficiently conduct research on the basis of CCUEs is there raises no question: according to the RF Ministry of Education and Science1, the average age of CCUE equipment is 8 years, or twice as low as nationwide, while the technical capacity rate of researchers in such centers is nearly 8-fold greater. So, CCUEs form one of the most progressive kinds of research infrastructure in Russia. Meanwhile, expert estimates suggest that there are just a handful of efficient CCUEs in Russia, even without regard to differences in interpretation of their efficiency per se. According to a number of CCUE directors, such centers prove efficient only when their equipment loading rate reaches its absolute peak2, which is not quite typical of all the centers. Another interpretation suggests that CCUEs are efficient at organizations that have built sound financial and operational models3. That said, many centers fell short of formalizing procedures of granting users with access to their equipment, nor there are normative and legal documents determining forms of organization of such centers and interaction with them4. As a result, CCUEs’ equipment is not used in an optimal way. Lastly, their operational efficiency depends on organizational peculiarities of their operations. CCUEs have so far been centers of provision of individual gauging services or the basis of implementation of individual fragments of research projects, rather than project research centers (the way they largely operate overseas)5. Plus, practically all the CCUEs face such systemic challenges, as lack of funds to compensate for equipment operators' labor costs and to procure spare parts and maintain equipment.
In the US, from where the concept of CCUEs was partially borrowed, the fundamentals of their financing, operations and assessment of operational efficiency offer stark contrast to the Russian practices. One of key agencies supporting the university-based research infrastructure, the National Science Foundation, sponsors establishment of a variety of centers for collective use which form the basis for interdisciplinary research. Presently the US federal budget allocates support to seven kinds of such centers: Centers for Analysis and Synthesis, Centers for Chemical Innovation, Engineering Research Centers, Material Science Centers, Nanotechnology Research Centers, Technology Research Centers, and Education Research Centers. Within each category, the number of centers varies strongly: from 29 Material Science Centers to 2 Centers for Chemical Innovation. In any case, they are not counted in hundreds, like in today's Russia. More than that, the number of government-backed CCUEs in US has recently slightly dwindled, as the Administration is keen to secure robust funding for the strongest centers with the most promising research projects.
Data for 2007-2010 гг. http://www.fcpir.ru/doc.aspxDocId= Bykova N. The sunshower for CCUEs. http://ckp-rf.ru/news/science/Ezhegodnyj_monitoring_effektivnosti/ 20.09.2011.
Axenova L. Just a handful of efficient CCUEs. http://strf.ru/material.aspxCatalogId=221&d_no=05.09.2011.
Golichenko O.G., Kleiner G.B., Samovoleva S.A. An analysis of implementation of main avenues of the public innovation policy in Russia (2002-2010). M.: TSEMI RAN, 2011. P.49.
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