The new President of the RAS Alexander Sergeev

Alexander Sergeev – the new President of the RAS talks about his plans for the new pistorasiasta Academy of Sciences has turned into a family club involved in extortion of money from the budget and the sale of Russian developments abroad. Whether the newly elected President of the RAS to return science to the service of the Russian people?…


President of RAS Alexander Sergeev: the Academy should become the main scientific organization of the country

Author – Yuri Medvedev

What needs to change in the work of the Russian Academy of Sciences? How to reach consensus with the government on fundamental issues of development of science? Whether transferred in FANO institutions to return to the Academy? How to effectively manage small amounts of money allocated for basic science? How to attract funding for the science business? Why build in Russia expensive scientific installation? About it the correspondent “RG” talks with the new President of the RAS Alexander Sergeev.

Alexander, congratulations on your election to this high office. First I want to ask, maybe an unexpected question . You headed the Institute of world level, which, incidentally, participated in the experiment for detection of gravitational waves, awarded the Nobel. In short, you have all been well. But decided to leave and to lead the Academy, which is in a difficult situation. How difficult was this step?

Alexander Sergeev: the Reason was the cancellation of presidential elections on March 22. It became clear that, for whatever reason, and in September elections are not held, the situation with the Academy can be quite disastrous. This in any case can not be tolerated. When the Department of physical Sciences invited me to participate in the elections, I took it as an order of colleagues, which does not have the right to refuse. Because our Department at the Academy, we can say that, listen to his opinion and in the scientific community and in government.

Taking this difficult decision, you must have appreciated not only the reference point, which will start and end is where to come. What the Academy will build?

Alexander Sergeev: In principle, can be answered in one sentence: the Academy should become the main scientific institution in the country. But it sounds very vague. It seems that we shall command all the institutions of Russia. Of course, it is not. Moreover, today the institutes are separated from the Academy, they in 2013 transferred to FANO. However, voices can be heard: let’s get academic institutions in the wounds, restore its pre-reform condition. But this is unrealistic, since irreversible changes. There is no turning back.

I think that you need to adjust the law on goshkodeeya and improve the status of wounds. The current status of research is insufficient to equal with FANO to resolve many important for the Academy questions. It is necessary that the Academy along with FANO was co-founder of scientific institutions that the law was clearly written: FANO is responsible for the administrative work of the Academy for scientific. Nonsense, but formally the Academy of Sciences would not respond, the response FANO, because it’s founder institutions. RAS must become a centre of expertise for all major programs, projects, and various state acts

How did the Academy not having its own institutions, can become a major scientific institution in the country?

Alexander Sergeev: I Admit, if the question of the role of the Academy asked you to my recent meeting with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, I would your vision so directly is unlikely to be voiced. But in our conversation he stressed that the implementation of the Strategy of scientific and technological development of the country, the Academy must play a key role. What is this supposed mechanism? In the strategy the focus put large challenges. Each of them will develop tips, which should involve the Academy, as well as representatives of relevant ministries and agencies. To lead this work, the President suggested that the Academy of Sciences.

In General, this document should play not only for the country but for RAS the most important role, to show that the Academy is ready to take on the big projects. They have always been the hallmark of the Academy, it is enough to remember its key role in the implementation of nuclear and space projects. In addition, it is mandated by law to conduct a comprehensive examination of not only scientific projects but also major socio-economic programmes. It must become a centre of expertise for all major programs, projects, and various state acts. In principle, examination of wounds should be mandatory for such documents.

The main objective of the strategy is the implementation of the projects generally speaking, the transformation of ideas into innovations in the hardware. But ideas need to be generated. And we have all of academia stands out as much as the average US University. How can you compete with the leading countries?

Alexander Sergeev: From basic science has its own specifics, it is a creative work with greater risk to obtain negative result. And no industry will not invest in risks. But on the other hand fundamental research is the basis of everything, we lose this area, and there will be no innovative projects. Therefore, taking care of fundamental science is the business of the state.

Unfortunately, today we have it’s not even difficult, and in bad condition. The fact that its material basis is very archaic. But world-class results can only be obtained on the ultramodern equipment. The most striking example is the discovery of gravitational waves. They discovered through this incredible tool that can capture the change of the distance between two objects with an accuracy of 10 to the minus 21 degree. Fantastic!

Of course, these tools are expensive, but otherwise a breakthrough of knowledge today can not be obtained. Our backlog in terms of equipment it is simply threatening. I propose to create a Fund instrumentalization of fundamental science, for example, due to the special tax on mining corporations and companies. After its wealth and income is largely produced works of scientists of fundamental science. I hope I will be able to convince the country’s leadership to take such a step.

In one of the first points of your program says that wounds need to establish a dialogue with the government, in order to reach consensus. And what it should contain?

Alexander Sergeyev: First of all, in the sense that the science we have today is in crisis. And when sometimes there are voices that it’s not so bad that our scientists published more then wishful thinking. There are two indicators of the status of fundamental science. The first – invited presentations at major international conferences. And here we see a significant drop. Come on big international conference, and often you will not discover any report from Russia.

As for the number of publications in prestigious journals, it is believed that we grow. But in fact, this growth is artificial. We are co-authors in the long list according to the results obtained in overseas installations. But publications on the basis of experiments made in Russia, very little. The leadership of the country, we received a credit of trust. Now we need move on our part

The second question which, I am sure we should find a consensus with the government, is the crisis of science. Without naming them, we will repeat the same mistakes. Here I have my own subjective opinion. In 1990, we jumped from one socio-economic structure to another, the crisis has hit all spheres of life, including science. And when we are in the 2000-ies began to appear oil money, we decided that our science should be similar to the “right” as in the leading countries of the world. And in 2006 adopted the Strategy for scientific and innovative development of the country. Then it is all of us seemed very good. We had planned to invest in science 2 per cent of GDP by 2015, it had become the leading productive force of the innovation economy, by 60-70 per cent to Fund the science has been the industry. Finally, 15 percent of exports by 2015 was supposed to be knowledge intensive.

The plans came to nothing. One of the main reasons – the state could not fully Fund the science during the “Golden rain” in the Soviet era. Could not least because significant funds have gone into business. And he works according to the laws of the capitalist economy, praying for profit, want for less money, faster to get higher returns. It is the law of the capitalist economy, which many countries live and thrive. But transferred to our soil, he showed that the Russian economy is big science by and large is not required. So our science was in a kind of “valley of death”. And were voices that the Academy of Sciences we are not only unnecessary, it actually prevents. Largely for this reason, a reform was implemented, in which the Academy in 2013 have lost their institutions.

So beautiful strategy 2006 sunk into oblivion. But today we are in a similar situation: science funding from the budget is not growing, but because of the crisis, even declining, industry is, as before, is not put into it. Is this the fate of the previous strategy?

Alexander Sergeev: It will work on different principles. For each priority or “the answer to big challenges” will be formed interagency councils of stakeholders: science, business, authorities, etc. They will form “chains” to implement major projects. Each of them must be tied search and basic research, R & d, prototypes, serial production, market. Figuratively speaking, between members of the “chain” needs to be a mutual responsibility, shared responsibility for the execution of projects. It is very important that the President has proposed to the Academy of Sciences to lead the coordination of the work of such councils. Sometimes you ask the experts question: what if the laser is created on our ideas, built in Russia, surely he would be worth a billion?

Fundamental issue: how to Fund basic science. Rich countries are a United front, investing in all research areas, which, incidentally, was in Soviet times. The poor can’t afford it, they choose certain areas. Obviously, we have to go down the same narrow road?

Alexander Sergeev: Given that the state can no longer support as required to all areas of research, believe that there should be three levels of funding. The first “level of understanding”. It needs to be as broad and solid, but unfortunately, due to lack of Finance it will be quite limited. That is, in some areas of science we cannot compete with their foreign colleagues, but should at least understand what is happening in the whole of science and not to miss the new directions..

The second step is the “level of competition”. In the Soviet time of the study there was a wide continuous front, now we can talk only about individual fragments. Such projects should be few in number. The closest analogue of the established projects of the Ministry of education at the invitation in our universities and institutes leading scientists, including from abroad. They come to Russia, purchase modern equipment, create a strong lab, you get world-class results. For simple estimates, a hundred such new projects will require approximately 10 billion rubles a year. Not big money, but the returns are obvious.

And finally, there must be “leadership”. Talking about 10-15 very large projects with an investment of about a billion rubles a year to create unique research infrastructures where international community recognizes our superiority and would be willing to participate in research in our centres. A close counterpart – has just begun to work in Germany the free electron laser.

It is based on ideas of Russian scientists.

Alexander Sergeev: including. But more interestingly, out of a total of 1.12 billion euros to create this setup Russia made 25 percent. Sometimes you ask the experts a question, and if this laser, developed on our ideas, built in Russia, surely he would be worth a billion? Say, much cheaper. So, it may be worth it to pull their socks up, to find the necessary amount, load our industry, give employment to thousands of professionals and build a laser in Russia? And then we were complete masters, had in the experiments “right of first night”, we would seek the best minds from around the world.

I am absolutely sure that such projects level of leadership we need to return the image of a world scientific power. By the way, this corresponds to the global research trend. For example, in Europe now 29 largest research infrastructures and 21 on the way. And not only in physics. There are projects in biology for the study of preservation of cultural heritage, other humanitarian areas. So today is world science.

We discussed mainly the external factors of RAS, and that you are going to change in the Academy? Because at the time it was criticized for its inefficiency, waste of money, called the “Park of the Soviet period”, said her office was archaic. That will change in the RAS?

Alexander Sergeev: today, When heard such accusations, these critics forget that the Academy of Sciences and academic institutions in 2013 divorced. Almost all of the money in FANO, and the budget of the Academy about four billion rubles. We are not former army officers from tens of thousands of people, and only about two thousand.

Of course, in this new environment, much to management of wounds should change significantly. If early work in the Academy automatically means working on institutions, but now everything will be different. Members of the Bureau, offices, research councils, must have at the Academy its clear responsibilities. For this the government pays me a pretty good scholarship. Here, at this table needs to gather a team of people that will offer, for example, such as forming councils for priority development Strategy, to provide expert examination of projects and their implementation, to keep abreast of the situation. And then the scientists will go here with suggestions with your own ideas. The leadership of the country, we received a credit of trust. Now we need move on our part. And time to lose no. We need to be actively involved in the implementation of the Strategy, in the preparation of the law on science, expertise.

Help “RG”

Alexander Mikhailovich Sergeev was born on 2 Aug 1955 in Gorky region. After graduating in 1977, radiophysical faculty of the Gorky University he came to work in the Institute of applied physics RAS. In 1982, defended a candidate thesis and in 2000 a doctorate. In 2001 became the Deputy Director of IAP RAS. In 2015 shall be elected by the Director.

Sergeev is one of the leading specialists in Russia in the field of laser physics, femtosecond optics, plasma physics, and Biophotonics. In 2010, the years they proposed the creation in Russia of the world’s most powerful laser XCELS. This project was included by the Russian government among 6 mega science facilities projects. Alexander Sergeyev initiated the participation of Russian scientists in the major international scientific programmes, including the Observatory for the detection of gravitational waves LIGO, the draft of the prototype reactor for laser fusion HiPER.

In 2016 Sergeev was elected academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Has more than 8,000 citations of his works, published in scientific journals. His h – index of 48. Married, has two children, a son and a daughter.




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The speech of academician of the RAS Alexander Sergeev




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