Friday, February 14, 2020

Russia Spends Far Less than Other Countries on Scientific Research, Accounting Chamber Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 7 – Today, on the Day of Russian Science, the Accounting Chamber released data showing that Russia spends far less than other countries on scientific research – it devotes only 1.1 percent of its GDP to that effort, far less than Israel which spend 4.25 percent or China which spends 2.12 percent.

            It ranks 34th on this measure among the countries of the world, and its achievements reflect its spending, the Chamber said: Chinese scholars submitted 38 times more patent applications last year than did Russia’s (

            Russia has a very large number of people working in scientific research. In terms of that measure, it ranks fourth, behind only China, the US and Japan. But they are far less productive: Russia does not rank even in the to 20 countries in terms of publications in the most read and cited scientific journals.

            One of the major reasons for this are problems arising from the state’s dominant role: In China, for example, the state provides only 20 percent of the funds needed for research while businesses provide most of the rest. In Russia, however, the government is responsible for 66.2 percent of such funding, the Accounting Chamber says.

            Domestic businesses are responsible for only 30 percent of the money spent on research in Russia. The reason they don’t is that while Russian scholars are able to come up with new ideas, they are seldom inclined to develop them to the point that they can be introduced directly into production, thus making businesses skeptical of the value of putting money into this sector.

            Government-supplied research funding is often allocated ineffectively, the Chamber says, with money given to projects not on the basis of expert review but rather for other less defensible reasons. As a result, what money Moscow does spend doesn’t produce the results that similar investments do elsewhere.

            Moreover, the government requires so much paper reporting about money given to it that scholars often are put off just by that or find themselves doing reporting rather than doing basic research.  And the money the government does spend doesn’t translate into higher salaries: Russian scientists make much less than those in Europe.

            Consequently, very few young Russians are going into science – certainly not more than one percent of university graduates – and those who are already scientists are often seeking to go abroad for higher salaries and greater respect and opportunities to do what they hoped to do in their fields.

            According to the Accounting Chamber, the Russian government doesn’t provide the incentives for scientific research that are needed for success and as a result Russian science is doing increasingly poorly. “And this is logical because scientists are people just like all others,” Yuliy Kalinina of Moskovsky komsomolets says in her article on the Chamber’s findings.

            Enthusiasm works for only so long, she continues, and “other stimuli – money, recognition and authority – are needed.” When those are absent, the entire system slows down and ultimately fails.  Some suggest that holding a gun to the heads of scientists and making them work is a solution.

            But one doesn’t want to contemplate that option, Kalinina says, especially on the Day of Russian Science.

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