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'You Can Only Resolve Global Problems When You Let Other Countries Boost Their Potential'

At the XVI April Conference’s section on Science and Innovation hosted by the Higher School of Economics, a seminar took place on international ways to cooperate in the fields of science, technology, and innovation. Participants included universities from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) project ‘Knowledge Triangle: Cooperation in Science, Education, and Innovation.’ The section’s participants discussed the role of education, academic research, and innovation in ensuring the ability of European countries to compete globally.

Carrying out the 'knowledge triangle'

The knowledge triangle allows for innovation, education, and research to be fused, as universities, businesses, and government bodies work side by side. ‘This involves forming a new research model for analysing cooperation among various actors in the sphere of science and innovation, including research centres, universities, businesses, and government bodies, and formulating new approaches to designing tools for scientific and innovation-based policy. A huge empirical groundwork has been amassed in this area, and an entire array of statistical and sociological research projects are underway in various countries,’ HSE First Vice Rector Leonid Gokhberg explains.

According to OECD Analyst Richard Scott, an overall trend is being seen around the world where countries are moving from block funding to competitive financing. As a result, the government is requiring more and more accountability and transparency from universities, and in Russia, state funding for research and development prevails over private funding. The level of international cooperation between universities is increasing and programmes are being created to raise entrepreneurial activity inside universities. ‘The exchange of knowledge with local residents and the international community is becoming a significant part of national policies on education,’ Richard Scott comments.

Richard Scott, OECD Analyst

Discussing financing for joint academic projects, Professor Nicholas Vonortas from George Washington University (U.S.) notes that people are rarely informed about what is happening in the scientific sphere. ‘When we talk about international cooperation, which is increasing thanks to economic openness, we try to define what is happening around us in this context, but we unfortunately have little data. There is only a small amount of reliable sources, but they paint anything but a full picture,’ he said, adding that this was partly because the life cycle of technologies is oftentimes very short and the world cannot keep up. In addition, ‘corporations break up their production cycle among various countries around the world with each party offering its own specific element. The majority of funds spent on research come from the private sector, which our statistics don’t reflect, as we only receive statistics from government bodies,’ Professor Vonortas adds.

The older a researcher is, the more prone he or she is to international cooperation since the researcher’s professional status and the number of publications increases. But everything has its limits, and when you reach a certain age, your desire to participate in international programmes falls

Wolfgang Polt, who is the Director of the Institute for Economic and Innovation Research at Austria's Joanneum Research, posits that international partnership must above all respond to global challenges. Good practices depend on context and specific situations, which is why there is only a very short list of general recommendations. ‘International cooperation on overcoming global challenges of course always assumes certain compromises from all participants. This is why it’s necessary to be able to find mutually acceptable variants. In addition, one mustn’t forget the growing percentage of public financing and [the need to] find a balance between private and public interests. This concerns intellectual property rights as well. You can only resolve global problems when you allow other countries to boost their potential. In order to create a durable mechanism that can meet global challenges, it’s necessary to select stronger institutionalization,’ Polt noted, adding that international institutes must also be created.

The Deputy Head of HSE’s International Research Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies, Dirk Meissner, discussed the importance of international cooperation, particularly the need to create joint research laboratories. He believes that joint laboratories are currently at the crossroads of the private and public sector. This concerns organizations that operate under the current agenda and generate the necessary competencies and knowledge pyramid in order to find mutually beneficial solutions to existing challenges and to develop strategic vision.

The role of the human factor in cooperation in science and innovation

‘International cooperation should not be limited by any domestic agendas. It mustn’t find itself in a vacuum and depend directly on encouraging, or conversely prohibitive, polices,’ Klaus Schuch, the Head and Scientific Director of Austria’s Centre for Social Innovation, comments. The next question concerns which factors promote participation in bilateral intergovernmental agreements and contribute to an increase in researchers’ mobility. A study carried out in Austria shows that a researcher’s gender, age, and self-perception are crucial. The older a researcher is, the more prone he or she is to international cooperation since the researcher’s professional status and the number of publications increases. But everything has its limits, and when you reach a certain age, your desire to participate in international programmes falls. Also important is the academic discipline in question. ‘In the study, we also asked ourselves if it is possible to turn bilateral projects into something more large-scale like, for example, the EU framework programme “Horizon 2020.” Unfortunately, such a transfer typically fails due to insufficient financing and the difficulties associated with managing a research project,’ Schuch adds.

In addition, Leading Research Fellow at HSE's Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge Natalia Shmatko presented the results of a study on the level of scientists' mobility in various countries. The study showed that individuals with academic degrees employed outside of the fields of education and science are much more mobile than those that take part in research directly. This is common in many countries, including Russia. In Russia, academics are not very mobile, while degree-holders working in industrial enterprises are more so, though there is an overall low level of mobility.

Additionally, only a fourth of degree-holders in Russia are mobile. This largely concerns younger men who live in central cities and their neighbouring regions. Mobility within a single sector is much more pronounced than among sectors. For example, the share of internal moves within the sector of government organizations, which largely include academic research centres and institutions, is 43%, while this figure is over 50% for the business organization sector, and over 70% for the higher education sector. Over the last several years, most internal mobility has occurred in favour of higher education, while the sectors of state organizations and business are losing degree-holders.

Objectives for the near future include strengthening international cooperation and involving Russian research groups in serious international projects, including the national technology initiative, the concept for which is under active development

Sergey Salikhov
Director of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science’s Department of Science and Technology

Internationally mobile degree-holders are typically engaged in preparing joint publications and research projects. Most internationally mobile are physicists, mathematicians, and biological scientists, while the least mobile are members of the technical, economic, social and humanitarian sciences. In addition, the main destinations are Europe, America, China, Japan, and Singapore. Further, internationally mobile researchers are more integrated into academics and have more publications and patents. According to one study, non-mobile researchers publish an average of less than one article in international journals, while mobile researchers publish almost five.

The Russian practice

The Director of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science’s Department of Science and Technology, Sergey Salikhov, discussed the changes that have occurred in the field of science in Russia. One of the main events from the last year was the entry into force of the federal law “On the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Reorganization of the State Academies of Sciences, and Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation.’ The law broadens the opportunities for state academies of science to impact the national scientific system, mostly as concerns basic research. The Russian Academy of Science also saw its expert evaluation functions strengthened by the law. Additionally, 27 regulations were developed that provide the Academy with new functions, 20 of which have already been confirmed.

Wolfgang Polt, Director of the Institute for Economic and Innovation Research at Austria's Joanneum Research

The Russian Ministry of Education and Science is proposing legislative amendments aimed at doing away with the current archaic financing structure for science. This can be done by providing grants to scientific organizations, teams, and individual researchers to conduct scientific research mostly by allocating money from state and non-state funds. In addition, regulations have been signed on assessing scientific organizations using an interagency assessment framework. In other words, it is now possible to use a general profile for comparing organizations that belong to different government agencies. The changes also concern regulating the work of research staff.

Last year, the Education and Science Ministry also organized a way for Russian researchers to have access to the international citation indexing databases Web of Science and Scopus. In addition, researchers gained full-text access to databases containing the world’s leading academic journals, and a programme was launched to promote Russian academic journals internationally.

In 2014, Russia’s Kurchatov Institute was the third largest partner of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble. In addition, Russia participated with 12 other countries in a project to build the world’s largest X-Ray Free-Electron Laser (XFEL), which will be placed in Germany. Russian and European researchers also worked together to begin research in photonics, biotechnology, and a number of other fields.

According to Sergey Salikhov, financing for academic research grew to over 804 billion rubles last year, while extra-budgetary financing sources grew 13%. This was more than financing from the Russian budget grew in the same period. ‘Objectives for the near future include strengthening international cooperation and involving Russian research groups in serious international projects, including the national technology initiative, the concept for which is under active development,’ Salikhov notes.

Closing the seminar, Nicholas Vonortas (George Washington University, U.S.) called for all participants to remember that any university’s main mission is to education people, not to create companies or corporations. A better society can only be built through successful alumni.

Anastasia Chumak, HSE News Service

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