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Regular version of the site

Student Research Paper Competition 2023 Begins

Awarding of the SRPC competition laureates, February 2023

Awarding of the SRPC competition laureates, February 2023
© HSE University

On September 1st, a new season of the open Student Research Paper Competition (SRPC) started. This competition is aimed at developing the potential of university students who are interested in academic activities. Students, as well as 2023 graduates of Russian and foreign universities, can submit their papers for the competition until October 15th, 2023. This year SRPC turns 20 years old, throughout the competition’s history, Vadim Radaev, HSE University’s First Vice Rector, has been the chair of the organising committee. In today’s interview, he talks about the history of the competition and the key stages in its development.

25 fields are open to SRPC 2023 competition participants—from business informatics and computer science to demography and political science. More information about the areas and requirements for papers can be found here.

— Do you think this competition is important for the development of HSE University’s academic environment in general?

— The SRPC competition is a great tool to help you take the correct first steps in your career. When we conducted a survey  among the winners and laureates of SRPC, almost half of the respondents said that for them, participation and victory in the competition were the first steps in the research field and building of a career. The competition motivated them to move forward. It is very important.

— How has the competition specifics changed over the course of 20 years? What do you believe are the most significant changes?

— Firstly, the SRPC competition has grown every year: it all started with just five categories, and now there are 25 of them. The university has also grown, new faculties opened, new areas of study launched, and more and more participants have arrived. We started in Moscow, and then our other campuses began to participate. Five years ago, in 2018, the competition became an open event. It was a very serious decision. It is one thing to have a competition within the university, but it is quite another thing when you open it up to the whole country and even invite participants from other countries. Today, we receive about 20% of our entries from external applicants.

Vadim Radaev
© HSE University

— What countries do the applicants come from mainly, besides Russia?

— Clearly, these are usually former Soviet countries, but people from the USA, Australia, Italy, Austria, Germany, China, and African countries also take part in the competition. In fact, applications come from everywhere.

Their share might not be so big, but international participation is very important to us.

— How actively do students from the HSE University campuses outside Moscow participate?

— Every year we have many applications, many winners and laureates from the campuses. Speaking about the past year, HSE University in St. Petersburg alone gave us over 30 winners and laureates. And in total, there are about 300 winners.

— You are at the heart of the competition's organisational structure. What is it like?

— This work involves a large number of colleagues who spend a lot of their time on the competition. We have an organising committee of 35 people. They represent 25 fields and make fundamental decisions: on the rules, and on innovations we plan to introduce the following year. They also monitor compliance with the rules and resolve controversial issues. Furthermore, there are over a thousand colleagues who act as experts.

Each paper is read by two experts, and if opinions differ strongly, a third expert is invited to contribute.

This is a normal practice for ‘adult’ competitions as well: if opinions differ, a third opinion is required. In addition to the organising committee and experts, there are 25 subject commissions where another 200 people work. In a nutshell, this is a large-scale event even by the standards of our extensive university.

— How is the impartiality of paper evaluation ensured?

— Firstly, there is always more than one expert. Two opinions are an important step towards objectivity. Secondly, the competition is anonymous; that is, the work is read without announcing the paper’s author, orthe expert, which results in double anonymity.

Thirdly, our evaluation criteria have been developed: each paper is evaluated according to five main criteria. But the main thing, as in any expert review, is the conscientiousness and qualification of experts. And here, of course, we have the people that we can turn to, and the people that we can be proud of.

— As you said, SRPC is a good opportunity to enter the academic community. What are the advantages for the winners?

— The main thing is the taking part, of course, but the winners do receive certain benefits.

Those who take first place receive RUB 20,000 per month for a year. Winners and laureates also receive travel grants for scientific and educational events.

Let us not forget that, in addition to benefits for the students, there are also benefits for the teachers who were their academic supervisors. If your student wins, you gain the status of best teacher for the next year. That does not only mean an elevated status but also additional money for the next 12 months. In the current year, there are about 150 teachers in this position. So, the academic supervisor helps the student, and the student brings benefits to the supervisor.

— And what are some of the ways to develop after the competition, regardless of whether you are a laureate, a winner, or just a participant? How do the students prove themselves later on and where do they go?

— Firstly, if you’ve writtena good paper that has won an award, you probably want to promote it. For example, you could elaborate it, turn it into an article and publish it in a journal. Many do this it, and it’s an excellent step. Secondly, it is groundwork for the future. You’ve done a good job; you’ve been successful. Thus, you can find another task and do something interesting. Thirdly, this achievement becomes part of your portfolio. And it will come in handy, for example, when you apply for Master’s programmes (many Master’s programmes accept students on the basis of portfolios). And believe me, colleagues who accept students will appreciate it, because it is an obvious achievement, and it is clear how the student has gained it, so if a student has won first, second, or third place, it is an objectively good achievement, and such students should be more easily accepted. Then there comes a chance to get into a scientific lab, to go on an expedition, and so on. It becomes part of your portfolio, your resume.

One’s resume is very short at this age, and victory in the SRPC competition becomes a very important point. Besides the well-deserved feeling of pride and increased self-esteem, this is an objective achievement in other people’s eyes.

— Do you recall any memorable stories about recent years’ winners?

— I remember my colleague Daria Salnikova, who first won as a undergraduate, then as a master’s student, and then, literally a year later, became a winner’s academic supervisor. But there are other resonant examples when a person wins the competition first as a student, then as a supervisor, and then heads the academic development of the university. We have Daniel Karabekyan, who is now Director of Academic Development, and Denis Stukal, who is Deputy Dean for Science of the Faculty of Social Sciences, one of the largest faculties. They came out of this competition. And now they are among those who direct academic development at the university as a whole. And among other things, I have seemingly been at all the award ceremonies for winners and laureates, and I must say that every year, it is a really big event. It is very pleasant that students, academic supervisors, and heads of departments and schools all assemble there. It is always by turns joyful, solemn, and significant. And you see familiar faces year after year. There are teachers whose students win year after year. Such teachers can achieve a lot themselves, but they can also inspire, help, and evoke interest among others.

What would you wish the participants at the start of the competition's new season?

— First of all, you need to participate, of course. No matter whether you win or not. But you definitely need to participate and try. If it does not work out once, it is not a big deal. You will win next time. And after the victory—do not stop, keep moving forward.

The competition results will be announced up no later than the end of December. Winners and laureates of the SRPC competition can receive special scholarships, additional points for admission to state-funded Master’s programmes at HSE University, a discount for admission to paid places, a travel grant for journeys with a report to a conference or summer school, as well as an invitation to the Science Republic, a project supporting students with high academic potential. More details can be found on the contest website in the ‘What Victory Brings’ section.

Detailed information about the SRPC competition conditions can be found on the official website and on Telegram. You can also contact the competition organising committee: tzakharova@hse.ru or by phone +7 (495) 772-95-90, ext. 27778 (contact persons—Tatyana Zakharova and Elena Titova).

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