The Congress of Young Scientists is being held on December 8–10 at the Sirius Science and Art Park.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with young scientists
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends,
Nice to see you, good evening.
Through you, I would like to extend my greetings to all the participants in the Congress of Young Scientists – I was told that almost three thousand people are taking part in it. This is a big team, and the event is quite interesting, as far as I understand. There are meetings where you discuss joint projects, talk about your own, and think about what to do in the future.
As you can see, this event is taking place at our Sirius Educational Centre. I hope you like it here.
It seems to me that we did the right thing when we established a science and education centre using Olympic legacy facilities. Step by step, gradually, it is expanding and developing. Now it is a federal territory – an additional status that allows all science and education institutions that are created here to develop at the required pace.
The Congress of Young Scientists is one of the key events of the Year of Science and Technology. It was our intention to create conditions for young scientists to meet and talk to each other about possible joint projects, as I said before – and not only during the Year, but also after it ends; I hope in the future such conditions will be also be created.
I would like to say right off that when we speak about young scientists and young researchers, I want to remind you that in the early 2000s less than 25 percent of our scientists were under the age of 40 whereas now it is almost 50 percent. All that is evidence that regardless of all the difficulties or problems – which exist, and they are numerous, you will obviously tell me about them and I will try to respond – nevertheless, the prestige of research work, the prestige of being a researcher, a scientist, has significantly grown. It is evident from public opinion polls, as well as from the number of young researchers, which has doubled since early 2000s, as I have mentioned.
By the way, opinion polls conducted among parents with older schoolchildren indicate that over 60 percent of them would like their children to go into research. It shows that the situation in the country has changed considerably – I will avoid big words like radically, though it has changed considerably and that really makes me happy.
Of course, there still remain issues that we need to address together.
I know that there are three thousand participants here, it is a big team with people engaged in different areas – cognitive science, history, political science and, I am especially pleased to note, the natural sciences, new materials, artificial intelligence, genetics and so on – all that is represented. I hope you find it both useful and interesting here.
I have said that we planned this Congress of Young Scientists as a key event in the Year of Science and Technology, and, of course, we will try to maintain this pace, to retain the impetus and the momentum in the future with a view to boosting interest in research. We will try to draft a programme, probably, for the next decade, to support interest in scientific research.
I have repeatedly recalled my last conversation with Daniil Granin, who told me, You should personally pay more attention to science, research and young scientists. In general, society should understand how important this has always been and that it will be even more important in the near future. We are following this instruction. Yes, I am serious: I remember this conversation, and he was very sincere. This was my last meeting with him, and he was certainly right.
This is all I would like to say at the beginning. I will be pleased to listen to you and hear your proposals on what we should do in the future to make the situation more stable and better.
Incidentally, today’s meeting has practical importance for me because very soon we will be holding a joint meeting of the Presidential Council for Science and the State Council. This will give us an opportunity, in cooperation with the people who are in charge of science and higher education and the governors of the regions of the Russian Federation, to formulate the tasks that we will have to address to develop this most important area of endeavour.
I think this is all that I wanted to say at the beginning.
If you have any ideas, and I am sure you have them, I would be pleased to listen to you, and not only to listen but also to make notes for myself, in order to use them at the event I have just mentioned.
Go ahead, please.
Vladimir Putin: (responding to a question from Senior Lecturer at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technologies Yury Kostyukevich about sanctions and to a proposal to create a programme to develop scientific tool building in Russia) You have raised an important topic, which is also very complex, and we can approach it from all sides. What can we say for certain? These sanctions and restrictions are introduced under the pretext of ensuring the security of the United States. How does your institute threaten US security? In no way whatsoever. This is complete nonsense. There is only one explanation: an attempt to restrain our development.
In the mid-1990s, we were good for everyone and everyone liked us, when we received potatoes as humanitarian aid. Thanks for this. Many did this sincerely, I know, I can say this honestly, because I talked to those people back when I worked in St Petersburg, in Leningrad. However, in general, when Russia began to recover from the challenges facing it, when it restored its constitutional unity, among other things, which was very difficult to do, when it began developing, Russia began to emerge as a competitor, both on the political arena and in international security, as well as in production, science, the energy sector – and this is no longer to their liking. Therefore, our so-called partners began to pursue a containment policy.
In fact, the containment policy has been pursued against Russia for centuries; there is nothing new about it. If you look through diplomatic correspondence, for example, from the early 19th century, it looks as if it was written yesterday. I can honestly tell you, as if it was yesterday. It is amazing. You read it, and everything is the same, word for word. Astonishing, but true.
Now they are back because they are afraid of competition in all the areas I have just mentioned. Science and education are a sphere of competition and a way to contain Russia’s development. This is evident, you and I understand this. Many people all over the world have realised this, and people like you realise this best of all. Science is the future of any country, together with education; it is absolutely obvious that it is already producing practical results that affect our development, as well as the pace and quality of economic growth.
So how can we respond to these sanctions? Globally, of course, we should increase our sovereignty. By the way, we are the largest providers of energy resources to the global market, but, for example, oil production-related equipment is largely imported. Could we have done this when we had a chance? Of course, we could have. But we did not pay attention to this because we could not imagine the situation would develop the way it is developing now.
By the way, these sanctions are declared for no reason, without any external factors. Sometimes, it appears that various political forces, including those in the United States, are simply competing with one another, showing off their anti-Russia stance and thus scoring domestic political points while simply fighting between themselves. There is nothing good about this; it may be curious, but I do not see how they can get out of this spiral. Of course, they will probably have to do it because the global situation is developing in a particular way. But let it be; this is a different subject.
What you mentioned is certainly a highly important aspect of import substitution. We paid hardly any attention to this matter, and this is understandable because, to be honest, we had to deal with import substitution in the defence industry first and foremost. We had to introduce state-of-the-art technologies linked with science in the defence industry. I will not list all of them, but we have invested a lot and have achieved good results. We have accomplished nearly all our tasks. Not all of the goals have been reached; there are thick stacks of documents showing what we still need to do, but a lot has been accomplished. In any event, we have fulfilled all our initial objectives. We have some questions related to micro-electronics and so on, we still have to work on some aspects, this is obvious, but there also some good prospects here.
Of course, we should also do what you said. By the way, efforts to boost the competitiveness of various sectors are, in principle, the only way to deal with any similar restrictions. And this means that we need to be open, we need to work with everyone who is prepared for joint work with us.
The world is a big place. Clearly, there are leaders in some areas, and they are trying to fence themselves off from us to some extent. It is impossible to quickly do this in the modern world. They invented gunpowder once, but they failed to keep this invention to themselves. The same goes for dynamite. The same with nuclear weapons. They were unable to keep this under wraps. They failed to do it, and it is simply impossible, and in the modern world it is absolutely unimaginable.
This is why we have to be open and work with everyone. But, of course, we have to take specific steps to expand our sovereignty in the sphere of science and instrument engineering. That is the issue you raised here.
I will be happy to take your roadmap.
Vladimir Putin: (replying to a question from Andrei Abramov, Head of the Laboratory of Cell Physiology and Pathology at Oryol Turgenev State University, about mega-grants) First of all, I would like to say that it was [Presidential Aide] Andrei Fursenko and I who came up with these mega-grants. He was responsible for implementing the idea, and as far as I know, it is running very well. Indeed, many researchers and scientists, all of them top-class ones, have been engaged. Some of them were winners of various prizes, including the Nobel Prize, and some won the Nobel Prize after the implementation of the mega-grants.
I believe that it is one of our successful projects. It is notable that there were over 100 Russian scientists – I think there were 104 of them – 44 American scientists and dozens from European countries, 15 or even 20. They worked all over Russia. I believe they were involved in more than 300 projects in 36 Russian regions, from the Far East, including – you may be surprised – Yakutia, as well as Moscow, St Petersburg, Tomsk, Novosibirsk and other cities. It really is a very good programme. And, quite unexpectedly for me, the outlays went down from 150 million rubles to 90 million, for some reason. On the other hand, they are not planning to further reduce spending. And the duration has been reduced to three years.
I know that similar programmes are underway in some European countries; the timeframe is five years with a five-year extension. Of course, we should do it again. We should also increase the size of the mega-grant if we want it to be regarded as a mega-grant and so that it will be attractive for top-notch researchers.
And you are absolutely correct, of course; the participants should be able to see that the project has a future. I fully agree with you that in some instances the initial stage should be increased to five years, with a definite extension period of not five but three years. We will try to move in this direction.
I believe that this is a very important issue. The project is successful, overall, and it should continue running in the same successful mode. We will certainly take up this matter. I fully agree that the size of the mega-grant should be increased, and its duration should be extended.
Vladimir Putin: (on the proposal by Ivan Uteshev, a student at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, to organise tours to the Vostochny Space Centre in the Far East) It was my idea to build a cosmodrome there. At first nobody wanted it, then there was no money; they picked one site, then another. Then I went there in 2009 and made the final decision to pick that site.
The first thing that needs to be done – well, not the very first thing, but what needs to be done to develop special tourism, among other things, is to build a runway, a local airport. It is quite difficult to get there at the moment: either by helicopter from the airport, or a very long drive.
When I was there the last time, it was impossible to leave by helicopter because of bad weather. It took us all night to drive back; I arrived at the airport by 6 in the morning.
So, there are some problems, but they are temporary. The launch pad is operating already; soon it will support heavy equipment. Work is underway, and the runway is under construction. It will be easier when all is done.
I will look into it, of course; we do need to promote this destination.
I did not even know that there were tours there. We need to do it, finish the construction of the town of Tsiolkovsky, and make it modern. I am sure it will be an up-to-date city with good social infrastructure so that it would be interesting for people to live and work there, and so that young people and young families could work there and live comfortably. Plans call for fully implementing all this.
Vladimir Putin: (commenting on the proposal by Alexander Chubrik, a post-graduate student at the National University of Science and Technology MISIS, to build upon and support outstanding initiatives voiced during the Year of Science and Technology and on instituting a Decade of Science) Once I noted in passing that, technically speaking, the Year of Science is ending, but work continues in this direction. And I said that we were thinking about how exactly to continue specific trends set by this Year of Science. We will see whether this will be a decade or a five-year period, but it is absolutely clear that we need to continue working towards the goals of various Year of Science events.
But this is a good idea, and I completely support it. We will think about how to continue this work, and we will discuss ways of transforming certain aspects and using them more widely. We will certainly deal with this matter.
As far as I know, our famous Nobel Prize recipient Vitaly Ginzburg once noted that the ability to ask the right questions was the most important thing in science. And I believe that our meeting has taken place along precisely these lines. I have listened to your questions, and all of them have been asked correctly. This allows us (when I say “us,” I mean my colleagues in the regions, in the Government of the Russian Federation and the Presidential Executive Office) to more precisely focus on subsequent steps to develop this highly important sphere, namely, research activity, and on support for all scientists, research projects and young scientists in particular. I would like to thank you for this and to wish you every success.