From Crisis to Transition [electronic resource] : The State of Russian Science Based on Focus Groups with Nuclear Physicists
- Washington, D.C. : United States. Dept. of Energy, 2001.
Oak Ridge, Tenn. : Distributed by the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, U.S. Dept. of Energy.
- Physical Description:
- PDF-FILE: 10 ; SIZE: 0.2 MBYTES pages
- Additional Creators:
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, United States. Department of Energy, and United States. Department of Energy. Office of Scientific and Technical Information
- Restrictions on Access:
- Free-to-read Unrestricted online access
- The collapse of the Soviet system led to a sharp contraction of state funding for science. Formerly privileged scientists suddenly confronted miserly salaries (often paid late), plummeting social prestige, deteriorating research facilities and equipment, and few prospects for improvement. Many departed the field of science for more lucrative opportunities, both within Russia and abroad. The number of inventions, patent applications, and publications by Russian scientists declined. Reports of desperate nuclear physicists seeking work as tram operators and conducting hunger strikes dramatized the rapid collapse of one of the contemporary world's most successful scientific establishments. Even more alarming was the 1996 suicide of Vladimir Nechai, director of the second largest nuclear research center in Russia (Chelyabinsk-70, now known as Snezhinsk). Nechai, a respected theoretical physicist who spent almost 40 years working on Soviet and Russian nuclear programs, killed himself because he could no longer endure his inability to rectify a situation in which his employees had not been paid for more than 5 months and were ''close to starvation.'' The travails of Russia's scientists sparked interest in the West primarily because of the security threat posed by their situation. The seemingly relentless crisis in science raised fears that disgruntled scientists might sell their nuclear weapons expertise to countries or organizations that harbor hostile intentions toward the United States. Such concerns are particularly pressing in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. At the same time, we should not overlook other critical implications that the state of Russian science has for Russia's long-term economic and political development. It is in the West's interest to see Russia develop a thriving market economy and stable democracy. A successful scientific community can help on both counts. Science and technology can attract foreign investment and fuel renewed economic progress in Russia. Russian scientists could also be an important source of support for democratic norms: sociologists of science have long argued that scientists tend to support democracy because it provides them with the freedom in which their research can flourish. At the same time, a more recent study suggests that funding shortages may override the researcher's need for freedom and drive scientists to align themselves with the economic policies espoused by Nationalists and Communists in order to survive. Therefore, much turns on the question: ''What is the state of science in Russia today?'' The good news is that focus group interviews with Russian nuclear physicists conducted in October 2001 suggest that the ''science in crisis'' image is one-sided and misleading. Though scientists still complained about low salaries, lack of respect in society, and other similar issues, the participants in the focus groups also expressed positive sentiments about recent changes in the field of science. To be sure, the financing of science remains at a considerably lower level than during the heyday of Soviet times. Yet, it is now possible to earn a decent living as a scientist because of the greater availability of foreign and domestic grants and contracts. In addition, state funding has stabilized over the past few years. Thus, it is more accurate to say that Russian science is in a state of transition rather than in a state of crisis.
- Report Numbers:
- E 1.99:ucrl-jc-146574
- Published through SciTech Connect.
PONARS (Program on New Approaches to Russian Security) Conference, Washington, DC (US), 12/25/2002.
Ball, D Y; Gerber, T P.
- Funding Information:
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