WENR, March 2010: Russia and CIS


Research Output Drops Off the Charts

According to a recent report, Russia is no longer even close to being a world leader in science research. The Global Research Report on Russia [1], by Thomson Reuters [2], reveals that the country’s annual research output has fallen from 29,000 papers in 1994 to 27,600 in 2008.

The decline is also apparent in areas where it once excelled, such as the physical sciences. The research base is in trouble but there is “little sign of a solution”, the report, The New Geography of Science: Research and collaboration in Russia [3], says.

“Russia has been a leader in scientific research and intellectual thinking for so long that it comes not only as a surprise but a shock to see that it has a small and dwindling share of world activity as well as real attrition of its core strengths.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, budgets for science have fallen sharply, and the country’s scientists as a group are aging and not being replaced. In October 2009, close to a hundred academics signed an open letter to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President, warning of a “looming collapse” in science. Among the problems they cited were inadequate funding, a lack of strategic planning and a decline in the prestige of science as a profession.

Using information on tens of thousands of academic journals held on Thomson Reuters’ databases, the Global Research Report compares Russia’s output with that of other nations. Between 2004 and 2008, the country produced about 127,000 papers in all fields of science in the journals indexed by Thomson Reuters. By contrast, China produced 415,000 papers, India 144,000 papers and Brazil 102,000 papers.

Picking out some bright spots, the report argues that the picture of research in Russia is “not all doom and gloom.” The country has maintained its share of research in emerging academic fields such as life sciences and the environment, and it still has some key international partnerships.

The Times Higher Education Supplement [4]
February 4, 2010

Demographic Crisis for Universities

The number of students in tertiary education could fall from the current 7.5 million to four million over the next few years, according to a report recently released by Minister of Education Andrei Fursenko, who added that the problem is not only in the quantity but also in the quality of students.

According to the ministry’s report, only 15-20 percent of young Russians enroll at Russian universities with the intention of learning. The rest are reportedly trying to avoid the draft or are earning a diploma that may assist in obtaining future employment.

In 2004, nearly 16 million students were in Russian secondary schools but by 2009 that number had fallen 16 percent to 13.4 million. There was also a decrease over the five years in the number of secondary school leavers: from 1.39 million to 900,000 and, by 2012, the total is unlikely to exceed 730,000. The government hopes the demographic crisis will be overcome because the number of first-grade pupils last year increased by 140,000 compared with 2007. By 2020, the number of students is expected to begin slowly rising again.

Experts say that developed Western countries face the same demographic problems as Russia. But, in contrast to Russia, their demographic crisis is not so intense while the situation in Russia has been made worse by the fact that between 1990 and the early 2000s, the number of students in the country nearly doubled. The reduction in the total number of students accepted by Russian universities was seen for the first time in the 2004-05 academic year, with the biggest falls occurring in private higher education institutions.

University World News [5]
March 7, 2010