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City news, 07.10.2004 16:53

Alfyorov Slams Science Funding Cuts

science_funds St Petersburg Times

By Galina Stolyarova

Staff Writer

St. Petersburg Nobel Prize laureate Zhores Alfyorov has condemned a government proposal to privatize some of the state's cash-strapped scientific and research organizations.

The Education and Science Ministry has developed a plan called the National Concept of Participation in Managing State Scientific and Research Organizations.

It proposes reducing the number of state scientific institutions from more than 2,000 currently operating to between 100 and 200 by 2008.

The plan aims to halve state expenditure on science by 2006.

Staff of many of the institutes, which were lavishly funded in Soviet times, are destitute and those without commercial contracts have almost no income.

Many resort to letting out space to other firms to earn money.

Several federal programs, including a Medical Industry Development Plan and Development of Methods of Protection of Population From Dangerous Pathogens, are scheduled to be suspended for an unspecified period of time.

Scientists are getting ready to participate in a nationwide protest on Oct.20.

The biggest meeting will be organized outside the federal government headquarters in Moscow.

"We scientists are bewildered by this document," Alfyorov said at a news conference in Rosbalt news agency last week.

"The ministry has been acting in a tactless and in arbitrary manner, without even informing us about the plan, let alone asking our advice."

"If the government accepts the plan, it means Russian science will soon be dead and buried," he added.

The plan will be presented to the Russian government for approval in the near future.

Alfyorov chairs the St. Petersburg Scientific Center of the Academy of Sciences.

Eduard Tropp, the center's principal scientific secretary, compared the ministry's tactics with Soviet collectivization.

"By selling out the country's scientific institutions the state is unilaterally unloading its responsibilities to support science in Russia," Tropp said.

The St. Petersburg Scientific Center is preparing an alternative concept for the development of science and research in the country. The document will be completed by mid-October and then presented to President Vladimir Putin for review.

The center is an umbrella group for 60 local scientific and research institutions.

"Not a single one of them will be sold into private hands," Alfyorov said. "We just won't let it happen."

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(c) 2000