12 Sep 2019 23:42

RAS employees union opposes RFBR reorganization

MOSCOW Sept 12 (Interfax) - The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) employees union has opposed the plans to reorganize the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, insisting that the foundation's future should be subject to public debate.

"The All-Russian Union of RAS Workers has received clarifications from the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education regarding the current situation around the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR). As it turns out, the partial redistribution of public funds from the RFBR to the Russian Science Foundation (RSF) is actually a settled issue," the trade union said in a statement on the RAS website on Thursday.

A number of mass grant programs pursued by the RFBR, including the basic program for backing initiative projects by areas of study, will be phased out as part of the planned optimization, the union said. The authorities are planning to hand the saved money to the RSF with a view to financing large programs, for example, the presidential program for research projects, it said.

"It is planned that the RFBR will essentially be transformed into an analytical and monitoring center. As regards grant schemes, it will only retain the function of organizing international competitions," it said.

The union will not put up with the prospect, as the RFBR has always performed "the function of fostering the scientific community," backing thousands of small scientific groups in Russia. With the foundation's reorganization, scientific groups will lose this source of funding, the only one for many. Consequently, the level and the volume of fundamental research will drop in most universities and research centers, as strong teams will be present in just a few organizations based in several big cities, RAS employees said.

"We believe that additional public funding should be the source of a funding boost for RSF programs. We demand that research funding on a competitive basis, the most important issue for scientists, be broadly debated with the participation of the scientific community," they said.