Aleksandr Lukashenko chairs government meeting on development of science in Belarus
Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed to develop a program of reforms in the Belarusian science within three months: the structure of the scientific realm should become compact and should be managed effectively. With this, changes in the scientific sphere should not entail total destruction and breakdown, the head of state gave such instructions at the government meeting on 5 August to discuss the development of science in Belarus.
Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded those present at the meeting that in December 2011 he instructed to work out and implement a set of measures for the development of the scientific sector. In his words, various reforms have been suggested over the past two years. They included the transformation of the Academy of Sciences into a public organization with the transfer of all fundamental research to universities and applied research to companies. There was also a proposal to concentrate all types of research in the academic sector and transform the Academy into a giant scientific and production corporation with the creation of holding companies on the basis of its institutes, industrial and other companies.
Ahead of the meeting the head of state received new proposals from the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. They envisage the transfer of all sectoral scientific organizations to the Academy and the opening of a scientific and practical center in the Academy and the State Science and Technology Committee for the development of high-tech economic sectors.
The President believes that the results of scientific research both in natural and human sciences need to be turned into the intellectual product needed by the economy and the society. Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the emphasis should be made on application developments. In his view, this requires the improvement of the existing system of management by objective in science.
“Work on direct orders of the manufacturing sector should be made a commonplace practice. In the present-day conditions it is important not just to be able to distribute and utilize the budgetary funds for science but to develop a high-tech and innovative product. We need an efficient system of management in science,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that research in human sciences should be given an analytical priority. “All economic, political, legal and social initiatives implemented by government bodies should be well-founded and based on sound theory,” the head of state said.
The President made a special emphasis on the issues related to the financing of the Belarusian science.
“The scientific community always complains about the lack of funds for the scientific sector. Yes, the knowledge content of GDP in Belarus is much lower than in technologically developed countries. If you say that our science has become more results-driven, then why should the state pay for all kinds of scientific developments? What about manufacturing industry and commercial companies?” the head of state said.
The President believes it is vital to use the state procurement instrument in the strategically important areas while extra budgetary resources should be attracted into other research areas.
“No unreasoned allocation of funds starting from 1 January 2014, including for scientists. Scientists are smart people, they should know how to earn for themselves and for the country,” the President noted.
“Why should we waste budgetary money for no good purpose, while giving away everything we have for breakthrough ideas? The areas which we believe and see are going to produce results, will get our money because we will know it will pay back,” the head of state said. "In all times science has been profitable. In Soviet times, one ruble invested in science generated 10," he added.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also believes that it is time to take a final decision on the future of fundamental science. "Our country is not that big and rich to afford to develop a wide range of areas of fundamental research. And perhaps, this is not the point. The point is how much we need fundamental research, and how successful we could be. I look at it pragmatically; we should not throw money down the drain. We’d better spend money on several breakthrough areas, say, on the 6th technological wave, and will further develop the areas where Belarus has developed the world-class traditions, for example, optics, laser physics, thermal physics, bioorganic chemistry and materials science, and they serve as the foundation for further applied research and development of higher education,” the President said.
“There is another question. For example the country does not need a certain product, but you believe the prospects are good. Please go ahead, find partners in China, Russia, America. Let them fund you. And they will finance you if they see that you can produce results tomorrow," the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that a pragmatic approach should be applied to participation of Belarusian scientists in large international projects such as the exploration of outer space, Large Hadron Collider. These projects should not only meet the scientific interest but also become an incentive for the development of high-tech industries in Belarus. "But we must participate in such projects only on the basis of deep pragmatism," the President added.
The head of state demanded optimization of the organizations of the entire scientific sphere as soon as possible, primarily the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.
“The structure of the scientific realm should become compact and should be managed effectively. It is necessary to prune rudimentary links in order to be able to advance primarily thanks to selling proprietary intellectual products with minimal support from the state budget. At present the Academy is like a state of its own, with over 120 of research, manufacturing, and social organizations of all kinds that employ 18,000 workers while only one third of the workers are researchers. Why can’t we see tangible results from such an impressive potential?” the President said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that changes in the scientific sphere should not entail total destruction and breakdown.
“The government, other government agencies and structures should think about what we need science for. What tasks does Belarusian science have to accomplish? What are the priorities? Science should clearly understand these things,” said the head of state. He added that the government should find answers to these questions in association with scientists.
The President believes that in order to avoid further scattering of personnel and financial resources it is necessary to secure clear-cut organization and coordination of research at the state level, it is necessary to eliminate disunity between agencies, parallelism, and work redundancy.
“If we want science to produce tangible results in the manufacturing sector, we should revive industrial science, making it the promoter of advanced technologies at every concrete enterprise the way it was done in the Soviet times, for instance,” said the President.
In his words, university science should cater both to accumulating new knowledge and maintaining high education standards in Belarus. “If university professors stop pursuing research, they will drop behind modern scientific trends and will not be able to teach anything to anyone”. The head of state remarked that it would be necessary to work out an effective mechanism to renew the succession pool of science.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarus takes a cautious approach to the reformation of the scientific sector. "We are moving in this direction step by step, softly, gently, in a Belarusian way. And the steps that we have taken are small, and cannot be cited as arguments by those who would criticize us once again. Moreover, I have taken the steps only when the scientific community was unable to make their own proposals,” the President said.
“I repeatedly suggested producing at least 1 or 2 proposals to reform the scientific sector. There were no responses. Then I had to act proceeding from how the leadership saw the problem. We were treading very carefully, as if on thin ice, in order not to do harm,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
“I am saying this because we are going to hear a lot of “smart” people saying that Lukashenko follows Russia and someone else again. You know about the attempt to reform the Russian Academy of Sciences. It has absolutely nothing to do with what we are doing here. We are not going to interfere with the Academy of Sciences, tell scientists what to do, or re-distribute the property leased by scientific institutions. Manage it yourselves if you know how to do it efficiently,” the President said. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, an estimated 25,000 hectares of agricultural lands and companies have been handed over to the Academy of Sciences. “If you are ready to swallow this piece, we will give you more, and not only lands, but other companies, even the best ones to make them even better. This is the path we are heading. We are not going to divide anything under the table,” the President noted.
Aleksandr Lukashenko suggests only a governmental approach be used to the reformation of science.
“Science should be changed to acquire a new compact structure that will meet interests and needs of the country as a sovereign state,” said the President.
“A measured evolutionary approach is needed for the sake of preserving the best and giving a second wind to the Belarusian science. We should not offend the young ones, we should inviolately take care of those, who make up the golden intellectual fund of the country,” stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that all issues will be addressed in a careful, thorough and public discussion in the course of partnership interaction between the scientific community and government bodies.
Lukashenko instructs to prepare science reform program within three months
"In November we will get together with representatives of the scientific community, discuss everything over and will adopt a new program of science development in the country," the President said.