Lean Times Ahead for Russian Science Academy

MOSCOW—After months of turmoil, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) has emerged from a landmark meeting diminished—but intact. On 27 March, RAS members approved a new charter that redefines its role in Russian science, while its leadership revealed just how little funding the academy has at its disposal.Under a law that went into effect on 1 January, RAS subsumed sister academies for medicine and for agriculture and turned over management of its real estate and assets—including all the institutes of the merged academy—to a new Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations (FASO). Meeting for the first time since the merger, RAS members voted overwhelmingly to approve a charter that RAS President Vladimir Fortov says will “preserve the traditions and norms that have been developed in the academy for 300 years.” Critically, Fortov tells ScienceInsider, the charter allows RAS to retain the right to appoint institute directors, with input from FASO. The charter is now awaiting formal approval by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.Nevertheless, RAS now commands considerably fewer resources. FASO will receive the lion’s share of the academy’s former budget, about $2 billion a year, to cover institute costs such as salaries and electricity. Much of the research funds formerly disbursed by RAS—about $1.3 billion planned for 2014 to 2016—will now be distributed competitively by the Russian Scientific Fund, a new agency that will operate independently of both the academy and FASO. RAS will get about $225 million for special initiatives and research infrastructure. “We haven’t lost all our funding once and forever,” Fortov says. But even that dollop of money resides in a FASO account. read more