Russia stuck in science

Nieuws | de redactie
26 november 2015 | President Putin is not satisfied with the dynamics of reform in Russian science. In a meeting with the vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Ivan Dedov, he concludes that the integration of the work of scientists must be speeded up. “This is something we need to work on then.”

On his personal website the Russian president has published his conversation with the Academy-leader and after a longwinded review of all they are doing well and full of praise for ‘the good Tsar Vladimir’, it suddenly becomes remarkably chilly.

You read this talk of Putin with prof. Dedov here:

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Dedov, what is the situation in your section of the Academy?

Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Ivan Dedov: Thank you very much for finding the time to meet, Mr President. I know what a busy schedule you have, but you nonetheless find time to give a lot of attention to healthcare, science and chemistry. It is therefore all the more pleasing to tell you that at the recent UN plenary session, where you made a brilliant speech, there was also a plenary session of the World Health Organisation, which placed Russia among the top ten countries in the world in terms of success in fighting non-infectious diseases. Diabetes was the main area of concern.

I therefore want to thank you for supporting fundamental research at the Endocrinology Research Centre. Today, we opened the Institute of Paediatric Endocrinology, with its own accommodation centre. We have opportunities today to use corporate work of this sort not just in diabetes, clinical endocrinology and reproductive endocrinology, which are all fields covered by the institutes that make up our centre, but in personalised medicine too.

Personalised medicine is a global brand today and is all about taking an individual approach to treating a patient. Today, it is possible to calculate potential risks. This is a special field of work. We can identify whether a person is at a particularly high risk of developing diabetes or rare diseases of various kinds. In the case of families, where we see the inherited factors at work, it is possible to foresee potential risks.

We have the fantastic possibility now of studying the genome and decoding it in just three to five days, and this means that we can level out the risks. It is therefore important to develop platforms for providing personalised medicine in Russia now, because personalised medicine makes it possible for us to develop the entire innovation chain from the idea through to the commercial product.

I ask for your support in this project. We are developing this institute and we have the possibilities today and young teams. Given that this work is in the genome technology field, we need mathematics, biochemistry, biophysics and bioinformatics. We rely primarily on young scientists in all of these fields.

This is the case not just in medicine. I think that the issue of different generations is topical everywhere, not just in science. I think these problems are starting to gradually sort themselves out though. But our task today is certainly to train and develop experienced young researchers.

Vladimir Putin: What is the average age of researchers in your field now and what changes do you see?

Ivan Dedov: The average age in the endocrinology field is 37, which is very good. We realise that technology today is such that we can expect young people to join us, who are already mature in their skills and ready to work. But we mustn’t forget that the older colleagues deserve attention too.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, that’s clear. What is the situation like in the medical sciences in general right now?

Ivan Dedov: In general, the average age of holders of the candidate of science degree is around 49, which is high, and the average age of holders of doctor of science degrees is 60 or more. The average age of corresponding members (of the Academy of Medical Sciences) is around 70, and the average age of full members is around 75.

Medicine is a whole big area of the country’s life. It shapes the demographic results, the birth rate, life expectancy, the frequency of disabilities, motherhood and childhood, the rates of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and the possibilities in neuroscience and regenerative medicine such as cell technology, organ transplantation and creation of new organs. Of course, we have much to think about, and this is not always an easy process in the academy, we have very serious discussions there, but I think that one way or another we will find solutions.

Vladimir Putin: Are you feeling the effect we hoped for by uniting the Academy of Sciences with the Academy of Medical Sciences and creating opportunities for better contact with your colleagues in other fields? Do you see this effect and is it developing?

Ivan Dedov: You know, I had hoped for greater results. It was hard enough already to get everyone together just in the Academy of Medical Sciences. Of course, there are some real fundamental leaders in biology, physiology, chemistry and biochemistry, and we thought that it would be a rapid matter to build these closer contacts with them. To be frank and honest with you though, it hasn’t been very successful for now. The reforms have been more of the administrative kind.

Vladimir Putin: This is something we need to work on then. Let’s reflect on what we can do to make this process more effective.

Ivan Dedov: Yes, of course, Mr President. This is not a simple matter and it is good that you understand this. You said many times that we must proceed carefully. It is no simple thing to put everyone inside the same perimeter and just declare them all one big crowd. We are talking about medicine here. I know that you support us, and we still have time to make this integration and consolidation more effective.

Vladimir Putin: Let’s take a closer look at how to go about this.

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