“You’ll be able to deal with global problems if you let other countries increase their potential, too”
One of the events of the XVI HSE Annual Conference’s Science and Innovation section hosted by ISSEK was the workshop on cross-border cooperation in the framework of the OECD’s Knowledge Triangle. The participants discussed the roles of education, research and innovation activities in securing global competitiveness for the European countries.
Implementing the Knowledge Triangle
The Knowledge Triangle brings together the three components — innovation, education, and research — by promoting cooperation of universities, companies, and public authorities. “It’s about creating a new research model to analyse interaction between various science and innovation actors, including R&D centres, universities, businesses, and public authorities, and developing new approaches to designing S&T and innovation policy tools. A huge amount of empirical evidence is accumulated in this area; various countries conduct a wide range of statistical and sociological studies. And I believe the first stage of this project will be creating an integrated conceptual methodological basis, to summarise various known practices”, explained HSE first vice-rector Leonid Gokhberg.
According to Richard Scott, the OECD analyst, there’s a global trend to move on from bulk funding of R&D projects to a competitive-based procedure. In many countries universities are becoming more autonomous, more market-oriented, and the share of private funding is growing. As a consequence, public authorities increasingly demand from universities that they become more accountable and transparent. In Russia, public R&D funding still dominates over private funding. Boundaries between institutions are gradually dissolving; education merges with R&D, parts of the society are opting for online courses and receive their education via the internet. International cooperation of universities increases; programmes to promote their entrepreneurial activities are being designed, and centres of excellence established at universities. “Knowledge exchanges with local residents and international community are becoming an important element of national education policies”, concluded Richard Scott.
Speaking about financing joint S&T projects, Nicholas Vonortas, professor at the George Washington University (USA), regretted that people rarely know what’s happening in the domain of science. “When we speak about international cooperation which is growing in open economies, we try to define what’s happening around us in that context — but unfortunately, we have insufficient data”, noted the expert. “There’s only a small number of reliable sources (bibliometrics, patent statistics), and the picture they provide is by no means complete. Why not? Firstly, technologies’ life cycle is often very short; technologies replace each other and we just don’t have time to take all of them into account. Secondly, modern production is increasingly organised around the so-called global value chains. During the previous two decades their emergence have not only significantly changed the nature of the global economy, but strongly affected particular countries. However, the scale and the nature of these effects are still insufficiently understood by experts. In other words, corporations spread their production cycle through various countries. Each country brings in a particular link. Most of the R&D funding is provided by the private sector, which is not reflected in our statistics. We only receive statistical data from public structures”.
Wolfgang Polt, director of the Centre for Economic and Innovation Research (Joanneum Research, Austria) suggested that international partnership schemes must be primarily aimed at meeting global challenges. Good practices depend on the context, on particular situations, so there’s only a very limited list of general recommendations to be made. “Of course international cooperation to meet global challenges always implies that all participants must make certain compromises”, believed Wolfgang Polt. “Therefore we should be able to find mutually acceptable options. There’s always a choice between strong and weak leadership, wide and narrow participation. Next, we must remember about the growing share of private funding, and find a balance between private and public interests; this also concerns intellectual property rights. An important aspect is to concentrate on promoting R&D and competition. You’ll only be able to deal with global problems if you let other countries increase their potential, too. And finally, there’s a major controversy between strong and weak institutionalisation. To establish a sturdy mechanism capable of meeting global challenges, it’s important to opt for a stronger institutionalisation. And ultimately create international institutions with their own agenda, who up to a point will be able to deal with funding and strategic vision problems on their own”.
The importance of international cooperation, specifically establishing joint laboratories, was also noted by Dirk Meissner, deputy head of International Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies of the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge. According to the professor, joint laboratories are positioned somewhere in between the private and public sectors; they are organisations working both on the current agenda, and generating necessary competencies, building knowledge pyramid required to find answers to existing challenges to mutual wellbeing and development of strategic vision.
The role of human factor in S&T and innovation cooperation
“International cooperation shouldn’t be limited by any internal agendas. It cannot exist in vacuum, and directly depends on encouraging or, to the contrary, discouraging policies”, believed Klaus Schuch, head and research director of the Centre for Social Innovation (Austria). The next question to ask is which factors promote participation in bilateral international agreements and researchers’ mobility? An Austrian study showed that researchers’ gender, age, and self-perception are of crucial importance. The more senior the researcher, the more they are inclined to take part in international cooperation — because their professional status and the number of publications increase. However, everything has its limits, and after a certain age the enthusiasm for participating in international programmes starts to decline. According to the study results, men are more mobile than women. Academic disciplines also play an important role: natural sciences are more common subjects for international cooperation than, e.g., social silences, humanities, or even engineering. “During the survey we also tried to answer the question if bilateral projects can be transferred into something on a larger scale, e.g. the EU Framework Programme Horizon-2020. Unfortunately, such attempts usually fail, due to insufficient funding and problems with managing R&D projects”, noted Klaus Schuch.
In turn, Natalia Shmatko, senior researcher at the NRU HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge, presented results of the survey of researchers’ mobility in different countries. The survey revealed that doctorate holders employed outside of the education and R&D sector are much more mobile than those directly engaged in research. This situation is typical to many countries, among them the RF. In Russia researchers’ mobility is quite low, but doctorate holders employed by industrial companies are more mobile than other researchers.
Only a quarter of the total number of doctorate holders in the RF are mobile. Mostly these are young men resident in central cities and nearby areas. Some sectors show much higher mobility than others. E.g. in the public sector (research centres and institutes largely belong to it) internal transfers amount to 43%; in the business sector the relevant figure is just over 50%, and in the higher education sector — more than 70%. In recent years, the higher education sector became the main recipient of internal mobility. The public and business sectors are losing doctorate holders.
Internationally mobile doctorate holders mostly participate in producing joint publications and in joint R&D projects. Physicists, mathematicians and representatives of biological sciences are the most internationally mobile researchers; representatives of engineering, social, economic sciences and humanities are the least mobile ones. The main mobility destinations include European countries, America, China, Japan, and Singapore. Internationally mobile researchers are more deeply involved in research activities, have more publications and patents. Thus, according to the survey, in three years’ time non-mobile scientists on average publish less than one paper a year in international magazines, while mobile ones publish almost five papers.
Sergei Salikhov, director of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science’s Science and Technology Department, spoke about the changes taking place in the Russian science sphere. One of the main events of the previous year was adoption of the federal law “On the Russian Academy of Sciences, reorganisation of the state academies of sciences, and amending certain laws of the Russian Federation”. Adoption of this law increases the state academies of sciences’ opportunities to influence the state R&D system, first of all concerning basic research. Also, the law made the Russian Academy of Sciences officially responsible for expert evaluation and peer reviewing. 27 legal acts were developed to support the RAS’s performance of its new functions, and 20 of them are already approved.
Changes to the legislation proposed by the Ministry of Education and Science are aimed at moving on from the existing archaic R&D funding structure. One of the key tools for solving this problem is switching to supporting S&T activities by providing grants to R&D organisations, teams, and individual scientists to conduct research, primarily funded by public and non-governmental foundations. The newly developed grant-based funding system allows efficient mobile researchers to keep the funding awarded to them, e.g., by the Russian Science Foundation. Also prepared and signed are all legal documents required for evaluating R&D organisations, for the first time based on the inter-departmental principle. In other words, now it’s possible to compare organisations with a common profile, but belonging to different agencies.
The changes in the legislation have also affected various aspects of researchers’ compensation. The Labour Code was amended to introduce, for the first time, a system of tenure positions; provide opportunities for mobility; protect researchers’ rights at the hiring stage; etc.
Last year the Russian Ministry of Education and Science have also implemented various initiatives to improve information support to Russian researchers. These include providing licensed access to international citation databases Web of Science and Scopus, and full-text databases of leading international scientific journals; and launching the programme promoting Russian S&T journals’ integration into international scientific information space — the so-called “journals project”.
In 2014, Russia, represented by the Kurchatov Institute, became the third largest partner of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble. The reader will remember that a synchrotron is a circular elementary particles accelerator — like large hadron collider but much smaller. Also, Russia, together with 12 other countries, participates in the project to build the largest x-ray free electron laser in the world (XFEL) in Germany. The XFEL will allow to observe complex biochemical processes in cells, and understand proliferation mechanisms of numerous diseases, e.g. Parkinson's disease. Together with European partners, Russian scientists are engaged in serious research in photonics, biotechnology, and other fields.
According to Sergei Salikhov, last year the amount of research funding has reached 804 billion roubles; the growth rate for funding provided from non-government sources was 13% which is higher than for the RF government budget funding. “The objectives for the near future are to increase international cooperation, involve Russian research groups in serious international projects, including in the framework of the national technological initiative which is currently being actively developed”, concluded Sergei Salikhov.
Closing the workshop, Nicholas Vonortas (the George Washington University, USA) urged the audience not to forget the mission of any university — to educate people, not to establish companies. Only by training successful graduates can we build a better society.
By Anastasia Chumak, HSE News Service