Pragmatic approach to science
At the session dedicated to the development of Belarus’ scientific sphere, Alexander Lukashenko gave three months to elaborate a reform programme for Belarusian science, urging a compact and efficiently manageable structure without reform completely overthrowing the existing system
Alexander Lukashenko reminded those present at the recent meeting that, in December 2011, he ordered a set of measures to be developed to improve the scientific sphere. He now notes that, over the past two years, various options for change have been offered, including proposals to reform the Academy of Sciences. It could become a public organisation, transferring basic scientific research to universities, while encouraging all applied research to be conducted at enterprises.
Others have suggested that research be concentrated within the academic sector, allowing the Academy of Sciences to become a huge research and production corporation, with the creation of holdings at its institutions, and at industrial and other enterprises. Some see the Academy of Sciences becoming a new body of national administration of scientific, technical and innovative activities.
Before making a decision on these proposals, Mr. Lukashenko has determined the direction and strategic challenges that lie ahead for Belarusian science. He believes that it should orient towards domestic economic needs, becoming an effective instrument of economic modernisation, with emphasis on applied developments.
The President is convinced that scientific research in the natural and human sciences should find practical application, via specific targeted programmes.
Speaking of funding, the President explains, “The scientific community, together with government officials, constantly complains about lack of financing in the scientific sphere. The knowledge content of our GDP is many times lower than in technologically advanced countries but it doesn’t follow that the state should fit the bill for scientific development. What about industrial and commercial enterprises?”
The President believes that strategically important spheres should receive most attention, with extra-budgetary sources attracted.
Mr. Lukashenko believes it necessary to finally decide the fate of fundamental science. “Our country is not huge, and lacks wealth to develop a wide range of research but this is beside the point. In truth, what is the purpose of theoretical research? I look at the situation with pragmatism. I won’t waste money and would prefer to see it spent in cutting-edge spheres: for example, the 6th technological wave. We’ll continue to develop areas in which Belarus has established leading global research: optics, laser physics, thermal physics, bio-organic chemistry and new materials. These should form the foundation for developing applied research and higher education,” the President emphasises.
Mr. Lukashenko stressed that a pragmatic approach should be used regarding our participation in major international projects — such as those relating to space and the Large Hadron Collider — since they not only meet scientific interests but help stimulate high-tech development at enterprises in Belarus. “We need to be pragmatic about our involvement,” he asserts.
The Head of State has demanded that all organisations involved in science revise their orientation, especially the National Academy of Sciences. The President believes that, in order to avoid further waste of human and financial resources, we need to ensure efficient organisation and co-ordination of research in academic, industrial and university sectors of science at national level. He is keen to eliminate departmental fragmentation and duplication of efforts, noting, “If we want to enjoy heavy payoff from research in manufacturing, we need to restore industrial science, allowing it to guide advanced technologies at particular enterprises, harking back to how things were organised in the Soviet period.”
Mr. Lukashenko believes that all issues will be resolved following careful, comprehensive and open discussion between the scientific community and governmental agencies, and has set a deadline of three months for the development of a programme of reform for Belarusian science.