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PhysOrg.com / December 1, 2011
Livermore and Russian scientists propose new names for elements 114 and 116
Два новых элемента периодической системы, сверхтяжелые элементы 114 и 116, получили названия Flerovium (Fl) и Livermorium (Lv), в честь Лаборатории ядерных реакций им. Г.Н.Флёрова (Объединённый институт ядерных исследований, Дубна) и самого Георгия Флёрова и Ливерморской национальной лаборатории (США), где эти элементы были синтезированы более 10 лет назад.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) today recommended new proposed names for elements 114 and 116, the latest heavy elements to be added to the periodic table.
Scientists of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)-Dubna collaboration proposed the names are Flerovium for element 114 and Livermorium for element 116.
In June 2011, the IUPAC officially accepted elements 114 and 116 as the heaviest elements, more than 10 years after scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna and Lawrence Livermore chemists discovered them.
Flerovium (atomic symbol Fl) was chosen to honor Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions, where superheavy elements, including element 114, were synthesized. Georgiy N. Flerov (1913-1990) was a renowned physicist who discovered the spontaneous fission of uranium and was a pioneer in heavy-ion physics. He is the founder of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. In 1991, the laboratory was named after Flerov - Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions (FLNR).
Livermorium (atomic symbol Lv) was chosen to honor Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the city of Livermore, Calif. A group of researchers from the Laboratory, along with scientists at the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions, participated in the work carried out in Dubna on the synthesis of superheavy elements, including element 116. (Lawrencium - Element 103 - was already named for LLNL's founder E.O. Lawrence.)
In 1989, Flerov and Ken Hulet (1926-2010) of LLNL established collaboration between scientists at LLNL and scientists at FLNR; one of the results of this long-standing collaboration was the synthesis of elements 114 and 116.
"Proposing these names for the elements honors not only the individual contributions of scientists from these laboratories to the fields of nuclear science, heavy element research, and superheavy element research, but also the phenomenal cooperation and collaboration that has occurred between scientists at these two locations," said Bill Goldstein, associate director of LLNL's Physical and Life Sciences Directorate.
LLNL scientists Ken Moody, Dawn Shaughnessy, Jackie Kenneally and Mark Stoyer were critical members of the team along with a team of retired LLNL scientists including John Wild and Ron Lougheed. Former LLNL scientists Nancy Stoyer, Carola Gregorich, Jerry Landrum, Joshua Patin and Philip Wilk also were on the team. The research was supported by LLNL Laboratory Research and Development funds (LDRD).
Scientists at LLNL have been involved in heavy element research since the Laboratory's inception in 1952 and have been collaborators in the discovery of six elements - 113,114,115,116,117 and 118.
Livermore also has been at the forefront of investigations into other areas related to nuclear science such as cross-section measurements, nuclear theory, radiochemical diagnostics of laser-induced reactions, separations chemistry including rapid automated aqueous separations, actinide chemistry, heavy-element target fabrication, and nuclear forensics.
The creation of elements 116 and 114 involved smashing calcium ions (with 20 protons each) into a curium target (96 protons) to create element 116. Element 116 decayed almost immediately into element 114. The scientists also created element 114 separately by replacing curium with a plutonium target (94 protons).
The creation of elements 114 and 116 generate hope that the team is on its way to the "island of stability," an area of the periodic table in which new heavy elements would be stable or last long enough for applications to be found.
The new names were submitted to the IUPAC in late October and now remain in the public domain. The new names will not be official until about five months from now when the public comment period is over.
© PhysOrg.com™ 2003-2011.
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The National Science Foundation / December 16, 2011
NSF Director and Russian Science Minister Sign Historic Agreement for Bilateral Collaboration
Subra Suresh and Andrei Fursenko establish cooperative framework with which to support U.S. and Russian scientists and engineers
Минобрнауки РФ заключило соглашение о сотрудничестве с Национальным научным фондом США (независимое агентство при правительстве, отвечающее за развитие науки и технологий и финансирующее пятую часть всех научных исследований в США).
Today, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Subra Suresh signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Russian Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko to foster the continued growth of U.S.-Russian science and technology cooperation.
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Noting the historic significance of this, the first time that NSF and the Russian Ministry of Education have agreed to jointly support each nation's scientists, Suresh discussed the importance of cooperation in nanoscience, energy and information technology in addressing the global challenges of adapting to environmental, social and cultural changes associated with the growth and development of human populations and attaining a sustainable energy future.
"This agreement between the National Science Foundation and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation opens up a vast possibility for advancing research collaborations between USA and Russian scientists in all NSF supported disciplines," said Machi Dilworth, director of NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering.
Fursenko was first appointed Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation on March 9, 2004, by a Presidential Decree and was re-appointed to this post following the re-election of President Vladimir Putin to his second term in May 2004.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2011, its budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Space / 09 December 2011
Russian Scientist Apologizes for Failed Mars Moon Mission
Директор Института космических исследований (ИКИ РАН) Лев Зеленый выразил сожаление о неудаче запуска космической станции «Фобос-Грунт» в своем открытом письме коллегам и участникам проекта.
Аппарат «Фобос-Грунт» должен был доставить на Землю образцы почвы со спутника Марса Фобоса, но после запуска так и не смог покинуть околоземную орбиту. Окончательный сход аппарата с орбиты ожидается в начале января 2012.
In an open letter Thursday (Dec. 8), a prominent Russian scientist lamented the failure of the country's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which was meant to collect samples from Mars' moon Phobos, but instead is languishing in Earth orbit.
"We are deeply sorry about the failure" of Phobos-Grunt, wrote Lev Zelenyi, director of the Space Research Institute and Chair of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Solar System Exploration Board, in a letter to fellow scientists and mission team members.
"We hope in [the] future to continue our collaboration on space science projects."
The troubled spacecraft has been stranded since its Nov. 8 launch, when it failed to propel itself off into a deep space trajectory toward Mars.
Not giving up
In yesterday's message, Zelenyi said the reason for the failure has yet to be determined. He saluted the dedicated efforts of the European Space Agency, NASA, as well as the U.S. military space trackers and amateur skywatchers that helped in efforts to establish communication with the wayward probe and to assist in determining the exact orbit, orientation and attitude of Phobos-Grunt.
"However, despite people being at work 24/7 since the launch, all these attempts have not yield[ed] any satisfactory results," Zelenyi said. "Lavochkin Association specialists will continue their attempts to establish connection with the spacecraft and send commands until the very end of its existence."
Russia's NPO Lavochkin was the main contractor of the Phobos-Grunt project.
The spacecraft is expected to enter Earth's atmosphere in early January as a piece of space debris. Zelenyi explained that Russian space experts are now working on the issue of re-entry and the "probability of where and which fragments may hit the ground (if any)," he said.
The Russian space scientist did note that there is "a sensitive matter" regarding the vehicle's re-entry: one of the scientific instruments onboard Phobos-Grunt does contain radioactive material, Cobalt-57. However, Zelenyi said the amount of this material is less than 10 micrograms, and according to evaluations, should pose no significant problems.
Looking into the future, Zelenyi highlighted in the letter the next steps of the Russian space science agenda. Current plans, he said, call for robotic moon missions called Luna-Glob and Lunar-Resource, and discussions between Russia, ESA and NASA are under way regarding collaboration on the ExoMars and Russian Mars-NET missions to the Red Planet.
"Moreover, the Russian Academy of Sciences would like to prepare a new mission to Phobos," Zelenyi said, but no decision has yet been made on this undertaking.
Copyright © 2011. TechMediaNetwork.com. All rights reserved.
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The Space Review / Monday, December 5, 2011
Time for Russia to rethink its Mars exploration plans
Луис Фридман, один из основателей и бывший гендиректор американского Общества планетарных исследований - о причинах неудачи проекта «Фобос-Грунт», необходимости радикального реформирования российской программы исследования планет и перспективах сотрудничества NASA, ESA и Роскосмоса в области исследования Марса.
The long-awaited return of the Russians into the solar system will have to wait even longer. The Phobos Sample Return Mission (Phobos-Grunt) has failed and its spacecraft, like Mars-96, apparently will ignominiously end up crashing or splashing down on Earth. My colleagues in Russia say that they hope to try again, although obviously they do not have any firm decision on that yet.
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In the history of the Russian space program (nicely chronicled by Wes Huntress and Mikhail Marov; see "Review: Soviet Robots in the Solar System", The Space Review, September 26, 2011) "try again" usually means that they will build approximately the same spacecraft fixing those things that might have caused their current problems and use it in another ambitious mission - perhaps even one with more complexity. I hope not.
Dwayne Day made a compelling case last week (see "Red Planet blues", The Space Review, November 28, 2011) that the Russians need to radically reform their planetary program, instead of making incremental fixes. I agree. It is neither hubris nor chauvinism for us to say to our Russian colleagues, "it's time to change." We've been this way a couple of times in the American Mars program and, I think, learned the lesson. The failures of Mars Observer in 1993 and twin failures of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in 1999 resulted in big changes and, later, big successes.
Do the Russians now have a Dan Goldin who can take failure and use it as a weapon to institute changes and vigor into a new planetary program? Goldin, along with his associate administrator for science Wes Huntress, showed bold leadership in reacting to the loss of Mars Observer (the first US Mars mission in 16 years) by initiating a Mars program for flights in every two-year opportunity. Similarly, when the two 1998-99 missions were lost he personally took the blame and held up the plan to "try again" in 2001. What resulted was the brilliantly successful twin-rover MER mission in 2003 followed by the Phoenix polar lander in 2007, thanks also to strong NASA Headquarters leadership from Huntress and Ed Weiler. That is a marked difference from the lack of leadership in the Russian Space Agency. Russia needs someone in their space agency (not just in the science community) who cares about planetary exploration and not just about extracting payments as a contractor.
The Russians need to modernize and streamline their spacecraft with advanced electronics and software. But more so, they need to simplify their mission designs to increase probabilities of success. Phobos-Grunt was a kludge, with many things added to it that were not part of the basic mission. Indeed, the shift to a Zenit launcher in order to accommodate all the extra mass and consequent integration of the second stage into the spacecraft could have been a complicating factor contributing to the spacecraft failure to achieve the second stage firing.
Phobos-Grunt was not just a technical failure but also a program and system failure. However, now it can be an opportunity to make changes and commit to a new Mars program, unshackled from their 1970s approach and its legacy. If they do not seize the opportunity but keep doing business the same old way then it is unlikely they will be players in the solar system.
The failure also demonstrated again the need for international cooperation on large space missions. The mission suffered (as did Mars-96) because of the lack of Russian tracking assets. It was a scandal to repeat that type of easily correctible error. Mission planning was also compromised by not employing navigation assets from NASA and ESA. The failure also ought to convince Russia to join with the US and Europe (and potentially with Japan and China) in creating new missions of exploration.
The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) has the opportunity to make change and do things differently. They usually leave mission proposals to the Academy of Sciences, but Mars exploration is too big and too important to be left to the scientists. That only promotes infighting, and that in turn leads to the complex "bells-and-whistles" missions in order to accommodate everyone. Russia should give up that approach.
The current planning crisis in NASA's and ESA's Mars program also presents an opportunity. The two agencies recognized two years ago that Mars exploration was too big for any one country to do it alone. Russia needs to recognize it too. The major space agencies should convene a new special task force or coordination group to deal with Mars exploration and plan new missions from planet Earth, harnessing available resources for a combined effort for surface exploration by robots and later by humans. Such a task force could formulate and even design missions together. This could reinvigorate all three agencies and perhaps lead to a sorely needed focus for human space exploration as well.
The International Mars Exploration Working Group could, in principle, be that task force, although they have in recent years become little more than a social organization, with no mission definition responsibility. Only by creating an inter-agency structure for Mars exploration will new missions be advanced. This is the time to create that structure. Mars requires global effort: NASA and ESA have already recognized that and ESA' s overture to Roscosmos, proposing a Russian launch of their 2016 Mars mission, is one more step in that direction. Next week there will be a trilateral meeting of the three agencies to discuss it. Russia should join and help enable international Mars missions in 2016 and 2018.
The US experience shows that failures can be opportunities. The successful launch of Mars Science Laboratory last week (congratulations to the NASA and JPL team) reminds us that great success can follow great failure. But it only happens with leaders willing to step out of their bureaucratic boxes. Does Russia have anyone willing to do so?
NASA, ESA, and Roscosmos need to re-plan the future of Mars exploration. They should do it together.
Examiner / December 18, 2011
Russia's doomed Mars probe may not be a total waste
Несмотря на неудачный запуск, станция «Фобос-Грунт» еще может принести пользу науке - Международный координационный комитет по космическому мусору, в который входит и Роскосмос, намерен использовать аппарат в качестве тест-объекта для разработки методов прогнозирования падения спутников.
Right now, Phobos-Grunt, perhaps the most ambitious Mars mission in history, is stuck in a low-Earth orbit and in an orientation that makes communication with, and control from, Earth all but an impossibility. In the current situation, Phobos-Grunt faces an all but certain fiery doom as it re-enters the atmosphere early next month. However, the probe may not be a total loss as some analysts are saying that it may wind up having a purpose: improving satellite fall predictions.
Last fall, Earth was gripped by the news that two large satellites were going to make an uncontrolled fall from orbit: NASA's UARS and Germany's ROSAT. Fortunately, despite many pieces of the satellites surviving to impact Earth's surface no one was hurt and no damage was done. However, if the falls had taken place just a few hours either way of when they did, populated areas could have been in the fall zone.
Now, looking to make lemonade out of a monster lemon, the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, of which Russia's Rocosmos is a member, is looking to use the doomed Mars probe as a test object to better predict satellite falls.
However, there are a lot of unknowns, too. First of all, despite the Cold War being over for 20 years, Russia is not all that forthcoming with specific details of Phobos-Grunt's construction. If Rocosmos would release such information, better predictions could be made in regards to determining how much of the satellite could survive the complete fall back to Earth. Similarly, the piggybacked Chinese probe, Yinghou 1 is a virtual mystery when it comes to its build specifications.
In the end, though, as was the case with UARS and ROSAT, experts are advising that there is no real reason for worry. Yes, the possibility of getting hit with a piece of falling space junk is present, the odds of it actually happening are very, very small as in over 50 years of space exploration (and falling junk), this has never before happened.
© 2006-2011 Clarity Digital Group LLC d/b/a Examiner.com.
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AFP / 23/12/2011
Russian satellite crashes into Siberia after launch
Запущенный 23 декабря с космодрома Плесецк российский спутник связи «Мередиан» рухнул вместе с ракетой-носителем «Союз-2.1Б» через несколько минут после запуска. Обломки упали на юге Новосибирской области. Причиной называют неполадки в двигателе.
Итого с декабря 2010 г. Россия потеряла три навигационных спутника, один военный, один телекоммуникационный, один спутник связи двойного назначения, грузовой корабль «Прогресс» и межпланетную станцию «Фобос-Грунт».
MOSCOW - A Russian satellite on Friday crashed into Siberia minutes after its launch due to rocket failure, the defence ministry said, in the latest humiliating setback for Russia's embattled space programme.
The failure of the Soyuz-2.1B rocket - a member of the same family that Russia uses to send humans to space - comes after a supply ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) carried by a Soyuz crashed into Siberia in August.
"The satellite failed to go into its orbit. A state commission will investigate the causes of the accident," the spokesman of Russia's space forces Alexei Zolotukhin told the Interfax news agency.
He said the problem occurred around seven minutes after the launch of the Meridian communications satellite on the Soyuz rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia due to a third stage rocket failure.
"What happened today confirms that the (space) sector is in crisis," the head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Vladimir Popofkin, told the ITAR-TASS news agency.
Popofkin's predecessor Anatoly Perminov was sacked in April after a series of setbacks, notably a highly embarrassing failure in December 2010 when three navigation satellites for the new Russian Glonass system crashed into the ocean off Hawaii instead of reaching orbit.
The recent problems are particularly painful for Russia as it is marks half a century since Yuri Gagarin made man's first voyage into space.
Russian news agencies, quoting defence sources, said that the satellite had crashed into the central Siberian region of Novosibirsk and its remains had already been found on the ground.
Workers from the Russian emergencies ministry as well as the police were on their way to the scene which had been cordoned off, Interfax said, but there were no reports of casualties or damage to property.
It was the fifth launch of a satellite from the Meridian series which have dual civilian and military use and are aimed at providing communications for ships in the Arctic as well as Russia's remote Siberia and Far East regions.
The Soyuz-2.1B rocket is part of the family of Soyuz rockets that has been the backbone of Moscow's space programme for decades and are used to launch humans for the International Space Station.
The satellite was supposed to have separated from the rocket about nine minutes after its launch, ITAR-TASS reported earlier.
But the carrier rocket experienced undisclosed problems even before the separation attempt, meaning that it never reached the low Earth orbit, an unnamed source told the news agency.
The loss of the Meridian satellite caps a disastrous 12 months for Russia that has already seen it lose three navigation satellites, an advanced military satellite, a telecommunications satellite, a probe for Mars as well as the Progress.
The unmanned Progress supply ship that crashed into Siberia in August was launched by a Soyuz and that failure forced the temporary grounding of the rockets and well as a wholsale re-jig of the station's staffing of the ISS.
Following the retirement of the US shuttle in July, Russia is currently the only nation capable of transporting humans to the space station. Russia has also acknowledged the almost certain loss of its Phobos-Grunt probe for Mars's largest moon, which was launched on November 9 but has failed to head out of Earth's orbit on its course to the Red Planet.
Interfax said that the financial losses from the loss of the Meridian satellite could amount to two billion rubles (65 million dollars) and it was possible that it had not been insured.
Also Friday, a Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying a multinational crew of three successfully docked with the ISS two days after its launch from the Kazakh steppe, mission control said.
The addition of Russia's Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and Dutch spaceman Andre Kuipers brings the ISS crew back up to its full complement of six after the loss of the Progress caused a series of flight delays.
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.
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The Washington Post / December 22, 2011
In Russia, the lost generation of science
Статья «Потерянное поколение российской науки» в The Washington Post - о рейтинге публикаций, научных кадрах и бюджетных расходах. Одна из главных проблем состоит в том, что российская наука потеряла целое поколение ученых продуктивного возраста - от 35 до 50 лет. Большинство ушли из науки или уехали из России.
PUSHCHINO, Russia - For the past decade, Russia has been pouring money into scientific research, trying to make up for the collapse of the 1990s, but innovation is losing out to exhaustion, corruption and cronyism.
In a rut and out of favor, the labs are barely wheezing here at Pushchino, once one of the brimming engines of Soviet science, a special closed city devoted to prestigious biological research. The government has turned its focus to newer ventures.
But the result has been like a great deal else in this country: expensive, flashy and largely hollow. Shot through with back-scratching and favoritism, the government's science program has tripled its spending in the past 10 years - and achieved very little. The number of papers published in scientific journals is the same as it was in 2000 and as it was in 1990, even while the rest of the world's output has exploded.
The impact could extend even to the United States, which depends on Russian rockets, troubled by engineering failures, to carry astronauts to the international space station.
Twenty years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, a generation of scientists has been lost, young scientists say, and another is on the way out. Many are lining up to escape abroad, just as in the dark, poverty-stricken 1990s.
Science had prestige and plenty of support in the U.S.S.R. The Soviets wielded a formidable nuclear arsenal, put the first satellite into space, then the first man into space. Dedicated biologists nurtured what may have been the world's foremost seed bank, ensuring its survival even through the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad. Nine Nobel Prizes for physics and one for chemistry acknowledged Soviet achievements.
Pushchino, founded in 1966 in a woodsy spot along the Oka River, about 75 miles south of Moscow, was one of several dozen special science cities built across the Soviet Union, owned and governed by the Soviet Academy of Sciences. With more than a million workers nationwide in its heyday, the self-governing academy - rather than the universities - ran the institutes that conducted research, many in special-purpose cities like this one. The academy dispensed apartments, ran hospitals, paid for nurseries - all to coddle its star scientists.
Today its Russian successor, exhausted and bedraggled as it is, still runs these cities. The academy remains a giant and sprawling organization, and employs the majority of Russian researchers even now. To visit Pushchino today is to visit a tattered remnant of the Soviet way of life.
"Why am I doing all this?"
Twenty years after the Soviet breakup, the academy is described by its legions of critics as an ossified, geriatric organization, hidebound and hierarchical. Labs are ill-equipped, and pay is skeletal. At the Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms here, 70 percent of the researchers are older than 50. The director is 73. He makes about $800 a month.
"In 20 years," says Natalia Desherevskaya, a biologist at the institute, "all the positive things that existed in Soviet times have been destroyed, and replaced by nothing."
At 37, Desherevskaya is torn between her desire to leave Russia and the inertia, family issues and, as she admits, diminishing ambition that keep her here. Her eyes light up when she talks about her research. But the conditions of her work, and the inflexible authority of the academy's top ranks, leave her fuming. "Why am I doing all this, just to hit my head against the door yet again?" she asks herself.
Strolling along the town's broad boulevards of classic 1960s Soviet urban design, she mentions that more than half her university classmates from Nizhny Novgorod are now living abroad. Here in Pushchino, as throughout the country, the cohort of those in their most productive years, from 35 to 50, has emptied. Most have left science or left Russia.
Desherevskaya used to share a desk with a woman who's now in Japan. Her best friend went to Australia. Another colleague works in Scotland.
Hopes for new Silicon Valley
Though under pressure from the government, the Academy of Sciences has been resolute in resisting reform. So the government has decided to work around it.
Under President Dmitry Medvedev's direction, billions have been budgeted for a high-tech center called Skolkovo, an attempt to create a Russian Silicon Valley. The Kurchatov Institute, which developed the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons, is an independent center that is in great favor and has branched out into a whole variety of fields. Once the workplace of physicist-turned-dissident Andrei Sakharov, it is now run by the brother of one of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's closest cronies.
At the same time the Ministry of Education and Science is trying to create research centers at Russia's universities, on the Western model - though the universities themselves are cumbersome, bureaucratic monoliths.
So far, the money hasn't bought much prowess. In 1998, Russian scientists published about 27,000 articles in international journals; since then, the number has remained stagnant. That means that Russia's share of global articles has dropped by 30 percent. (The head of the Kurchatov Institute, Mikhail Kovalchuk, scoffs at this, and says the answer is to start up more Russian journals to publish Russian research).
In 1994, there were more than 1.1 million people working in research and development here. In 2008, the last year for which there are good figures, there were 761,000.
Russia has two universities among the top 500 worldwide, according to a ranking performed every year by a group at Shanghai Jiao Tong University; the United States has 156. Moscow State University, the leader here, has seen its overall ranking slip from 66th place to 74th between 2004 and 2010. In science, specifically, it has been on a decline compared with the rest of the world, dropping more than 10 places since 2007, even as the government has been trying to turn it into a leading research center.
Scientists wonder where all the money goes - though they have an idea.
In the 1990s, after the Soviet collapse, Russia set about building an open and honest system to support science. It created two grant-making foundations, similar to the National Science Foundation in the United States, and invited labs to submit applications.
But in the past decade, even as Russia rebounded financially, Putin and Medvedev's government cut back support for those foundations. Instead, ministries prefer to publish notices describing the research they want done - research that typically seems tailored to certain favored labs.
Kovalchuk and Andrei Fursenko, the minister of education and science, portray themselves as forward-looking modernizers doing battle with the creaky Academy of Sciences. (U.S. Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks glowed with praise for the two men.) Yet the Kurchatov Institute, still strong in nuclear physics, publishes very little for all the new types of research it says it supports. And a significant portion of the ministry's budget - it's impossible to gauge just how much - goes not to scientists but to companies set up by ministry officials for marketing and promotion of science.
In a country that has seen corruption grow to staggering proportions, scientists complain that grant recipients can be expected to kick back a proportion of the money to the bureaucrat who awards the contract. "Russian science is a replica of the society," says Alexander Samokhin, a physicist at the Institute of General Physics.
Russia, in effect, now has two competing scientific systems: the moribund academy living out its Soviet legacy on the one hand, and a new, rotten, post-Soviet culture on the other.
Viktor Veselago, 82, is a physicist who did his most important work in the 1960s (involving the negative refraction of light). A member of the Academy of Sciences, he still runs a lab today but a bare-bones one. "I have no young people because I have no money," he says. "I have no money because I am a product of the Soviet scientific system. I am not a businessman. Business is beyond me."
Anna Kvitkina is a 28-year-old soil scientist here in Pushchino. She and her colleagues need high rubber boots to do their work, but rubber boots are not included in the list of allowed purchases under the contract they received. Even if boots were allowed, it would take six months to receive them through the legal purchasing channels. Across Russia, scientists struggle in frustration against thickets of bureaucratic regulations to obtain test tubes, reagents, cell lines, pipettes, even light bulbs. Their only recourse, typically, is to cut corners and pray that no one notices. Kvitkina, who is about to enter her most productive years, will be going to Munich next spring on a fellowship; she hopes she can win a permanent position there.
At Moscow State University, the new crop of scientists trying to build a university-based research system includes biologist Sergei Dmitriev, 34. His work involves viruses and protein synthesis, and it's supported in part by a special presidential grant for promising scientists. He's a rising star - and also one of the organizers of a protest movement among his colleagues nationwide.
Most of his university friends have gone abroad or gone into business. The way money is spent - and wasted - perplexes him. "It's just a criminal situation," he says. The scientists who are best at winning grants seem to be those who are least able to do good science, he says. The government will spend 323 billion rubles - about $11 billion - on civilian science next year, he says, "but most of this money is unavailable for people who actually make science."
The organized protests, including a public letter to Medvedev and a demonstration in Moscow in October, seem to be persuading the government to allow researchers more flexibility in spending, he says. But Dmitriev and his colleagues argue that a few showy projects can't sustain a national culture of science.
A system crumbles
The recent run of engineering failures in Russia's space program mirrors the weaknesses of Russian science. The United States has a direct stake in this, because, since the retirement of the U.S. shuttle, Russian rockets now carry American astronauts to the international space station, from a launchpad in Kazakhstan. So far, the manned program has avoided major problems, but the rest of the system has been falling apart.
Over two decades, bad pay, neglect and low prestige emptied out the technicians who would now be in their 40s and 50s. "The losses were tremendous," says Igor Marinin, editor of the News of Cosmonautics. And the consequences were real.
In November, the Phobus-Grunt probe to one of the Martian moons launched but was unable to leave Earth's orbit. In August, the Progress cargo spacecraft failed, as did a rocket carrying a communications satellite. A geodesic satellite launch failed in February, and a rocket that was to put in place three satellites of Russia's geo-positioning system, called Glonass, crashed a year ago. Medvedev has called for possible criminal penalties.
Marinin says the manned program is the last bastion of quality control, although in September the chief engineer of the cosmonaut training center was charged in a corruption scheme. The gaps in the Russian space program will take years to restore, even as the government plans to double its spending by 2014.
At Pushchino, as in the space program, pockets of quality persist, and more than a few scientists display a dedication that their employers neither deserve nor especially notice.
Desherevskaya, the biologist, was entitled to a free apartment as a young researcher when she came to Pushchino in 1996. She had to wait so long that when one finally became available, she was no longer eligible because she was no longer a young scientist.
She says she has no plans to leave: "In some ways we don't have any choice. Our lives are inside the system."
© The Washington Post Company.
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tsrInfo.ch (la Télévision Suisse Romande) / 19 décembre 2011
Le cabaret des dissidents sibériens
О клубе «Под интегралом» в новосибирском Академгородке 1960-х.
Akademgorodok, région de Novosibirsk, Russie. Qui eut cru qu'au milieu d'une forêt sibérienne de bouleau se nichait un foyer de contestation au pouvoir soviétique à l'époque de Brejnev ? C'était le cabaret Integral (Интеграл) dans la petite ville scientifique d'Akademgorodok, à une trentaine de kilomètres de Novosibirsk.
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Tout avait commencé comme une bonne farce de joyeux scientifiques de haut vol. Ils avaient participé à la création de cette ville, née dans la forêt en 1957. Ils étaient jeunes et idéalistes, on parlait d'un timide dégel de l'URSS, alors pourquoi ne pas créer un lieu de rencontres, avec l'aval du Parti bien sûr ? Ils organisent donc en 1963 la fusion de plusieurs clubs sportifs et culturels existants: le club littéraire, le "club Vertical" des alpinistes, le club Terpsichore de danse, etc. Le physicien Anatoli Burstein se bombarde président du nouveau club qui prend le nom d'Integral, son compère et confrère German Beznosov recoit le titre de "Ministre des affaires Etranges" et Gregory Yablonsky de Premier ministre du club.
Jusque là, cela fait bien rire les huiles du parti qui prennent quand même le soin de leur adjoindre une femme, envoyée des komsomols, pour être l'œil de Moscou. Leur choix était mauvais: elle devient l'épouse de Beznosov et participe activement à la mise sur pied de concerts où chantent des hommes dont la popularité leur permettait provisoirement de contester le système. Boulat Okoudjava, Vladimir Vysotsky et Alexandre Galich se produisent à Akademgorodok. Régulièrement l'équipe de l'Integral organise des festivals extra muros. En été 1967 ils affrètent un bateau sur la rivière Ob pour donner des concerts de ville en ville jusqu'à Tomsk.
La ligne rouge est probablement franchie en 1968 après la "Lettre des 46". Un groupe de scientifiques liés à l'Integral signent alors une pétition en faveur des dissidents du "Livre Blanc" dénonçant le procès truqué de Youri Daniel et Andreï Sinyavsky. Ces différents auteurs de littérature clandestine (les samizdat) avaient meme organisé une incroyable manifestation sur la place Rouge. Et en mars 1968 le concert d'Alexandre Galich à l'Integral fait déborder le vase. Il a même le toupet d'interpréter une chanson en hommage posthume à l'écrivain du Dr. Jivago, Boris Pasternak.
Le président du club Anatoli Burstein est immédiatement convoqué au secrétariat du Parti. On lui explique sans rire qu'un vétéran de guerre a été "indigné" par le concert. D'ailleurs sa lettre de protestation va être publiée dans le magazine "Sibérie soviétique", c'est tout dire... Le club Integral cesse d'exister.
Tout ce petit monde est exclu du Parti et Alexandre Galich est carrément mis sur la paille: il n'est plus invité à aucun concert officiel, la parution prochaine de ses poèmes est annulée, ses contrats de réalisateur de cinéma sont cassés et son nom est retiré des génériques de ses anciens films ! Il devra s'exiler en Occident.
La scientifique retraitée Galina Ivanova nous explique aujourd'hui toute cette histoire en interprétant quelques anciennes chansons. Elle est toute émue aujourd'hui encore: "Le courage coûtait cher à l'époque", nous dit-elle.
L'année 1968 aura donc sonné le glas de l'Integral. En souvenir de ces aventures, un nouveau cabaret a été rouvert en 2008 avec le même nom à proximité de l'ancien par un groupe de mécènes. Il se veut aussi être un centre de rencontres et de culture dans la petite ville d'Akademgorodok qui a bien perdu de son prestige scientifique d'antan.