|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Международная группа ученых из Германии, Дании, Франции и России (МГУ) разработала новый тип носителя лекарств для их адресной доставки к больному органу - гелевые нанокапсулы с двойной оболочкой. Внешняя оболочка не дает капсулам слипаться друг с другом, а внутренняя удерживает лекарство на месте до нужного момента.
Статья "Multi-Shell Hollow Nanogels with Responsive Shell Permeability" опубликована в журнале Scientific Reports.
An international team of researchers has developed a completely new type of drug carrier for targeted delivery to the sick organ - the gel nano-capsules with a double shell.
By now, the research is quite fundamental. However, one of the authors, Igor Potemkin (Professor of the Chair of Polymer and Crystal Physics, Physics Department, the Lomonosov Moscow State University) argues that the creation of the perfect nano-capsules for targeted drug delivery would be possible on the basis of the reported system in the nearest years, and the production will be relatively cheap.
Scientists have been engaged with drug delivery systems for a long time. Many laboratories in the world are working on their creation, as the promise of this approach is enormous. A lot of "nano-carriages" for drug delivery to the right address were created, but the scientists still faced many challenges. The major among them is considered the problem of how not to let the medicine act before it gets to the right place in a body.
"Many existing carriers encapsulate drugs through the long-range electrostatic interactions - the carrier attracts oppositely charged medicine. Our method does not deal with the electrostatics at all. Filling in the nanogel by the guest molecules, locking them in the cavity and further release are controlled by the temperature. Therefore, the medicines themselves can be both charged and neutral," says one of the Russian co-authors of the article, Professor Igor Potemkin.
According to the authors, there are other tools to trigger the release of drugs, for example, an external magnetic field and pH. But in each case researchers face the problem of efficiency of the drug release.
The scientists decided to use the gel nano-capsules that were previously undervalued as the carrier systems. Their main problem, which held back the interest towards them, was that the capsules stuck together with their neighbors (lost colloidal stability) when trying to "upload" drugs. Such behavior made the delivery impossible (or ineffective). The scientists managed to solve this problem by creating a carrier, the inner cavity of which, like an egg with two shells, is surrounded by two "membranes" of different chemical structures.
The outer porous shell plays a protective (stabilizing) role and hinders aggregation of the nano-capsules, while the pores of the inner shell can open and close depending on the temperature due to the variable interactions between its monomeric units.
At the time of filling, the pores of both shells are open and the nanogel absorbs the drug molecules as a sponge. Then the temperature changes and the pores of the inner shell close, and locked in the cavity, the drug is ready for the delivery. Subsequently, the pores will open again and the guest molecules will be released only in the places where the temperature allows.
The way of the nanogel design was reduced to the synthesis of two nanogel shells of different chemical structures around the silica core. At the end of the synthesis the core was chemically dissolved, leaving only the "empty space" (cavity).
The major difficulty of this work was the fact that researchers have largely gone blindly, not knowing for sure how the nano-capsule is going to behave, whether its cavity remains stable after removal of the silicon core or it collapses, whether the size of the pore is sufficient to absorb the transported substance and then release it, and whether it is locked reliably during transportation. Fortunately, these fears proved groundless - in response to the temperature changes, the pores opened and closed. "On the road" (in the experiment, there was no actual "road"- the researchers studied the loss from the cavity with the time passing), the contents of the capsules were almost completely safe, and the inner cavity was not only stable in the shape: it became even larger than the initial size of the silica core.
Synthesis of the nanogel capsules and the related measurements were conducted in Europe, mainly in Germany, and Russian scientists from the Lomonosov Moscow State University, Igor Potemkin and his colleague Andrey Rudov, worked on the computer modeling that allowed researchers to study the dependence of the nano-capsules' structure on the temperature. Also, the Lomonosov Moscow State University physicists simulated a way of encapsulation and release of the transported molecules under temperature variation.
At this stage, the work was purely fundamental and was intended primarily to demonstrate the effectiveness of the concept. Experiments were carried out in the temperature range of 32-42°C. It is slightly more than the temperature range favorable for a human, although in the future this range can be easily narrowed, states Igor Potemkin.
The scientific collaboration is going to be prolonged for another four years. "There are still many questions," the scientist says. "For example, we have "caught" a structure in which a cavity does not collapse as the pores are closed. Now we need to understand why it happens, how does the density of the layers' crosslink effect, i.e., what is the minimum amount of crosslinker that does not lead to a collapse of the cavity, and so on."
Potemkin is sure that in any case the created nano-containers are the ideal carriers for targeted drug delivery. Moreover, their synthesis is neither complex nor really expensive. Although at current stage of research it is difficult to pronounce the precise cost, the collaboration's plans already include the creation of the large-scale, commercially acceptable production of nanogels.
Copyright 2016 ScienceDaily.
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Второй этап совместной миссии ExoMars Роскосмоса и Европейского космического агентства, запланированный на 2018 г., перенесен на 2020 г. Причина - проблемы с изготовлением и тестированием аппаратных средств.
The launch of the joint Russian and European ExoMars mission has been moved to 2020. The mission was initially planned for 2018.
Russia and Europe have decided to launch the second phase of their ExoMars mission in 2020 instead of 2018, according to Engadget. In March, the first part of the mission took off on time. The second phase of the ExoMars mission will launch a Martian rover that will be capable of drilling up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) below the surface.
ExoMars mission has been delayed because European Space Agency's engineers are challenged in putting together all the components and instruments ExoMars' second phase needs. At the same time, Roscosmos' engineers have been encountering difficulties in designing rover's landing mechanism, according to BBC.
Gizmodo reports that the head of ESA's Robotic Exploration Coordination Office, Rolf de Groot, explained that his team has tried to evaluate whether it is still possible to make the 2018 launch. The scientists and engineers were analyzing if it is acceptable from a risk point of view to shorten the assembly, integration and testing (AIT) phase.
However, according to de Groot, his team has come to the conclusion that this is not achievable without adding an unacceptable amount of additional risk to the mission. In these circumstances, they decided that it would be necessary to move the 2020 launch date.
The statement released by the European Space Agency (ESA) said that they have been assessing the situation and took into account the delays in Russian and European industrial activities and deliveries of the scientific payload. In these circumstances, the best solution remains a launch in 2020.
Due to the lack of a proper budget, the ExoMars project has been going through difficulties even from the start. At one time, the ESA even teamed up with NASA. Their collaboration ended when the two agencies found themselves with different priorities.
© 2016 IQADNET LLC. All rights reserved.
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Академик Валентин Пармон (Институт катализа имени Г.К.Борескова СО РАН) стал лауреатом премии "Глобальная энергия" за разработку новых катализаторов для нефтепереработки и возобновляемых источников энергии.
Dr. Valentin Parmon, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, won the Global Energy Prize for his development of renewable energy sources and improvements in oil refining. The decision was announced on April 28, and the prize is $600,000.
"In total, 140 nominations from 27 countries were evaluated," said Nobel Prize winner, British scientist Rodney John Allam, who heads the International Global Energy award committee. "European countries are most active in promoting their nominees, and 62 percent of applications came from that region. In second place was North America with 18 percent."
Dr. Parmon turned Siberia into a center for the development of alternative energy in Russia. Under his supervision research has been conducted on making fuel from bio-mass, such as wood and rice husk, as well as transforming solar energy into chemical energy in catalytic reactors. The effectiveness of such transformation reaches 43 percent with an available capacity of 2kW. One of these first catalytic installations was built in Crimea.
In addition, Dr. Parmon developed and introduced new technology for producing cleaner motor fuels, such as diesel fuel that meetsEuro-4 and Euro-5 standards. Today, almost 10 percent of all high-octane Russian fuel is produced with technologies developed by the institute that Dr. Parmon heads.
"Thank you for this great honor," said Dr. Parmon."This is a big surprise for me - standing in one row with leading minds, the Global Energy laureates."
The Global Energy Prize was established in 2002. It is an independent international prize based in St Petersburg that is awarded for exceptional scientific developments in the field of energy that further the effective use of energy resources and ecological protection.
Copyright © 1998-2016 Big News Network. All rights reserved.
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Российские (НИТУ "МИСиС") и австралийские (компания Endogene-Globetek) ученые создали устройство, позволяющее проводить шунтирование сердца без его остановки. Прибор получил награду на 44-й Международной выставке изобретений в Женеве (13-17 апреля 2016).
A team of international scientists has developed a device that will help doctors to perform heart bypass surgery without stopping the heart.
Scientists from MISiS National University of Science and Technology, Moscow and their colleagues from Australia's Endogene-Globetek medical company have developed a unique device to enhance cardiovascular surgery.
The stapler like device for mending blood vessels using strong staples makes it possible to quickly and safely restore blood vessels and to considerably reduce the post-operative period.
"The world has no other device like it. The main advantage is that it reliably patches up the blood vessels in no time," said Sergei Prokoshkin, a professor at pressure metal treatment department of MISiS National University of Science and Technology.
"In addition, it is very easy to quickly learn to use the stapler. It can be used during abdominal surgery to patch up blood vessels and other hollow body organs, including aortic aneurisms or during intestinal surgery," Prokoshkin added.
A standard heart bypass surgery lasts four to five hours, with doctors having to stop the heart, and entails lengthy post-operative rehabilitation. This new stitching instrument allows doctors to operate on the heart while it beats. Instead of sawing the breast-bone apart, surgeons can now simply bore two holes through it and put the bypass in place.
The entire operation lasts about 60 minutes, and the patient can be discharged on the following day.
This innovative stapler uses special resilient nickel titanium (nitinol) reversible shape memory staples. These staples are inserted inside a cartridge which is then placed inside the polymer-body stapler's distal end. Pre-clinical tests have already been completed and this technology has also been patented in Russia and Australia.
This Russian-Australian invention received an award at the 44th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva held last month.
© Copyright 2016 Manoramaonline. All rights reserved.
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Российским физикам (МФТИ, Институт физики твердого тела РАН, Институт теоретической физики им. Л.Д.Ландау РАН) в ходе эксперимента впервые удалось смоделировать в небольшой емкости вихревые течения, образующиеся на поверхности океанов.
Статья "Nonlinear Generation of Vorticity by Surface Waves" опубликована в журнале Physical Review Letters.
Scientists from a number of Russian universities, including MIPT, have studied previously neglected phenomena and determined the cause of liquid vortex flow formed by surface waves. The results of the theoretical calculations were confirmed experimentally and published in Physical Review Letters.
The authors of the article - researchers from the Institute of Solid State Physics, Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics RAS and MIPT - developed and tested a capillary (micro) action theory, which can be used in the study of ocean vortices.
How vortices form
Vortices in liquids or near-liquid surfaces play a significant role in behavior patterns in objects of various sizes - from small receptacles to oceans. However, hydrodynamics research has not yet produced comprehensive knowledge of how to simulate them, as the physical processes are complex, even in a glass of water.
As previous research shows, horizontal vortices can be formed by surface waves during the friction between regions of liquid, where viscosity plays a pivotal role. However, the new study examined a different vertical vortex phenomenon caused by two surface waves moving in the opposite direction. The scientists discovered that vortices can be formed even in low-viscosity liquids.
The research team was the first to generate the process of vertical vortex flow in a liquid by manipulating surface waves. The crucial factor was tilting the surface, which was achieved by superposing two waves moving in the opposite direction. This effect was observed after creating Faraday waves during the experiment.
To test their theory, the research team used an almost square receptacle, since in a strictly square vessel waves in both directions are almost identical and the effect in question is too weak due to synchronic vibration. The 4x5 cm, 1 cm-deep vessel was filled with water and placed on a platform oscillating at a resonant frequency. Resonant frequencies create the maximum amplitude in a system, whether it's a pendulum, the water surface in a vessel, an oscillator, or even an electromagnetic field in a coil-capacitor circuit.
One to two seconds after the waves formed, the research team observed standing ripples along with a vortex lattice. This pattern corresponded with the equation calculated at the theoretical stage. Altering entry parameters changed the results of the experiment by a small margin; however, they all correlated with theoretical predictions.
As shown in a recent study by a group of Australian and Russian researchers, an oscillation frequency higher than a certain rate gives surface waves enough energy so that vortex interactions become sufficient to give a correct description of the system. The data analysis presented in the article will allow a thorough study of the effects in question, resulting in a relevant calculation model.
"Vortex interactions generate bigger vortices, which ultimately leads to vortices of significant size and high amplitude. These vortices can potentially have a considerable impact on ocean plankton movement. Further studies will provide more clarity on this subject," says the lead researcher Vladimir Lebedev, Director of the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics RAS, Head of Chair at MIPT's Department of Physics and Nanostructure Technology, Corresponding Member of RAS.
© Phys.org 2003-2016, Science X network.
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В Биологическом институте Томского государственного университета разработали и запатентовали экологичный способ подледной очистки водоемов (в первую очередь озер) от нефти.
The oil cleansing method was developed by TSU researchers and it is optimal for lake ecosystems. The experiment proved that the content of oil in water reduced in 35-40 times. Date of the research was published in journals Water Practice & Technology.
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"The technology is based on flotation method", said Danil Vorobiev one of the authors of this development, doctor of biological sciences and director of Biological institute. "In place of oil accumulation we perform pneumatic and mechanical action and as a result oil sticks to the section of the two phases - liquid and air - and rises to the surface".
The technology, developed by TSU, best suited for lakes with thick sediments: stony, clay or sandy bottom. This method allows cleaning both sediments and water and there are no any restrictions on the depth of the pond.
This method does not require using any chemicals. Also this method can be used in winter when vegetative processes in a lake "freeze" and interference with the underwater world is minimal.
"In the spring and summer fish and aquatic organisms actively reproduce, therefore it is better to conduct any cleaning work during the cold time of the year", the TSU scientist says. "It is necessary to take into account the fact that many Russian contaminated lakes are in remote places, we can get there and take out the oil from the bottom only by winter road. For such reservoirs the under-ice cleaning method is the only option&.
In cold weather, we move the perforated hose down to the bottom in order to direct the pressurized stream of air to accumulations of oil. As a result, oil rises to the surface and goes via the guide channels laid on the surface to an oil collector. A mobile hangar is installed above the oil collector where heat guns create a favourable temperature for pumping oil. This allows working on cleaning water from oil in any weather, even at -50°C."
In addition, the TSU Institute of Biology received a patent for this invention.
Российские и немецкие ученые объяснили молекулярный механизм действия созданного в России лекарственного препарата, предохраняющего митохондрии клетки от повреждения агрессивными формами кислорода.
Russian researchers discovered why a natural antioxidant fails to protect a mitochondrial protein, cardiolipin, from the actions of reactive oxygen species, while a synthetic drug, Visomitin, does a good job. The discovery may pave the way for improved treatments of mitochondrial conditions linked to oxidative stress.
Their study, "Impact of antioxidants on cardiolipin oxidation in liposomes: Why mitochondrial cardiolipin serves as an apoptotic signal?", was published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.
Since reactive oxygen species are formed as by-products during energy-producing processes in mitochondria, these cellular structures are always at risk of oxidative damage. To protect them, damaged mitochondria and the cells holding them are disposed of through pathways triggered by a molecule called cardiolipin on the mitochondrial surface, flagging the presence of oxidative damage.
Earlier studies have shown that preventing oxidation of this particular molecule may also prevent the activation of the pathways leading to cell death. These findings led to the development of a line of drugs targeting the oxidation of cardiolipin - called SkQ-ions - by a research team at Lomonosov Moscow State University.
The antioxidant Visomitin, one of the SkQ drugs, is approved in Russia as eye drops for cataracts and dry eyes. But, up to now, it has not been clear why this synthetic compound manages a task that a naturally occurring antioxidant, known to exist in high levels within mitochondria, fails to perform.
Researchers analyzed properties of Visomitin and the naturally occurring antioxidants coenzyme Q and vitamin E, and found that the SkQ-ions and coenzyme Q protected cardiolipin from oxidation equally well, while vitamin E largely failed on this task.
They also found that cardiolipin molecules are located in such a position within the respiratory complex of the mitochondria that they are more exposed to reactive oxygen species than other proteins, explaining why, despite constituting only a minor part of the mitochondrial membrane proteins, they are highly susceptible to oxidation.
Cardiolipin's position also explained why coenzyme Q could not prevent its oxidation. Coenzyme Q is a large, water-insoluble factor and cannot reach the cardiolipin. In contrast, the SkQ-ions are small molecules that could access cardiolipin both from the mitochondrial membrane and from the aqueous phase.
"The essence of our work is that we have proposed a mechanism that explains how very low doses of mitochondria-targeted antioxidants could provide a distinct therapeutic effect, even being applied over large amounts of natural antioxidants, which were ineffective in this case," said Professor Armen Mulkidjanian, a co-author of the study, in a press release. "The mechanism should be valid for the whole class of similar drugs. We hope that our findings would help to develop new drugs."
© Copyright 2015-2016 BioNews Services, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Новосибирский Академгородок - один из крупнейших научно-образовательных центров России, а также благоприятное место для предпринимателей.
Akademgorodok est une cité scientifique située près de la ville de Novossibirsk, en Sibérie. Créée sous l'URSS, elle attire les chercheurs et les entrepreneurs autant pour sa capacité d'innovation que pour la qualité de vie qu'elle offre à ses résidents.
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On connaît Skolkovo, beaucoup moins Akademgorodok. Pourtant, située au beau milieu de la forêt, sur la rive droite de la mer Ob, à 20 kilomètres au sud-est du centre de Novossibirsk, Akademgorodok est l'un des centres scientifiques et éducatifs les plus importants en Russie.
Sur ce territoire cohabitent des dizaines d'instituts de recherche, le Présidium de la Branche Sibérienne de l'Académie des sciences de Russie (RAS COT), l'Université d'Etat de Novossibirsk, et l'école Physico-mathématique.
La cité a été créée en 1957, sous l'impulsion de l'académicien Mikhaïl A. Lavrentiev, mathématicien et fondateur de la Branche Sibérienne de l'Académie des sciences d'URSS, et sur l'ordre de Nikita Khrouchtchev pour développer les recherches scientifiques dans les domaines de la physique, des sciences naturelles et de l'économie en Sibérie.
Abandonnée à la chute de l'Union soviétique, le centre revit de nouveau, séduisant de jeunes chercheurs et entrepreneurs. C'était le vœu de Vladimir Poutine, qui souhaitait qu'Akademgorodok devienne le nouveau berceau de l'innovation du pays.
Aujourd'hui surnommée la Silicon Taïga en référence à la Silicon Valley, la cité abrite des chercheurs, des ingénieurs, des intellectuels qui unissent leurs savoirs pour innover et créer.
Elle réunit ainsi la troisième communauté de scientifiques en Russie, après Moscou et Saint-Pétersbourg. 60 000 personnes vivent dans la cité et la plupart d'entre eux travaillent dans ses différentes entreprises et instituts de recherche.
Un lieu favorable pour les entrepreneurs
"C'est un lieu très favorable pour les entrepreneurs et les chercheurs, qui permet de rencontrer de très bons cadres et des complices pour la création de start-ups", explique Sergueï Ivanov, entrepreneur et dirigeant d'une entreprise spécialisée dans les logiciels de montage et de conversion photo-vidéo, qui a vu le jour à l'Akademgorodok.
"Il y a aussi beaucoup d'étudiants qui font leurs études à l'université d'État de Novossibirsk, une des meilleures universités de notre pays", précise Sergueï Ivanov.
Ce jeune entrepreneur explique que l'informatique a le vent en poupe et la cité accueille de nombreux centres de business qui comptent chacun entre cinq et vingt entreprises informatiques. Elles sont nombreuses à se spécialiser en jeux vidéo, logiciel de montage vidéo.
En 2006, un parc supplémentaire a été construit pour assurer le développement de branches innovantes de l'économie. 351 entreprises y sont installées à ce jour, spécialisées non seulement en informatique mais aussi en biotechnique, robotique, nanotechnologie etc...
Ce parc fournit aux entreprises des bureaux confortables et contemporains, et les entreprises peuvent être aidées financièrement par le biais de subventions d'État, de subventions régionales ou de subventions privées.
La cité attire ainsi de plus en plus de jeunes entrepreneurs, également séduits par la qualité de vie que propose Novossibirsk. Interviewés par le site Zarplata.ru, ils témoignent.
Yuri, développeur dans une société informatique, a travaillé et étudié à Moscou. Il confie s'être installé à Novossibirsk depuis un an. "Moscou est une très bonne ville pour le travail, mais elle ne peut pas offrir une vie équilibrée, même si vous avez beaucoup d'argent. Alors que Novossibirsk, d'un point de vue de l'industrie informatique est l'un des plus grands centres de développement, et la ville n'est pas épuisante".
Sabraoun Vladislava, directrice administrative, a suivi son mari à Akademgorodok : "Mon mari est venu ici pour ouvrir une succursale. Nous avons deux enfants, et nous sommes arrivés après lui. Je suis très surprise par l'abondance du secteur privé dans ce centre, à Moscou, ce n'est pas le cas". La jeune femme dit apprécier la qualité de vie, et les prix qui sont nettement moins élevés que dans la capitale.
"C'est très spécial d'être parmi ce groupe de spécialistes de pointe, en plein milieu de la nature", révèle Yakovchenko, un des premiers à être venu à Akademgorodok pour une école d'été l'an dernier, et a depuis fondé son entreprise axée sur le développement des drones pour le fret livraisons.
Akademgorodok semble faire l'unanimité, bien que, à la différence de sa cousine Skolkovo, elle est bien moins connue.
"Skolkovo a une énorme publicité parce que tout le pays est centré sur Moscou", explique Dmitry Verkhovod, directeur de l'établissement de la cité scientifique, et d'ajouter : "Mais quand un groupe d'étudiants de l'université de Skolkovo est venu nous rendre visite ici, la moitié d'entre eux est restée".
Slate / May 22 2016
The Craziest Black Market in Russia
It's not for oil or guns. It's for plagiarized dissertations. And every self-respecting doctor, lawyer, and politician in the country wants one.
О масштабах плагиата в диссертациях в России и о сообществе по выявлению оного "Диссернет".
Late last year, Russian newspapers reported what would have qualified as a stunning piece of news almost anywhere else: The chairman of the country's largest parliamentary body had been exposed as a plagiarist. Sergei Naryshkin, the former chief of staff in Vladimir Putin's administration and a prominent member of his United Russia party, stood accused of receiving the Russian equivalent of a doctoral degree on the strength of a dissertation in which more than half of the pages contained material lifted from other sources.
In a satisfying twist, one of the uncredited guests in Naryshkin's thesis - a 196-page paper titled "Foreign Investment in Russia as a Factor in Economic Development" - was an unabashedly liberal economist named Vladislav Inozemtsev. "It's quite amusing that a prominent member of United Russia decided to turn to my article," Inozemtsev said at the time. "It seems he found it to be of good quality."
Of course, no one really believed that Naryshkin had read Inozemtsev's article or that he was guilty of copying it himself. Rather, he was suspected of paying a ghostwriter to produce a thesis in his name, then bribing academic officials to secure its certification. Naryshkin probably never even read the dissertation that had earned him his degree.
In the United States, the exposure of a government official of Naryshkin's stature as a plagiarist would likely set off a major scandal. (Imagine if Paul Ryan was found to have written an economics paper in which he had borrowed liberally from Paul Krugman.) Naryshkin's fate hasn't been so dire. After giving a half-hearted statement in his own defense - "I was told that some website published some information. But I trust the judgment of real scientists" - he continued doing his job as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
To be fair, nothing much had. As Naryshkin himself surely knew when the accusations against him were leveled, he is just one of more than 1,000 high-achieving, well-heeled Russians who have recently been caught plagiarizing large parts of their dissertations.
Many of the alleged fraudsters are politicians. Some are judges. Others are prosecutors, police officials, and heads of universities; one was a bureaucrat in charge of overseeing Russia's circus industry. In the past few years alone, there have been credible allegations of dissertation plagiarism made against Russia's minister of culture, the governor of St. Petersburg, and the head of the country's top federal investigating authority. Just in the past month, copy-and-pasting has been discovered in the dissertations of the deputy finance minister of the Russian republic of Mordovia and a government adviser on justice who is the putative author of a thesis comparing legal principles in Russia and the West.
In all these cases, the alleged fraud was exposed by members of a volunteer organization that calls itself "Dissernet" - the "website" Naryshkin referred to so dismissively. Started in early 2013 by a handful of scientists and journalists, the group has undertaken the task of identifying and publicly shaming government functionaries, academic administrators, and members of Russia's so-called elite who allegedly hold advanced degrees they did not earn through legitimate means. Using software that looks for sections of text that resemble previously published work, Dissernet has, to date, identified roughly 5,600 suspected plagiarists and published damning reports on about 1,300 of them. In an exposé posted earlier this year, Dissernet showed that 1 in 9 members of the Russian State Duma - the parliamentary body that Naryshkin presides over - had received their diplomas using dissertations that contained large portions of other people's work and that had, most likely, been purchased from ghostwriters.
Andrei Rostovtsev, a physicist who co-founded Dissernet and developed its plagiarism-detection software, explained to me how the group catches its quarry. "Currently we're doing doctors," he said. "The machine is constantly working, and it chooses suspicious cases. So, we see from the state library that roughly 100,000 doctors have defended theses in the last 15 years. The machine chooses a paper from this digital bank, analyzes it for overlaps, and if there are too many matches, it flags it for us. Then our volunteers examine it by hand. And this process is running 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Dissernet is best understood as a diffuse network of anonymous activists, described by one of the group's leaders in a recent article as being motivated by a concern that Russian science "has become a breeding ground for the development of low and shameful human vices - vanity, hypocrisy, and the will to achieve professional success through dishonest methods." Rostovtsev estimates that there are several dozen people around the world contributing to the effort on a regular basis while he and a few other core members serve as its public face.
The organization's informal structure - it has no physical headquarters or central bank account - is essential to its survival. Serguei Parkhomenko, a prominent liberal journalist who joined Dissernet after writing extensively about its early disclosures, explained recently that "when there is no head, there is nothing to tear off." Still, the group's leaders have faced occasional bursts of hostility from the powerful individuals that Dissernet targets. One of the founders was accused of tax evasion earlier this year, and just last week, Parkhomenko was called in for questioning by investigators from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Some of the intellectual theft Dissernet has identified is comic in its brazenness and absurdity. Duma member Igor Igoshin allegedly earned his economics degree by turning someone else's paper on the Russian chocolate industry into a thesis on meat; the dissertation replaced every mention of "chocolate" with "beef," "dark chocolate" with "home-grown beef," and "white chocolate" with "imported beef." All numbers, charts, and analysis were preserved in their original form. More recently, Dissernet revealed that an oncologist named Yuri Tsarapkin had handed in a medical article about breast cancer that was adapted - data and all - from someone else's paper on stomach cancer. That paper, which was presented as a study of human subjects, turned out to have been plagiarized from yet another source: a study of cancer in dogs and rats.
While academic fraud exists all over the world, the pervasiveness of the deception in Russia is unparalleled, as is the extent to which it is tolerated. As MIT historian Loren Graham points out, even Vladimir Putin has been accused, in a 2006 investigation by the Brookings Institution, of plagiarizing parts of his Ph.D. thesis in economics. It has not had much effect on the Russian president's career. "The fact that that had no resonance - doesn't that sort of tell you what's going on?" said Graham, who specializes in the history of Russian science. "If Putin can get away with it, it's a blessing for others to do the same thing."
Quantifying the scale of Russia's plagiarism problem is difficult, but based on the data it has collected so far, Dissernet estimates that improper borrowing can be found in about 4 percent of all dissertations defended in the country. That doesn't include ghostwritten work that is plagiarism-free: According to Ararat Osipian, who completed a Ph.D. on academic corruption at Vanderbilt University and is now doing field work on the subject in Ukraine, between 20 percent and 30 percent of all dissertations that have been completed at Russian universities since the fall of the Soviet Union were purchased on the black market.
This market feeds on the Russian elite's surprisingly intense yearning for the markers of academic status. According to Parkhomenko, Russian bureaucrats, lawmakers, doctors, and businesspeople regard advanced degrees as part of the same "package of success" as expensive jewelry, fancy cars, and giant homes. "If a person has achieved this - if he could get himself this title, it is supposed to mean he is capable of something in life," Parkhomenko said. "It means he's worthy of respect."
Andrei Zayakin, another Dissernet co-founder, summed it up this way: "A Russian Donald Trump would certainly have a dissertation - maybe two or three."
The purpose of Dissernet is not merely to discredit these individuals. Its greater mission, its leaders told me, is to restore the very concept of "reputation" in Russian society.
"We want to show that reputation matters - that it means something," said Parkhomenko. "The fake dissertations are just part of what we call the reputational catastrophe in Russia - an anti-meritocracy in which people who have the most success and who can achieve the most influence are not those who deserve it, but those who do not present themselves as who they really are."
The prevalence of academic fraud in Russia is fueled in part by the structure of the country's higher education system. Unlike their American counterparts, would-be academics in Russia can receive doctoral degrees without doing any substantial coursework, as long as they convince a "dissertation board" to approve their theses. These dissertation boards exist inside universities, where they are organized by discipline and staffed by faculty members; there are several thousand of them throughout the country. "If it's a big university, they might have 10 of these boards, each one devoted to a different academic field - one for European history, one for Russian history, one for philology, one for French language, one for philosophy, and so on," said Parkhomenko.
Over the past 25 years many of these boards have become corrupt, with faculty members and academic advisers taking bribes in exchange for rubber-stamping obviously shoddy, or stolen, work, according to Osipian, who is not a member of Dissernet. "Everyone wants to get his cut," he said. "You bought a dissertation, fine, but you still have to pay the people on the board to let this dissertation go through. At these universities, everyone needs money - they are all overworked and underpaid."
Corrupt dissertation boards, according to Zayakin, are the "core" of the supply chain for academic fraud, and some of them "have effectively become places where fake degrees are manufactured." But what really makes the system hum is the thriving marketplace of dissertation-writing firms, which often masquerade as mere academic consultancies, that broker deals for buyers. For the most part, these firms do their business out in the open and are easy to find by looking up "dissertation for order" on Google or the Russian search engine Yandex. One representative outfit sports a user-friendly website featuring a picture of a smart-looking man in glasses and offering dissertations for the bargain price of 100,000 rubles (about $1,500). Your order can be ready in as little as 30 days. Customer reviews promise excellent outcomes: "Oleg" reports that the dissertation he received from the company was "perfectly done" and was approved by every expert who examined it. "I couldn't have done it this well myself," he avows.
Who is responsible for actually producing the text these companies supply to their clients remains something of a mystery, said Zayakin, though most likely it varies: "We have no access to the internal structure of these mills, so we don't know who the people are who fabricate the papers," the physicist told me. "Are they junior faculty members on the board? Are they employees at the university where the thesis board is located? Or are they employees of the front-end firm that sets it up?"
What's certain is that the firms providing these services tend to be aggressive and entrepreneurial, seeking out potential clients in sectors of the economy where advanced degrees are common. "This industry is set up like any other industry - they don't wait for clients to come to them, they go out and find them," said Parkhomenko. "If there's a person who is the owner of a clothing store, or a chain of stores, at some point he'll get a visit from a respectable-looking gentleman who comes to his office, and says, 'It's time you became a doctor of economics. It'll be good for your business.' And he makes the pitch - he has his own marketing materials, he lays out all the options, the different prices, the discounts. It's no different from an insurance salesman."
The companies typically offer a range of services, said Osipian, with the median price for a made-to-order paper somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 and more elaborate packages - which can include a book-length monograph and the creation of an entire bibliography of fake journal articles - running closer to $25,000 or more. "If you're buying the top-of-the-line services, they will themselves make a deal with the right dissertation council," said Parkhomenko. "Ideally, you can just pay the money and forget about it, and then they'll bring you your diploma at home."
It didn't used to be this way. Though it wasn't unheard of to find Communist Party bosses with ill-gotten diplomas in the Soviet era, academic fraud was not perpetrated as brazenly, or at such an enormous scale, until the 1990s. According to Osipian, the number of dissertations defended in Russia each year jumped from about 15,000 in 1993 to 30,000 in 2005.
The most straightforward reason that advanced degrees are in such high demand in Russia is that they can bring tangible - that is, monetary - benefits to those who acquire them. In some sectors of the economy, only those with doctorates can be promoted to the highest ranks; in others, including medicine, an advanced degree allows a practitioner to charge more for his services. In politics, the incentives are particularly perverse: Not only do Ph.D.s allow officials who have lost their hold on power to get highly paid jobs as the heads of universities ("where the unlucky or the failed or the stupid can land," said Zayakin), they also make it easier to profit from other forms of corruption. "Teaching work is one of the few legal spheres of work that active politicians are allowed to do," said Parkhomenko. "A politician isn't allowed to do business. But he can be a professor, and he can write books. That's a great way to launder money. Where did you get this money? Well, I gave lectures. I did consulting. I'm a respected person; I have this income from my scientific teaching work."
But the value that Russia's elites place on academic status is not entirely economic. Osipian argues that the country's past and the proud tradition of scholarly excellence it established during the Soviet era is key to understanding today's demand for Ph.D.s. "In the Soviet Union, there was enormous prestige around math and science - physics, chemistry, biochemistry, biology - because there was real research being done, and the people doing it were honest and honorable," he said. That prestige has survived, even as funding for academic work has declined under Putin and many scientists have left for jobs abroad. For those who can afford it, an advanced degree is still a tool for social advancement. According to Gregory Simons, a senior researcher at the Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies in Sweden and the co-author of a recent article on corruption in Russian higher education, the explosion in academic fraud in Russia has been fueled by the combination of actual scholars and scientists being underpaid and of socially ambitious professionals having disposable income to spend on status symbols.
"The business developed because the system was made highly bureaucratic … and at the same time the status and pay for academics decreased significantly," Simons said in an email. "The push and pull factors come together, especially as these new classes - lawyers, politicians and businessmen - were among the new winners in the emerging Russia, accumulating massive wealth in record time but also needing some kind of sense or perception of legitimacy."
It makes sense that these newly minted strivers would grasp for an old-fashioned marker of accomplishment. At the same time, if everyone who can afford a Ph.D. knows the degrees are manufactured, why do they retain their value? As Loren Graham, the MIT historian, put it, "It's kind of strange to think about these people who don't much care that an advanced degree is falsified while at the same time believing that it adds prestige. It seems contradictory. But I'm afraid that's how it is."
The Russian government and its educational institutions have not been entirely indifferent to the country's plague of academic fraud. In 2012, when it was discovered that the head of a prestigious mathematics academy in Moscow, Andrei Andrianov, had faked multiple publications - and later printed up copies of nonexistent academic journals to try to prove his innocence - the Russian Ministry of Education and Science formed a commission to study the problem. Ultimately, the government disbanded the dissertation board at the Moscow State Pedagogical University that had approved Andrianov's degree, shut down or "froze" some 800 others around the country, and implemented anti-corruption reforms within the central government agency responsible for certifying dissertations.
Those reforms have probably made it marginally harder to buy degrees, and according to the historian who led the commission, Igor Fedyukin, the state deserves credit for its efforts. But it is the activity of Dissernet, which gets regular attention in the Russian press and publishes dossiers on one or two plagiarists a day, that has pushed the issue of academic fraud into the public consciousness. "There's a difference between an open secret and an exposed secret," said biologist Mikhail Gelfand, another of Dissernet's founders. "It's one thing to say that it's common knowledge that everyone fools around with women. It's another to show a specific person doing so in a photograph."
Though only a handful of officials have resigned or been fired over Dissernet's allegations, the organization's founders believe their work is making a difference. If nothing else, they say, Russia's ambitious pseudo-scholars now know that the dissertations being offered to them on the black market are likely to be plagiarized and that buying them carries a certain amount of risk. Perhaps for this reason, said Zayakin, the number of dissertations being defended each year has dropped to where it was in the early '90s, from approximately 30,000 in 2012 to 16,500 in 2014. Scaring members of the Russian elite into being less corrupt is undoubtedly a victory. But, as Parkhomenko concedes, it is not the same as making regular people care about academic fraud or convincing them to stop thinking of it as a normal part of life. That is the ultimate goal of Dissernet, he said: "to get people to start caring."
"A lot of people are 'exposed' in Russia," Parkhomenko said, noting that Sergei Naryshkin has comfortably held onto his position in parliament and within his political party. "The Russian public says, 'So what? So he stole. Everyone steals. In the end, why would someone be a boss, if he is not stealing?' So reputation means nothing. The threat - we will ruin your reputation, we will tell everyone you stole - does not produce any effect.'"
If this is true - if the Russian people's fatalism about corruption really runs so deep - how will Dissernet ever achieve its goal of "restoring the value of reputation"?
"Gradually, gradually," said Parkhomenko. "Sometimes we do get a reaction - sometimes quite a loud and fervent one. And sometimes we are able to attach this label to people. Everyone knows, for example, that the minister of culture in Russia is a person with two stolen dissertations. It is written in Wikipedia. It comes up as the first result in Google. This is very important, to attach this label to someone, so that it drags behind him. Sooner or later it will mean something."
© 2016 The Slate Group LLC. All rights reserved.
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Профессор Института физики Земли РАН Лев Павлович Винник стал лауреатом медали имени Гарри Филдинга Рейда. Сейсмологическое общество Америки присуждает эту награду с 1975 г. за выдающийся вклад в сейсмологию. Л.П.Винник разработал и первым применил метод сейсмологических исследований путём обменных волн, а его наблюдения по расщеплению и преобразованию волн способствовали развитию такого направления как сейсмическая томография.
SAN FRANCISCO - The Seismological Society of America (SSA) will present its highest honor, the 2016 Harry Fielding Reid Medal, to Lev P. Vinnik, Professor at the Institute of Physics of the Earth of the Russian Academy of Sciences, at its annual meeting 18-20 April 2017 in Denver, Colorado.
Vinnik serves as the head of the Group of Seismological Studies in the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Physics of the Earth, based in Moscow. A pioneer in body-wave seismology for more than 50 years, Vinnik is well-known for his careful and meticulous data analyses and for developing some of the fundamental tools that seismologists around the globe use to study the interior of the Earth.
In his nomination for the Medal, his colleagues noted that his innovative research and superb observational skills came at a time when Vinnik possessed fewer technical and financial resources than many of his colleagues working outside of the former Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation. His dedication and passion for science has led his colleagues to invite him to participate in collaborations in Western Europe, Japan and the United States.
"Although he uses digitally recorded seismograms to work at the forefront of seismology today, his early work relied on analog recordings, which he had to digitize. Only those who have engaged in such tedious work can fully appreciate the tenacity and foresight it took for him to achieve this success," said Peter Molnar, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
"This is unexpected and exciting news. I am greatly indebted to my foreign colleagues for this honor and for their support during my career," said Vinnik.
Some of Vinnik's exceptional contributions to seismology have come from his observations of unusual waveform features that he was able to interpret as measures of significant structural characteristics in the Earth's mantle and core. His observations of P and S converted waves led to his pioneering application of receiver functions to study the upper mantle, and his discovery of splitting among SKS waves helped to confirm and quantify changes in seismic anisotropy in the mantle. These observations, along with numerous others, helped to develop the science of seismic tomography.
Along with a substantial body of published work, Vinnik participated in developing the techniques for detection of nuclear explosions and analysis of recordings of nuclear explosions in the program of Deep Seismic Sounding in the Soviet Union. Among other findings, he discovered that seismic noise in central Asia consists mainly of P waves with steep incidence angles. Previously the noise has been attributed to surface waves.
Vinnik graduated from the Geological Faculty, Department of Geophysics at Moscow State University in 1957. He received his Candidate degree (Ph.D. equivalent) in 1966 and a Doctor of Science degree in physics and mathematics in 1976.
First awarded in 1975, the Medal recognizes outstanding contributions in seismology and earthquake engineering. Harry Fielding Reid, a pioneering American seismologist, was in 1906 the first to propose the elastic-rebound theory, concerning the buildup and release of stress and strain around faults as a cause of earthquakes.
Copyright © 2016 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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Ученые из Института органической химии им. Н.Д.Зелинского РАН придумали способ визуализировать дефекты на поверхности графена, невидимые через электронный микроскоп.
Russian scientists have developed a technique that allows them to visualize defects on the surface of graphene. The technique may ultimately help scientists develop a better understanding of graphene's properties in order to find novel applications for this supermaterial.
The technique, developed by researchers at the Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry in a collaborative project, employs the metal palladium, which interacts with "carbon reactivity centres" found on graphene. Graphene is an incredibly strong one-atom-thick layer of carbon touted to be an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Several types of defects on graphene surfaces are known to increase the reactivity of its carbon atoms: i.e. their ability to form chemical bonds. If researchers can locate these defects and manipulate them, they will be able to maximize the use of graphene's properties. For example, locating and removing defects is important for applications that require perfectly smooth graphene. In other applications, such as in catalysis and certain biomedical materials, some defects are actually beneficial because they allow the incorporation of additional elements, such as metals, into the graphene.
When the palladium complex Pd2(dba)3 is dissolved in chloroform, it forms a dark red solution under normal circumstances. But when graphene or another carbon material is added to the solution, the palladium is completely consumed. As a result, the solution turns from dark red to colourless.
Using advanced imaging techniques, the researchers found that the palladium clusters selectively attach to graphene's surface according to specific patterns, depending on how reactive the carbon centres are. Individual palladium particles settle onto point defects, local accumulations of particles are present on larger defects, and short chains outline linear defects.
These defects are normally invisible under an electron microscope. The palladium particles act like a contrast agent, allowing the spatial imaging of the chemical reactivity, and thus the defects, of graphene layers.
"Metal mapping of carbon materials provides unique insights and reveals hidden information about fascinating properties at the molecular level," says project leader Professor Valentine Ananikov.
The team's findings indicate that using palladium markers, more than 2,000 surface defects, or reactivity centres, on graphene can be individually located, per square micrometre of surface area. The researchers say that the unexpected capacity of graphene to accommodate so many reactivity centres challenges scientists to re-examine their understanding of the electronic and structural properties of carbon materials.
Now that the researchers have learned how to recognise and characterise the defects, their next step is to develop a technique to control them. Some defects possess a dynamic nature and have the ability to "migrate" over graphene's surface. If the researchers can control this migration, they will have a unique opportunity to form materials with customised properties. This is an outstanding direction for future studies, they say.
© Copyright 2016 ScienceDaily.
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