The first concrete proposals to improve Russian science were released this week. Officials with the Russian Ministry of Science and Education, which oversees federal science policy, announced plans to raise the average monthly paycheck of a researcher 5-fold to about $1050. To make ends meet, the ministry is proposing mandatory retirement ages that would trim the ranks of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). And in an attempt to slow a brain drain, the ministry also plans to limit the amount of time researchers can work abroad to perhaps a maximum of 9 months per year.
The idea of travel restrictions is controversial. "They will sweeten a pill for researchers by raising their salary but then will tie them tightly to the motherland like peasants in the times of serfdom," says well-known human rights campaigner Alexander Podrabinek. However, Gennady Mesyats, RAS's Vice President, told a Moscow radio station that, judging from what little information he had, he doubted this measure would undermine Russian participation in international collaborations.
After the salary increase, the ministry plans to introduce limited term contracts and to assess staff qualifications at least once every 3 years. Highly valued researchers may get 5-year contracts, but only the most outstanding few percent of scientists will be given open-ended contracts. Another plan is to cull older members of RAS staff. "We propose to set up an age limit for management positions," Dmitry Livanov, an official with the ministry told the ITAR-TASS press agency. For a head of a laboratory it will be 60, and 65 for an institution director.
But according to another RAS Vice President, Valery Kozlov, there is some hope for older researchers. "We do not plan to fire researchers at the pension age--if he actively participates in the scientific life he must work," he says. "But if a young researcher has lost interest for science and does not long for active and productive work, it will be him who will be laid off."
Russian Academy of Sciences