Russia lifts restrictions on international scientific cooperation

Russia lifts restrictions on international scientific cooperation
Photo: RIA Novosti archive / Grigory Sysoev

The new Russian government has cancelled the controversial order constraining contact between Russian scientists and their foreign colleagues. Although some analysts say that the fears of the university community are exaggerated, the community itself expects that the changes will bring an impetus for more active international cooperation.

The Russian government has lifted restrictions on the contact of domestic university professors and scientists with their foreign colleagues, reports University World News. The decision was announced by Valery Falkov, the new head of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education on 17 February. “We are interested in the development of cooperation on the principles of open science,” said Falkov. He added that Russia’s special project dedicated to improving the global competitiveness of the country’s universities involved their integration into the world’s scientific and educational space.

The restrictions, which were adopted by Russia’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education in February 2019 and became public in August, provoked serious criticism from representatives of the Russian scientific community. According to the order, Russian university professors could meet with their foreign colleagues only in rooms especially designed and equipped for these purposes, while meetings with foreigners outside the universities required the approval of presidents of educational institutions. Co-chair of the Council of Russia’s Community of Scientific Workers Andrey Tsaturyan called these rules absolutely absurd, as many Russian universities had professors from foreign universities, so the order imposed restrictions on cooperation with themselves. However, according to former head of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education Mikhail Kotyukov, the order reflected global practice.

According to former head of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education Mikhail Kotyukov, the restrictions reflected global practice. Photo: kremlin.ru

Russian scientists and the university community have welcomed the cancellation of the order, as they consider it will provide an impetus for more active international cooperation. At the same time, some analysts attribute the limited presence of Russian scientists in the international arena to a weak position of Russian university science rather than governmental restrictions citing a small number of publications in international journals and lack of patents.

“Time has shown that the fears of scientists regarding the order and its effects were far-fetched. All the international initiatives implemented in our university were completed in time,” says Maksim Rumyantsev, the acting head of Siberian Federal University adding that the university successfully organised the work of several international schools and conferences last year. “In addition, we have successfully completed recruitment of foreign students, while none of the scientific projects involving foreign scientists even noticed the restrictions,” he notes.

By Anna Litvina