Federal center for Arctic studies may open in 2016
What will the federal research center in Arkhangelsk be called? Why is the new research organization being created in this form?
In accordance with the documents that we sent to the Federal Agency for Research Organizations, this new organization, which is being created at the Arkhangelsk Research Center, will be called the Center for Integrated Arctic Studies and will have the status of a federal research center.
The federal research center is seen as a research and innovation nucleus for achieving a large-scale goal, as a kind of a technological platform. Its basic tasks are to conduct research and develop and provide scientific support for the introduction of new methods, technologies and tools for addressing critical problems. In this context, the federal research center is an innovative center to generate new solutions. To achieve this goal, it should closely cooperate with administration and development agencies, so-called implementation centers, specifically federal and regional executive and administrative agencies and manufacturing companies. Units responsible for applied research projects will play a central role within the structure of the federal research center.
How did the idea of creating such a center at the federal level come about?
This idea was born in Arkhangelsk last October at the international research conference entitled The Competitive Potential of Russia's Arctic and Northern Areas. It was attended by a group of representatives of business, academic and educational organizations from Arctic and non-Arctic states.
Arkhangelsk Governor Igor Orlov hosted our guests from Arctic countries and they discussed ways of deepening cooperation. An array of proposals were put forward, in particular, regarding the importance of regular joint research activities, and the need to address wide-ranging issues, look for points of contact and set up working groups on significant scientific problems.
After that meeting, the governor invited Russian Academy of Sciences Member Nikolai Lavyorov, Urals Division Chair Valery Charushin, Northern (Arctic) Federal University Rector Yelena Kudryashova and myself to visit him. An idea was born in the course of the discussion to use the scientific, educational and industrial potential of the Arkhangelsk Region to establish a major research organization oriented toward a deeper, systemic study of the Arctic. This organization, this federal research center, was to become a kind of an integrator, accumulating the results of Arctic research in various fields.
That evening we decided to write a letter to the Federal Agency for Research Organizations (FARO), proposing the establishment of a new federal organization at the Arkhangelsk Research Center. The idea was supported by all the participants in the discussion. The letter to the head of the FARO was written and sent. A week later FARO Director Mikhail Kotyukov invited Igor Orlov and myself to have a conversation. Commenting on the governor's proposal, Kotyukov pointed out that there was no shortage of those wishing to establish a federal center for Arctic research in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but that the FARO supported the idea of establishing it in Arkhangelsk.
You received FARO's approval, but what was the reaction from other institutes?
For this idea to get off the ground, FARO decided to hold a discussion forum in Arkhangelsk, entitled The Arctic as a Backbone Project for Russia's Innovative Development. It took place on November 24-25, 2014. It was organized by the regional administration, the Arkhangelsk Research Center and FARO. Literally all of Russia's research organizations were invited the names, or even the research programs, of which included the word "Arctic." It was attended by representatives of 80 organizations from Apatity, Murmansk, Petrozavodsk, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vologda, Syktyvkar, Salekhard, Tyumen, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Yakutsk, Magadan, Vladivostok and Anadyr. Everyone had an opportunity to state their case. On November 24, [we] spent the entire day listening to reports and presentations. Some speakers, especially my colleagues from the Kola Research Center and the Komi Research Center, expressed a certain measure of surprise: if we are so distinguished and have more than half a century of practical experience under our belt, why was the Arkhangelsk Research Center, established only in 2001, hosting the event? In this context, Lavyorov stressed: experience shows that to achieve new goals it is very important to choose an organization that is unencumbered by inevitable problems related to age.
The following day, November 25, the heads of scientific research institutes and centers met at the Arkhangelsk Research Center, and FARO First Deputy Director Alexei Medvedev officially announced that the federal center would be established in Arkhangelsk. The heads of all research organizations in the Arkhangelsk Region and the Nenets Autonomous Area affiliated with FARO signed an integration agreement, whereby they would integrate via the Arkhangelsk Research Center. This is not an easy process; it is even painful for some organizations, since they lose their status as a legal entity. In other words, it was not a merger, but rather integration via the Arkhangelsk Research Center.
How many organizations were there?
Including the research center?
Yes. A total of eight organizations with about 750 personnel.
What organizations will become part of the federal center?
The Institute of Natural Adaptation Studies, the Institute of Northern Ecological Studies, the Institute of Agriculture and several organizations that are based outside Arkhangelsk, in the region or in the Nenets Area: experimental and research stations.
What happens next? How will all of this coalesce?
The process is underway. We are approaching the finish. A draft program for the development of the federal center is ready but it is being finalized in keeping with the current regulations and FARO requirements. A risk assessment and feasibility study have been completed and a draft statute, an organizational table and administration concepts have been sent to FARO.
Are you the de facto director of the new center?
This position is called "director of the lead organization." The integration protocol, which was signed by all heads of the reorganized institutes and was approved by FARO Deputy Director Medvedev, entrusts me with these duties.
Will the establishment of the new center lead to dismissals?
In the reorganization process, together with the institute directors, we are guided by two simple and obvious principles: preserve all organizations and preserve their staffs. So, while working in Arkhangelsk, I realized that it is not very easy to find specialists who like and want to engage in research, but that it is very easy to lose them. We will try to keep all experienced specialists, young researchers and administrative staff. We believe that there will be work for everyone.
How will the new organization benefit employees? Could they get a pay raise?
This is a good question. Wages will be equalized for employees holding similar positions. It is obvious even now that some categories of employees at the former Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences will receive higher wages. Base wages at FARO organizations are set in keeping with professional qualification standards.
The federal research center's tasks include research, as well as the gathering, classification and analysis of various data related to Russia's Arctic zone. Other tasks include the development of proposals to address the most pressing problems, the formulation of a long-term program for the balanced development of Russia's Arctic zone and the relevant national program of fundamental Arctic research, as there are none in the country today. Other Arctic countries have national research programs and there are organizations and government agencies responsible for their implementation. There is also a system of interaction among research organizations but it was lost in Russia following the breakup of the Soviet Union. It was not until the State Commission for the Arctic was established that some attempts began to be made to reanimate it, using our national experience.
In other words, the new federal center will be engaged in developing a national program?
I believe that our experience can be used to this end. The new federal center should by definition be integrated into all national programs. It should also address the applied aspects of Arctic studies and development — as a development and executive agency. Our cooperation with the International Research Committee and our ties with our colleagues from research organizations in Arctic and non-Arctic countries thus become very important.
What kind of applied aspects?
Considering the diversity of national interests in the Arctic, their scope is wide-ranging. However, it will be crucial to focus on tasks whose fulfillment requires the research and personnel potential of affiliated institutes and experimental and research stations, their practical experience on the federal, regional and municipal level in the macro-region, and their cooperation with mining, industrial and agricultural companies.
The center's draft research development program prioritizes: the balanced development of the social and economic sphere of the macro-region, infrastructure, the energy and transport system, including the Northern Sea Route, and communication lines; geophysical processes in the mainland and shelf zone; territorial development, above all, the development of coastal areas; the management of bioresources as an object of economic activity; environmental protection; the development of effective agricultural production to ensure the food security of people living in the Russian Arctic zone; medical, biological and social problems; social development; the study of ethno-social and cultural processes, including among the small-numbered indigenous peoples; international cooperation and political processes in the circumpolar region; and, the development of new models and methods of research and data-processing.
In other words, the center will effectively monitor the situation in Arctic Russia?
This is putting it a bit too strongly, of course, but to a certain degree every research organization carries out monitoring in its field, and not only in Russia but in other countries as well. However, apart from Arctic research in certain fields, the federal research center, together with partners from regional research centers that focus on working in the Arctic region, should perform additional functions that can be assigned to it, such as coordination, management, development of certain action-oriented aspects of research and promotion of this process. In my opinion, in general, this is the purpose of the future center. All these issues have been thoroughly discussed with the staff of the research organizations joining the Arkhangelsk Research Center, with colleagues from the Kola, Komi and Yakutian Research Centers, as well as departments from the Academy of Sciences.
When will the new federal center open?
This is not a simple matter, and there are several stages ahead of us. By the end of September, we expect to prepare a package of documents containing the drafts of the development program, the charter, the management system, the staff list, etc. All these and other documents should be submitted to the Federal Agency of Research Organizations. Afterwards, we should arrange public hearings and expert reviews. Then the documents will be sent to the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences for consideration and approval. The next stage is submitting the documents to the Presidential Commission for Science and Education. After that, the entire package of documents required for setting up a new federal research organization will go to the Government for decision-making.
I would like to note that the Federal Agency of Research Organizations controls the reorganization process accurately and professionally, in accordance with the roadmap that we adopted. As you know, this is a complicated process and it would be hasty to mention an exact date for the opening of the federal center. However, our team feels optimistic and we hope that by the middle of 2016, all the necessary decisions will be made and the federal center will start its work.