Youth. Science. Innovations
This was the motto of the nationwide congress of the scientific community timed to the Day of Belarusian Science. Attending the event were representatives of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB), the Education Ministry, and the State Science and Technology Committee. They all reiterated that our country is implementing system-based research projects and has already come up with some unique solutions. Besides, innovative world-class research centers and production facilities are being set up in Belarus. However, it is also obvious today that no major progress can be made without young scientists able to offer out-of-thebox solutions. The country pins great hopes on the intellectual potential of young researchers, their creative thinking and ability to generate innovations. The fact that the year 2015 was declared the Year of the Youth by the Belarusian President means that the government pays close attention to young creatives and wants to offer them inspiration, learning and genuine opportunities.
Time for Ambitious Projects
Although Belarusian scientists are known far beyond Belarus and their scientific achievements are recognized globally, they do not rest on their laurels and continue working hard to keep up with the fast-changing world. Chairman of the State Science and Technology Committee Alexander Shumilin noted that the number one task facing the scientific community and managers today is creating an efficient, science-based, technologically-intensive innovative system that will help make a quality breakthrough in the domestic economy.
Belarus’ innovative development program for 2011-2015 features 55 key projects. They envisage setting up new enterprises and production facilities and implementing 22 innovative projects worth over Br850 billion. The projects are to be completed in 2015. Among them is production of new-generation mechanical artificial heart valves, robotic mobile complexes, and oil and gas pipes. Every year the practical value of domestic scientific solutions increases. Belarusian scientists have made substantial progress in medicine: over 40 heart transplantations were conducted; a new method to diagnose cancer in children was developed; a new drug fludarabel was developed by the National Academy of Sciences, Education Ministry and Healthcare Ministry to be recognized one of the world’s best cancer drugs.
A number of innovative facilities came on stream at the Academy of Sciences in 2014: the Cell Technologies National Research Center, the Institute of Biophysics and Cell Engineering, the Analytical and Genetic Engineering Research Center at the Institute of Microbiology. Production of frozen bacteria concentrates for the dairy industry was launched at the Institute of Meat and Dairy Industry. According to the developers, the new production facility will increase the share of these products on the domestic market up to 60%, which will help save over $5 million annually.
A total of ten new centers and facilities to manufacture innovative products have been set up at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Another ten will be commissioned in 2015. First Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the NASB Sergei Chizhik said: “We are finishing the construction of the center to produce multi-purpose drones. Belarus has made much progress in this field. Today we manufacture three types of drones and are working on a fourth one with the flying range of up to 300km. A section to produce hemosorbents – blood cleansing liquids that are in great demand in modern-day medicine – is to be opened by the end of the year. We also have plans to set up a new well-equipped precision machining center at the tool-making plant Optron. I believe that in 2015 we will be able to present BelBiograd with its first projects and basic facilities.”
Summing up the year 2014, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus traditionally named Top 10 achievements in fundamental and applied research. For example, a way was found to create solid diamond-based quantum computers. According to researchers, they discovered the island of stability of carbon isotopes which can stay viable only for tens of minutes. But during that time, it can actually be used as a computing element to increase the compute density and the number of logical operations. It is clear that the quantum computer may still be a long way off but this achievement does hold some application prospects.
The Top 10 also includes new solutions in human sciences. For example, entirely new historical facts were discovered about the town of Novogrudok – from ancient times to the present. Taking a general look at the research
conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, we can say that the NASB is currently coordinating 12 national research programs, acts as the customer-coordinator of the EurAsEC international program “Innovative biotechnology 20112015” and the government customer of four programs of the BelarusRussia Union State, 27 government programs and 10 scientific and technical programs. While implementing all these programs in 2014, the NASB developed about 400 new research methods, more than 2,000 pieces of new equipment (of which 1,350 went into production) and devised 109 new and 13 high technologies.
There is room for innovations practically in all sectors of the economy,butdomesticscienceshould take a more ambitious position, Chairman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich said. He believes that manufacturers and, first of all, the State Science and Technology Committee should make a substantial contribution to the effort and set relevant tasks for domestic science. However, scientists should also come forward with proposals and should not shy away from large-scale projects, Mikhail Myasnikovich said.
Belarus needs to update the list of research areas and to focus on the most important ones, Mikhail Myasnikovich said. A bigger focus should be made on nurturing young talents. He noted that many say that there are no strong incentives in Belarus that would encourage young people to go into science. However, Mikhail Myasnikovich is not sure such statements hold true. The most important thing for the youth is to be useful. To work and, of course, to get good research results is a powerful incentive. We just need to encourage young people to focus on modern technologies, innovative solutions, with a view to shaping a new image of the Belarusian economy, Mikhail Myasnikovich said.
He believes that more attention should be paid to science-intensive technologies with a high added value, for example, the information and communication technologies. In Belarus the research in this area is mostly done within the Hi-Tech Park system. Last year Belarus exported the information and communication technologies worth about $500 million. Another promising research area is medicine. A stem cell center has recently opened in Belarus, which has become a revolutionary achievement for the country. Today it performs unique surgeries, is busy creating a databank of stem cells, which will be in demand in the future. Another promising research area is biotechnology, a field that Belarus started promoting not so long ago. Last year the output of biotechnological products exceeded $100 million, although the country started from very humble beginnings, Mikhail Myasnikovich noted.
The economic science somewhat lags behind in terms of applied innovations, said the Chairman of the Council of the Republic.
“Today, when dealing with difficult economic situations faced by our country and the world, we rely on the conceptual approaches of the well-known economist John Keynes, the monetarism theory which is mainly associated with Milton Friedman, and the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund... We, unfortunately, do not have major theoretical and practical solutions in economics today. I would like to call on economists to become more active in this regard,” Mikhail Myasnikovich said.
The Chairman of the Council of the Republic noted that Belarus is working on systemic research projects, something that not all countries can afford. A solid management system for science has been developed in Belarus. This became possible due to economic, political and social stability in the country.
Future Newtons, Einsteins and Alferovs
Science and education are the main sources of growth today. Belarusian scientists see science and innovations as the key factors and mechanisms to secure the competitive ability of the economy and the state security.
The modern world has entered the epoch of computerization and a knowledge society when a big part
Talented researchers enjoy plenty of options for self-fulfillment
of the economic wealth is created in high-technology and knowledgeintensive sectors, Education Minister Mikhail Zhuravkov stressed. It considerably alters the requirements for personnel training, their professional and intellectual potential and, hence, necessitates improving the organizational process of academic, scientific and innovative activities in higher educational establishments. According to the minister, today one of the priority areas of work in universities is to involve as many young people in scientific research as possible. There are over 200 student scientific laboratories in universities; many of them conduct research for manufacturing facilities and companies.
The role of universities is more pronounced nowadays, Mikhail Zhuravkov noted commenting on today’s trends. Universities are becoming a driving force of innovative economic development. In Belarus an important role in enhancing the efficiency of research and training top-qualified scientists is assigned to the Education Ministry and the leading universities. Innovations, creative ideas and the search for new solutions is a prerogative of young and energetic people, those who are eager to make discoveries and are ready for them. Every year the interest in science rises among the youth, the minister said. For instance, 2,769 students are enrolled in the postgraduate programs of the Education Ministry and 108 scientists are in the doctoral programs.Meanwhile, successful training of highly-qualified scientific personnel largely depends on the scientific activities they were engaged in during student days. Research and development work of students helps create a scientific groundwork and determine the propensity of young people to study science, gives an opportunity to fulfill their creative ambitions. The Education Ministry is a regular state customer of research projects conducted by universities. Therefore, young people have a real opportunity to present their discoveries and implement them in practice. Belarusian higher learning institutions run a wide network of innovative subdivisions that includes more than 40 facilities. Scientific projects cover
supramolecular chemistry, new chemical products and technology; environmental protection, resource saving, rational environmental management, fire and disaster prevention; science-intensive technologies and many more.
Any scientific achievement is based on a system of attracting youth talents into science. According to Mikhail Zhuravkov, the system needs some reforms. In particular, regional science should catch up with leading universities. A comprehensive educational system is being developed for regional universities for this reason. It is expected that students will be able to undertake
internships at leading universities. The Education Ministry also plans to offer more grants for training at foreign universities. To this end, a special foundation may be established for research fellowships and training.
“Training of young scientists is of paramount significance today,” said First Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Sergei Chizhik. “Today developed countries seek to track down capable, talented young people, inspire them and lure them away. Of course, conditions should be in place to identify young hopefuls. We do all we can to support talented young people. Incentives are considered as the key factor here. We should not suggest routine mundane tasks to young people. They should see the beauty of science and be engaged in groundbreaking research, of course, under the supervision of a good scientific mentor. Secondly, a young scientist should see career growth opportunities. While pursuing a career in science, you cannot skip stairs while climbing the career ladder. You cannot get to the top without defending Ph.D. and postdoctoral degrees. Thirdly, young people always pay attention to the housing issue. Today the Academy of Sciences provides dormitory places to almost 100% of its postgraduates. Last year the rental housing program and the completion of the construction of the Magistr residential compound made a real breakthrough in the area,” he said.
According to Sergei Chizhik, the system of support through contests, grants, and scholarships is the fourth important stimulus for young researchers. It is also worth mentioning that traditionally the support is provided to young scientists on a competitive basis as part of the scholarship program of the Fund of the President of the Republic of Belarus. Every year from 40 to 50 NASB representatives are included in the list.
The prize for young scientists of the Fund for Supporting Education and Science (the Alferov Fund) and the National Academy of Sciences was instituted in 2014. Candidate of Physics and Mathematics
Alexei Trukhanov, the leading researcher of the magnetic film physics lab of the NASB research center for material sciences, became the winner. The scientist specializes in magnetic electrics studies. By the way, one of the Top 10 scientific achievements in 2014 was the designing of magnetic materials and crystals; and the young scientist is involved in this research. It is no secret that the entire range of microelectronic semiconductor equipment is very sensitive to external factors, particularly, to magnetic fields and electromagnetic radiation. Therefore, in present conditions many scientific centers worldwide are engaged in this significant area of studies.
Alexei Trukhanov remarked that the academic center he is working at does its best to engage young scientists in big engineering projects and to stimulate the scientific initiatives of young researchers. However, the researcher should have basic knowledge, skills, and especially inner motivation. Zhores Alferov used to say that if you want to achieve something in science, this should become your lifestyle.
Chairman of the NASB Presidium Vladimir Gusakov is convinced that science should promote talents.
“AtpresenttheNationalAcademy of Sciences has no shortage of young researchers. Apart from that, science should not turn into an occupation or business. It fosters talents. We, in turn, will do our best to support young scientists,” the NASB head said.
“Indeed, the number of postgraduate students has slightly reduced in recent years; but the number of doctoral degree seekers has been on the rise. The requirements for those who want to get master’s degrees or complete a post-graduate program have been toughened. As a result, we will enroll fewer young researchers, but these will be the people devoted to science,” Vladimir Gusakov said.
Young scientists confirm that the country’s leading scientific hub pays huge attention to the support of researchers and the engagement of
young people in science. Candidate of Chemical Sciences Andrei Ivanets, the Chairman of the NASB Council of Young Scientists, head of the adsorbents and adsorption processes lab of the NASB Institute of General and Nonorganic Chemistry, has been awarded the scholarship of the President of the Republic of Belarus twice: as a postgraduate student in 2009 and as a candidate of sciences in 2014. It is possible, that in the distant future he will be awarded this prestigious scholarship as a doctor of sciences. At least, such cases have already taken place at the National Academy of Sciences.
The researcher mentioned one of the main advantages: scholarship holders move to the top of the waiting list for better housing. “This is a very good practice which shows young scientists that they matter. It is not only a considerable financial incentive making up about Br3 million per month, it is also very prestigious to be the winner of the scholarship of the President of the Republic of Belarus,” Andrei Ivanets noted. Talented researchers enjoy plenty of options for self-fulfillment. The appointment of scientists to the posts of senior executives testifies to the fact. For example, in 2014 a number of leading institutions were led by scientists aged from 33 to 40 years, namely the NASB research center for biological resources, the United Energy and Nuclear Research Institute Sosny, the Institute of Applied Physics, the research center for agricultural mechanization.
Young people should seek to be at the forefront. Researchers often have a huge intellectual potential which can accelerate the progress of modern science. The society should not forget about this. By investing in education, science, youth policy, we, in fact, invest in our progress and a platform for the development of the economy and the country. Besides, scientific and technical innovations shape the face of the modern civilization.