Science 2.0. Science of Tomorrow
Belarus’ science and technology sector is facing a digital transformation challenge
Sergei YENIN, Alexander KURBATSKY Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have had a decisive influence on all spheres of human activity: governance, economy, social sector. The use of ICTs is universal because they have significantly improved the ability of mankind to accumulate, process and disseminate information, and have ensured the instant interaction at any distances: between people and between machines. In the field of R&D ICTs have had an impact on the actual process of research and on the use of research results in the form of innovations, and also on the management of science and interaction of science and society. Digital transformation of the science and technology sector in the Republic of Belarus is a challenge, the solution to which will contribute towards the creation of the modern knowledge economy and promote the importance of science in the society. It will also help improve the quality of management of science, make budgetary spending on R&D more efficient and accelerate the process of integration of the Republic of Belarus into the international research space. International Experience
In today’s world, a country’s competitiveness is largely determined by two interrelated factors: high educational level of its people (human capital) and a well-developed R&D sector which generates its own developments and also ensures perception, dissemination and use of the flow of knowledge and technologies and their further transformation into innovations.
Knowledge embodied in highlyqualified personnel and technologies has always served as the basis for economic development. However, only in the last decade, knowledge and information, their production, distribution and use have become a decisive economic factor.
Therefore, all developed countries have paid particular attention to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their R&D sectors by promoting digital transformation. Information technologies have had an impact on the actual process of research and also on the use of research results in the form of innovations, and the management of science and the interaction of science and society.
Remoting has made it possible to organize virtual joint research groups consisting of scientists from different countries. Moreover, it has become possible to attract nonprofessional volunteers into a number of specific areas of research.
A scientific social network has been created to ensure continuous interaction between scientists and specialists. In many fields of science, especially experimental ones, ICTs are an important tool for research, analyzing and processing the results of experiments.
Every study analyzes the results achieved by the predecessors and offers the results of its own research for other researchers or potential consumers in the economy and the social sector. The basic forms of presenting the results - publications in periodic scientific journals, conference materials - have also changed significantly as traditional print publications
gave way to electronic versions. It is now possible to publish primary data of experimental research, not only research findings. Joint access to raw data helps compare results of experiments conducted by different researchers and enhance the accuracy of conclusions. The transition to digital publications considerably cheapens and accelerates the publication of articles, including their reviewing and distribution. It also provides wide opportunities in the search for information, automating bibliography composition and citation index calculation.
The development of high-speed Internet technology WEB 2.0 and social networks gave rise to new forms of presenting scientific results to the general public: scientific blogs and forums.
The subscription fee for scientific journals is regularly increased (more than 5% per annum on top of inflation). This lies heavy as a financial burden upon libraries of research institutes and universities.
This is why alternative channels for distribution of scientific information are actively developed. Among them are online public libraries, thematic, university and multidisciplinary repositories of scientific publications and data that provide an opportunity to publish primary research findings.
The free online access principle has a significant influence on the distribution and use of scientific knowledge. The results of scientific studies financed from the budget should be in free access. This principle is applied in the European Union, and also by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and UNESCO.
Electronic publishing provides online access to any scientific article with the help of the Digital Object Identifier. DOI locates the resource in the Internet. A set of metadata (Dublin Core, Linked Open Data) that describe the digital object is also standardized.
The open free access principle is widely applied to improve the distribution of scientific findings of the government-funded research.
Among the most popular technological platforms is network computing and scientific social networks; scientific publication repositories; bibliographical reference managers; online platforms to review and assess scientific publications.
Smart text and data processing technologies help researchers use all online publications and experimental data received from other researchers in their scientific work.
Digital transfor mation has considerably changed the labor market. The demand for unskilled labor has declined. The requirements for the qualification level of the personnel are constantly increasing. Rapid technological advances require lifetime training.
Digital Transformation of Belarusian Science
The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB) has a well-developed information computer network that unites local computer networks of the NASB organizations. The NASB network BASNET is the best-developed scientific computer network of the Republic of Belarus. It is part of the integrated scientific and information computer network (NIKS) of the Republic of Belarus along with the networks of Belarusian State University and the Education Ministry.
The corporate library network, the telecommunication subsystem, the telecommunication subsystem of the grid computing network and other subsystems operate on the basis of BASNET.
The academic system BASNET grants offline access to the world’s computer networks through the European scientific network GEANT. The access to GEANT gives Belarusian scientists new opportunities for conducting innovative projects in cooperation with European colleagues in such fields as, for example, engineering computations, mechanics, nanotechnology, climatology, particle physics, telemedicine, genetic engineering and other branches of science requiring swift exchange of big amounts of data. Belarusian researchers have access to European electronic technical and scientific resources, including those of the national libraries. As for university and school students, they can use modern e-learning technologies widely available in the GEANT network.
All large Belarusian libraries have electronic catalogues with bibliographic records of books, articles, dissertations, thesis abstracts and periodicals. The National Library maintains a unified electronic catalogue of Belarusian libraries and the National Bibliography kept in pursuance of the law on compulsory copy of print publications. The electronic catalogues are accessed through the Internet (information on the availability). Internet users can also buy electronic copies of documents.
The National Library of Belarus, the Central Scientific Library of the National Academy of Sciences and several other libraries have access to international databases.
A virtual reading room with online public access to authoritative scientific and technical databases was established at the National Library of Belarus in the early 2000s. In 2016, it organized subscription to the world’s leading research databases such as EBSCO, East View, Universitetskaya Biblioteka (University Library) for 42 Belarusian institutions and organizations. The databases are only accessible from the computers of the libraries and institutions that have a relevant agreement with the National Library.
More than 300 scientific periodicals are published in Belarus. The vast majority of them are available in hard copies only. The scientific library of Belarusian National Technical University is making efforts to promote the international open access initiative. The library publishes digital versions of five academic journals.
Many Belarusian periodicals are not featured in international databases like Web of Science or Scopus because they have no digital copies.
Several research and educational institutions in Belarus create their own thematic e-libraries and repositories of scientific and technical information. Today open access is granted to seventeen repositories of Belarusian educational institutions. By granting open access to their electronic libraries, universities improve their standing in the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities. The digital library of Belarusian State University, for instance, is currently ranked 114th among all resources included in the latest edition of the Ranking Web of World Repositories and second in the ranking of libraries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Reports on design and research projects are listed in the National R&D Register of the State Committee for Science and Technology. Unfortunately, at present there is no wide access to scientific research results, and appropriate commercialization conditions have not been created.
Results of scientific research and projects have traditionally been considered to be the only sources of innovations. However, today another opinion prevails that new ideas emerge from various sources
Belarus' National Academy of Sciences has a well-developed information computer network BASNET
at any stage of research, design and production, marketing and sales.
Numerous research projects showed that a relative importance of the abovementioned sources largely depends on the specifics of the industry. The role of the R&D sector is especially notable in such high-tech industries as automobile production, aerospace engineering, pharmaceutics, IT and telecom industries. From the economic point of view in general, market sources play a crucial role in fostering innovations.
Knowledge is transferred in the form of joint research, personnel rotation, joint patenting, deliveries of equipment, machines and technologies, technical consulting and analysis.
National innovation systems encompass enterprises, their production methods and application of innovations, the access to external sources of innovations which include other companies, public and private research institutes, universities, regional, national or international technology transfer centers.
The state accounts for the lion’s share of financing of R&D projects as part of various programs in the Republic of Belarus. Therefore, the quality of expert evaluation of programs and projects comes to the forefront. A unified state examination system has been created in the country. However, to ensure the efficiency of the system there is a need to provide specialized information support and to involve independent experts, including foreign ones.
Apart from that, a traditional system of science financing has been preserved. The state supports scientific institutions rather than research projects with the participation of experts from various R&D agencies. The system of financial planning in science excludes the possibility to launch and implement short-term projects promptly.
Nowadays, the Belarusian R&D sector does not have a strong impact on decision-making in the system of governance. Global practices show that a preeminent focus on the application of local innovations cannot guarantee the competitiveness of any country on foreign markets, especially of such a small country as the Republic of Belarus.
Therefore, it is needed to tap into the global flow of innovations in the form of technologies and equipment, specialized engineering centers that can promote the use of the best foreign achievements at Belarusian enterprises.
Belarus’ R&D sector is at the initial stage of digital transformation. It is essential to take measures to turn it into an efficient instrument of innovative development, train highlyqualified specialists, and promote decision-making in the system of governance.