In 2014 a number of research laboratories were founded in Kazan Federal University, including International Comparative Urban Researches Laboratory. We have discussed the goals to be achieved by means of such researches with Irina Kuznetsova, the Director of the KFU Institute of Comparative Researches of Society Modernization.
How the idea appeared
The idea to found a Comparative Urban Researches Laboratory based in KFU appeared after the analysis of existing Russian urban studies centres. They all turned to have a single research area, be it city economics, architecture, or ecology. There had been no integrated researches held in Russia before.
It is commonly known that this research laboratory is an international one. It was created together with the old KFU's partner - the University of Birmingham (Great Britain). This university has had Master's programme in urban studies (with royal accreditation) for 40 years, which is based in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Studies. The school used to organize special working groups to conduct certain researches. The complex approach is the peculiarity of the researches pursued by the experts of the University of Birmingham. For instance, when the availability of water resources is researched, both ecologists and social geographers are involved into the process. As a result of this joint work, they receive simultaneous data about qualitative description of water and availability of clean water for different social groups. And here they speak about the drinking water available in the region as well as water reservoirs used like recreation areas. Birmingham community is extensively involved into the discussions about their territory development including building of social and cultural infrastructure. Today our colleagues from Great Britain help us adopt the best years-long practices of urban researching. The University of Birmingham also runs researches in Brazil, India, and the experience of BRICS countries is of great interest for us due to the similarity of problems we have.
Beside the University of Birmingham, our key partner, we are going to develop partnerships with the University of Chicago (USA), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA), the University of São Paulo (Brazil), National University of Singapore and the University of Tokyo (Japan).
Several working groups are based at the laboratory, each of them will comprise a certain research direction. There are five of them in total – urban diversity, culture and health; urban sociology; urban environment; urban economics, urban development strategies, living standards; urban ecology, water resources, air.
About present and future
We are now running several researches, such as constructing of social and ecological map of the large city territory, using modern geo-information and neural-network technologies. Besides, we are studying the conditions of migrant workers from Middle Asia in Moscow and Kazan to formulate recommendations for improving their life conditions. And it's much more than that.
It's worth mentioning that activity of the laboratory has provoked a lively interest of ten municipalities of the Republic of Tatarstan. The administration of Tukay, Aznakaevo, Tetyushi, Chistopol, Arsk, Bugulma, Mamadysh and Zelenodolsk regions have offered their help in conducting researches. We are about to sign appropriate agreements with them. In addition to it, we have already applied for several grants, organized by Russian foundations, such as Russian Scientific Fund, and Russian Foundation for Basic Research.
Our plans for the future include launching of an English-language journal, devoted to integrated urban researches; developing the Master's and postgraduate programmes in this sector together with the University of Birmingham.
On July 24-25 KFU will host the I Research and Practice Seminar of the International Laboratory “Comparative Urban Studies”, scientists of the University of Birmingham and various institutes of KFU, and the heads of the mentioned above regions of the Republic of Tatarstan participating. We are going to discuss the perspectives of the further development of our cooperation.