Members of the Skolkovo Scientific Advisory Council found time to give interviews to our media department.
Zhores Alferov is known for his contribution to semiconductors and lasers. His explorations are used daily by billions of people in their mobile phones, DVD and BD players, and basically all other electronic devices.
- Zhores Ivanovich, you got acquainted with research at KFU today. You are a frequent visitor here in Kazan and Kazan University. Do you see dynamics in development?
- Your Rector's report today made a big impression. It’s evident that Kazan University has changed very much in the past years, much is made for its development. You have interdisciplinary research at your institutes. I was especially impressed by how you develop medicine and biology by combining them with physical and chemical research.
- In one of your interviews in 2012 you said that repatriation of emigrant scientists to Russia is unlikely. They indeed don’t get back but often start heading open labs at Russian universities.
- When I said that I meant that people who moved to the West already have families. Their children study there. That’s why it’s unlikely that they return to Russia and live here. And those who haven’t been able to make a career there are not needed here as well. Renowned scientists come to our open labs on a temporary basis. They have roots in Russia, they have interest. Furthermore, they are usually paid handsomely for their work here. It’s important to understand that they don’t move back but rather just work temporarily. Thankfully, there are now labs in Russia where they can work successfully.
- What do you think about Project 5-100?
- I am skeptical about formal projects and rankings. They have been a fad in the West and now are in Russia. Four European universities have always been among the top thirty in the world – Cambridge, Oxford, Sorbonne and ETH Zurich. But they have been there for historical reasons. If they were no rankings at all, Cambridge would still have Cavendish’s lab, and Zurich – Einstein’s legacy. It’s very important that universities with rich heritage maintain their top level in today’s environment. That can be done only through the development of education and its combination with research. Kazan University, thankfully, does exactly that. And I see a bright future for it.
- And what about Russian science in general and university science in particular?
- The main problem of Russian science is not its low funding but rather low demand for our research from society and the economy. In Tatarstan it’s somewhat better than in Russia on average because you have working industry that makes use of research results. Your President makes huge effort to develop IT, to support the Naberezhnye Chelny cluster, etc. And it would be great if this was true for Russia as a whole.
Roger Kornberg, world-famous biochemist and Nobel laureate, thinks that what Russian science needs the most is governmental support.
Russian universities are tasked with entering the top 100 of world university rankings. According to Dr. Kornberg, the best way to advance is to attract private investment and to teach young scientists how to earn money through their research work.
Priorities are also very important. Natural sciences, said Dr. Kornberg, have developed rapidly in the last century. If the previous period could be called the era of physics, the emerging era probably belongs to biology.
In this regard, as our interviewee emphasized, it’s rather reasonable that Kazan University chose translational medicine as one of its priorities. Such knowledge can be beneficial for professionals and the general public.
Finally, he opined that Russian science definitely has a future, and KFU, in particular, shows immense potential.