Grants, Russian Scientific Fund and Post-Docs Coming Back to Kazan
Currently, KFU is implementing eight projects supported by the Russian Scientific Fund. KFU Vice-Rector for Research, Danis Nurgaliev, explained why there are only eight projects and what the purpose of visit by the Fund representatives is.
Let us recall, that the Russian Scientific Fund (RSF) is the largest investor in fundamental sciences. It was established just a year ago at the initiative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. It aims at support of fundamental and exploratory research groups that occupy leading positions in science. In 2014, RSF held a series of competitions which were won by scientists from various Russian regions. Today we had an interview with KFU Vice-Rector for Research, Danis Nurgaliev.
Mr. Nurgaliev: KFU scientists submitted more than 170 applications to RSF for 2014. The expert selection system was so rigorous that only 8 projects met requirements. Humanitarian projects didn’t receive grants, although they presented a lot of interesting projects.
According to Vice-Rector, selection in some fields of science as Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering Sciences and Earth Sciences was very fierce: twenty applications for one place. In the field of Humanities it was even higher! Competition in the field of Medicine, Biology and Agricultural Sciences was smaller. On average, efficiency of our applications was rather high.
Mr. Nurgaliev: The Fund conducted a competitive selection in terms of scientific, technical programs and projects in several areas - from Mega-grants for the implementation of complex scientific programs of organizations to support for research laboratories, research groups and arrangement of activities for a major conference. The total number of presented types of competitions was 9. In terms of two competitions the acceptance of applications is still in process.
The Institute of Fundamental Medicine and Biology received 4 grants within the competition "Fundamental research and exploratory research by individual research groups".
Currently, Professor Olga Ilinskaya is working on the topic “Natural dimers of microbial ribonuclease: identification and properties”. Group supervised by Andrey Kiassov, is studying “Fundamentals for the regeneration of blood vessels and muscle tissue in chronic ischemia and development of cell-based gene-therapy”. Professor Guzel Sitdikova supervises a group dealing with problems of endogeneous thiol. Associate Professor Ravil Fakhrullin works on the project “New methodologies for the integrated assessment of the toxicity of nano-materials”.
Two grants were allocated to the Alexander Butlerov Institute of Chemistry, they include research works of Gennadiy Evtyugin “Pillararenes as a new platform for creating synthetic electrochemical (bio)sensors” and “Creating Smart vesicles using new amphiphilic thiacalixarenes with receptor properties” by Igor Antipin.
Within RSF competition “Fundamental research and exploratory research by international groups” won groups under the supervision of Alexander Varnek (France) and Takahiro Kikawada (Japan).
The Russian Scientific Fund is a new phenomenon in the field of research funding in Russia. Evaluation of projects, reports, assessment system, financing system, control after intended purpose expenditures, binding of the main product (publications) to the project and assessment of the quality of publications appear to be significantly new in this new fund. Currently, there are still many uncertainties and questions arising for the project executives. Unfortunately, there may have occurred some mistake. On the other hand, RSF administration understands that not everything can be learned from reports. In this regard, on March, 10 representatives of the Russian Science Fund visited KFU.
Mr. Nurgaliev: On March, 10 there was held a meeting with the participation of KFU scientists and RSF delegation consisting of Head of the Unit for Competitions Organization, Igor Protsenko, and Chief Specialist of programs and projects, Anastasia Timofeeva. It is worth noting that RSF has no comments concerning grants implemented in our university, as KFU scientists fully perform their obligations, and the results of visit by representatives of the Fund were satisfying. During the meeting KFU was represented by supervisors and participants of RSF grants, as well as members of subdivisions that are in charge of the implementation of grants at the University.
Incidentally, Vice-Rector for Research expresses hope that this visit to Kazan Federal University by the administration of the Russian Scientific Fund would activate grant activities of University research groups. KFU scientists received firsthand information about all RSF competitions, including how to write an application in order to get projects funding and procedures for the selection of the winners during the seminar organized on March, 11.
Mr. Nurgaliev: The Fund pays great attention to the scientific part of the projects and their implementation, rather than financial problems and funds tracking. They are mostly focused on monitoring of scientific results. In this regard, the Fund warns that it will strictly monitor the availability of correct references to RSF made publications. The main violation that may occur is duplication of funding or misuse of funds. The references should make it clear the work performed and the methods used.
Danis Nurgaliev also noted that each project should include the number of publications a scientist must issue. However, Vice-Rector doesn’t recommend to publish in low quality journals. Experts take this into consideration when reviewing reports. There are examples of termination of projects funding in several scientific institutions.
Mr. Nurgaliev: RSF delegation recalled that failure to fulfil obligations is the key violation. Grantees shouldn’t only “include” a prospective number of articles in the plan, but also publish them in top-ranked journals. If some articles of KFU scientists with links to RSF support appear in Nature or Science, we will, undoubtedly, cheer us.
By the way, Danis Nurgaliev reminded that funding may be terminated thanks to the absence of results, e.g. publications, according to the annual evaluation reports.
Mr. Nurgaliev also covered some burning issues, including the bureaucracy. It would seem that the grant system has many advantages: funds are allocated on a competitive basis, competitions are held on public basis, the projects are evaluated by competent experts. However, implementation of the grant involves reporting, writing a variety of documents, certificates, applications, etc. Those who were happy grantees yesterday are already clutching their heads today. All these activities require too much time. However, conversations with RSF representatives are encouraging as the Fund is working this out seriously.
Mr. Nurgaliev: The Fund objective implies exposure of promising and ambitious projects by the most successful scientists and their support. On the other hand, the Fund objective includes support of relevant projects for the country. Therefore RSF has highlighted the following specific areas in a recent tender for research: “New technologies of extraction and processing of heavy oils”, “New approaches to combat infectious diseases”, “Advanced manufacturing technologies” and “International relations and ethno-social Processes...“
By the way, Kazan University complies with modern tendencies as our priorities are in the right domain.
Mr. Nurgaliev: What new innovations are currently available at KFU? It is not possible to provide an answer to this question in one interview. But to tell in a nutshell, I would have mentioned the following:
Our biomedical experts, among others, develop research in two extremely important areas, including Neurobiology and Gene-Cell Technologies, where we have already attained something and implement it or will in the form of treatment technologies and new tools for research. We can become very prominent in these areas within a few years.
Interesting results were obtained by our archaeologists, who work jointly with biologists, physicists, chemists, geologists, geophysicists ... This interdisciplinary approach provides unique results as we have received the first information about disease that plagued residents of ancient Bulgarians, currently the experts specify date of this event.
Danis Nurgaliev also mentioned a decision made during the meeting of the Academic Council. It implies financial support for our alumni who received PhD degree abroad and returned to alma mater. Within the first year of employment at Kazan University such experts involved in research activities will receive up to 70 thousand rubles!
Mr. Nurgaliev: It is not sufficient only to complete postgraduate programme and defend a dissertation at a foreign university, it is important this university to be ranked among TOP- 100. We have already found the first applicant for financial support: graduate of the Alexander Butlerov Institute of Chemistry Emil Bulatov.