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Russia Sets Up Controversial Mega-Watchdog for Scientific Research

© Sputnik / Artem Zhitenev / Go to the photo bankOlga Golodets
Olga Golodets - Sputnik International
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A new mega-watchdog to oversee Russia’s scientific research programs was set up by the government on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets said.

MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) – A new mega-watchdog to oversee Russia’s scientific research programs was set up by the government on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets said.

The decree was not available on the government’s website as of late Friday, but a copy of a draft dated Wednesday was posted on the Academy of Sciences’ website.

According to the document, the Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations (FASO) will manage the assets of hundreds of research institutes, approve their research programs and confirm leadership nominees.

The agency is taking over the job from the Russian Academy of Sciences, which is losing control of most of its 434 research organizations to the FASO under a government-backed reform.

The agency will also control most Russian scientific organizations not affiliated with the academy, Deputy Education and Science Minister Lyudmila Ogorodova said Thursday.

The Academy of Sciences, which has about 48,000 researchers, has unsuccessfully opposed the creation of the FASO, saying it would give control of scientific research to professional bureaucrats.

The research community will still be able to influence the FASO’s science-related decision-making through a special scientific council at the agency, Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov said Friday.

But Livanov named no prospective members nor said how much authority would be vested in the council, which is to be set up by a separate governmental decree.

The government late Thursday appointed Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kotyukov, a financial expert without an academic degree, to head the FASO.

“I don’t know this man … but of course I’m ready to work with him,” the president of the Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Fortov, said about Kotyukov.

Academy members have earlier claimed that the government’s real objective for the reform is to take over the academy’s lucrative assets, inherited from Soviet times.

Such allegations have been repeatedly rejected by the government, which for years has been accusing the Academy of Sciences of ineffectiveness, a problem that academy leadership blamed on a lack of state funding.

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