Prof. em. Dr. Hanno Schaumburg, Hamburg University of Technology, Germany
After the perestroika in 1990 a significant decay in science and industrial production took place in all successor states of the Soviet union – mainly because of poor financing and inadequate management from government and industry. For many years only a few industrial products for civilian use were internationally competitive – the main income came from energy and raw materials (in Russia still two thirds of the exports and half of the federal revenue are generated by oil – 85% of Russia´s ex-ports are raw materials or primary commodities).
Only a few years ago it has been recognized by the governments that this situation is unacceptable – even dangerous – for the future: Most presidential programs now give a first rate priority to the restoration of science and industry. It is well understood that science and industry are closely related – practically all industrial innovations nowadays are a consequence of new scientific developments.
TheRussian FederationandKazakhstanhave recently invested significant additional budgets into science research and development with the prospect of further increases. InRussiamost of the $6 billion budget has gone into new buildings for educational institutions and research – together with huge investments into scientific equipment, mostly from Europe, theUSA, andJapan. The same strategy is followed inKazakhstanwith an unprecedented effort called “Road Map -Business and science -2020” presented by President Nazarbayev in December 2011 to be developed by February 2012. According to this, the companies of the republic will allot 1% for research. President Nazar-bayev points out that this will raise the science level and the prestige of research workers. He em-phasized that the commercialization of scientific research is vitally important to the country. Accord-ing to him,Kazakhstannow faces the task to increase science financing by 2014 to 1% of GDP, which would be about $ 2.5 billion.
A heavy budgetary investment into science certainly is a necessary condition, but it is also sufficient? One has to understand the nature and the rules-of-the-game it science – it is not only money, but also time. Science to a great extent is a “trial and error” game – for every success usually there exists a large number of unsuccessful attempts – that takes time. Practice shows that the readiness and efficiency of scientists to learn from somebody else´s errors is limited, most believe predominantly in the mistakes they made themselves. Therefore it is quite likely that science inRussiaandKazakhstanhas to pass through the same, maybe mildly accelerated, “learning curve” as science in Europe, theUSA, theFar East, and elsewhere before.
The consequence could be unexpected: In spite of the large investments in science and technology the existing “knowledge gap” will not or only slowly decrease with time. This is why a strong point should be made for international cooperation, which is not less essential for the development of science and industry inRussiaandKazakhstanthan large-scale investments. Characteristics for nec-essary international cooperation activities should be:
• Creation of knowledge pools with strong long-term commitments between Western and Eastern research institutions and higher educational institutes comprising in a large-scale ex-change of professors and scientists, joint research programs, joint PhDs and publications, etc. Scientists from Russia and Central Asia should work several years in European, US-American and other institutions, acquire much of the experience and lessons learnt there and – based on this – create new scientific schools in their home countries where they should find similar well-equipped laboratories as in those with their Western partners where they have been trained before.
• Also experienced scientists from Western countries should be attracted toCentral Asiawho transfer their knowledge in an accelerated way to students and future researchers. From the beginning these specialists should be strongly involved in the planning of investments: Scien-tific equipment and laboratory buildings have to be carefully designed to meet the interna-tional standards necessary for successful competitive research. Unfortunately, in the past and presently large budgets have been and are unsuccessfully spent by the absence of pro-fessional knowledge about the requirements of state-of-the-art research facilities.
In both of the previously mentioned directions Kazakhstan has initiated already the first significant activities: The Russian-type “Aspirantura” is not valid anymore and has been replaced by a Western-type “PhD” –with the necessary conditions that all PhD-thesises have to be co-instructed and co-evaluated by experienced professors and researchers from countries representing the international high level of scientific research. In Astana some years ago the “NasarbayevUniversity” has been cre-ated where with the support of European professors a sustainable base will be created for interna-tionally competitive research in the future. It is expected that with a rise of science inKazakhstanthe quality and quantity of innovative enterprises will increase significantly and lead out of the former stalemate situation.
What is most important now in all countries that developed from theSoviet Unionis a strong effi-cient management of science and research in universities, scientific institutions, Academies of Sci-ences, and industrial laboratories. These managers must have an excellent personal scientific back-ground, good contacts to the international arena of scientific research, a profound understanding of the challenges of contemporary science, they must have the talent to identify and attract young tal-ents, give them the right assignments and provide to them the necessary support from abroad.
This necessary kind of management talent can be found everywhere inRussiaandCentral Asia: Giv-ing them the right personal and financial support they will be able to make the “knowledge gap” in science and industry eventually vanish.
nCa — 21 February 2012