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In interrupted Russian academy elections, researchers find signs of state interference.chemistry

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The Kremlin this week tightened its control over the 300-year-old Russian Academy of Sciences, with current president Alexander Sergeyev citing “administrative pressures” facing many RAS members as an election ban. He resigned from his second term the day before. “Aloud” The 67-year-old laser physicist, widely expected to win, refused to elaborate on his resignation to members attending the RAS Annual Meeting in Moscow, but it was ” Instead, Gennady Krasnikov, who heads Russia’s largest chipmaker Mikron, won the Sept. 20 elections.

Michael Godin, who studies the history of Russian science at Princeton University, says the chaos shows that state intervention continues to undermine the once-powerful academy. Forcibly removing competitive candidates from the ballot “is part of a series of actions taken by the Russian state to ensure a favorable election outcome,” said an expert on Russian politics at the University of Texas at Austin. Researcher Robert Moser agrees.

Some outspoken RAS members attempted to organize an electoral boycott at short notice. However, a small quorum was willing to secretly vote for his two remaining candidates, Krasnikov and Dmitry his Markovich, who heads the Institute of Thermophysics in Siberia. Krasnikov won by his margin of 871 to 397 votes.

In the last RAS election in 2017, then-incumbent President Vladimir Fortov, who was running for re-election, also resigned on the first day of the conference. “The difference is that at that time everyone withdrew and the elections were postponed,” said Askold, a RAS member and historian of his CNRS, the RAS Institute for World History and the French national research institute. Ivanchik says. Six months later, Sergeyev won and Krasnikov took third place. Now, says Ivantchik, “the door was left open for the government’s preferred candidate.”

In a speech the day before the election, Yuri Solomonov, the chief designer of ballistic missiles at the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, said he was an “unfortunate” sign that Sergeyev did not have the support of the country’s leadership. Having said that, I cast my support for Krasnikov. (Solomonov had endorsed Sergeyev in his 2017.) Krasnikov, 64, was a lifelong employee of Mikron, and after Russia’s annexation of Crimea sparked sanctions in 2016, Putin made him a national Electronics as a technical priority for the company.

Markovich, on the other hand, was a highly progressive candidate who spoke on issues rarely paid attention to in Russian science, such as gender imbalance. In his final campaign speech, he spotlighted a scientist he said had been “wrongly” indicted for treason. (Since 2000, dozens of scientists working in fields related to hypersonic weapons have been indicted and imprisoned for treason.)

Irina Dezhina, a science policy researcher at the Institute for Transition Economics, said the election disruption would be a “blow” for the RAS. The academy has always been “a wholly national creation” and pays its bills, notes Godin, but in his turbulent 1990s it gave an unprecedented impact on the nation’s research budget. . Then Putin reversed most of his RAS control over research institutions with his 2013 changes, which he stripped from the RAS. “I am now a shadow of my former self in terms of power and social influence,” says Godin.

Krasnikov said in his first press conference as president-elect that the academy should be returned to high-level decisions on science funding and policy. , echoing the Academy’s call published in its annual State of Science report in August. Dezhina believes the government will ignore vague calls, saying, “There are enough managers in the scientific field. The problem is the managers. The number of researchers is decreasing year by year.” Development budgets are stagnant at around 1% of gross domestic product, well below the developed world average.

The invasion of Ukraine has isolated Russian science and triggered widespread sanctions, including those against Mikron. It has also deeply divided the scientific community. In his final remarks before the vote, Malkovich wanted peace, but it was a dangerous stance.Just two days later, public anti-war demonstrations led to the detention of more than 1,400 street demonstrators across Russia. .

In his campaign speech, Krasnikov blamed Western sanctions, not Russia’s own actions, on recent technological constraints that are crippling Russian science. After the election, he also said he would prioritize “technical sovereignty.” Putin is expected to formally remove Sergeyev from public affairs and approve Krasnikov in the coming days.