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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
Russian scientists march on Moscow
A rocket booster blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome
Russian science was once the envy of the world

Russian scientists have organised a march on Moscow in protest at the desperate state of affairs in Russian science.


Russia's budgetary spending on science is now less than a budget of a single major Western university

About 150 scientists from across Russia are setting off on foot from a research centre 100 kilometres (62 miles) to the south of Moscow.

They plan to cover the distance in three days and hold a rally by the gates of the Russian Government offices on Thursday.

They will urge the government to reverse the current downward trend and increase the funding for science.

Brain drain

Russian science, once the envy of the world, is now a shadow of its former self, scientists here say.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Putin has pledged to rejuvenate Russia's science
They used to compete as equals with the United States; now they leave Russia in droves for a better life in the West.

At least half-a-million scientists have left Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The reason for this massive brain drain is simple: a Russian scientist is paid a $100 a month for a job that is worth thousands of dollars in the West.

Russian physicists, biologists, and chemists are in high demand in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Russian-speaking programmers, for example, are said to be responsible for developing about 30% of Microsoft's products.

Budgets slashed

President Putin has made rejuvenating Russia's scientific establishment a priority.

He has been urging the scientists to streamline their research and focus on developing new technologies.

But the scientists accuse the government of reneging on its pledge to keep up funding.

Russia's budgetary spending on science has decreased two-fold in the past six years and is now less than a budget of a single major Western university, the organisers of the scientists' protest say.

In a veiled criticism of their action, an official of the Russian Academy of Sciences said the unions would be better off helping the government to turn the tide.

He claimed that many Russian researchers would like to return home - provided they were offered decent conditions.

But that is exactly what the protesters will be demanding from the government.

See also:

26 Nov 98 | Europe
30 Aug 01 | Americas
18 Apr 01 | Europe
29 May 02 | Country profiles
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