(The Moscow News) There’s a new president in town, and his name is Vladimir Fortov. President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, that is. Fortov, a prominent Russian physicist and head of Moscow’s Joint Institute for High Temperatures, won 58 percent of the vote in a secret-ballot election among academy members last week. He beat out two other candidates for the presidential seat. Fortov will replace Yury Osipov – the outgoing head who’s been president of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) since 1991- after being approved by President Vladimir Putin.
In other countries, Fortov’s victory would be a happy promotion within the prestigious and rapidly expanding industry of scientific development. Unfortunately, in Russia, Fortov inherits a leadership position in a field that has been riddled for years with suffocating bureaucracy, petty infighting, corruption, and dwindling productivity. Fortov promised in his campaign platform to lower the level of bureaucracy in academia, establish constructive collaboration between the RAS and the Ministry of Education and Science, and raise the prestige of Russian science. “The academy is ready for change and feels the need for that,” he told journalists following his victory on Wednesday. “[We] must be more dynamic, flexible, and sustainable…it is the 21st century now and we must keep abreast of the times.”
Although the majority of academy members expressed support for Fortov’s ideas through their votes, spectators seemed dubious about his ability to realize meaningful change. Combating oppressive red tape and cheating scandals while raising productivity, acquiring decent funding and soothing administrative quarrels are obviously a tall order for any man.
“I am trying to be optimistic,” Ivan Kurilla, chair of the Department of International Relations and Area Studies at Volgograd State University, told The Moscow News. “Fortov seems like an active person, and he seems to understand many of the problems. I don’t think there is any other way than for him to try to change the situation.” […]
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