Baikal Summer Schools
«Research and Education Center «Baikal» – development strategy»
Frequently asked questions, photo gallery...
3D model of Lake Baikal
Interview with Nikolay Emelin
Nikolay Mikhailovich Emelin
Deputy Director in Science Work, Federal Central Board “Gosmetodcenter”, Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.
Honoured Worker of Science and Technology of the Russian Federation, Professor, Major-General. Famous specialist in testing, exploitation and security of comprehensive systems, management processes of educational and scientific research activity.
Author of 240 scientific works.
ON RESEARCH EDUCATIONAL CENTERS
Question. Nikolay Mikhailovich, we shall start the interview with the question “Why has the idea of research educational centers (RECs) emerged at present?”
N.E. Research educational centers are new structures which help realize integration of Russian education with Russian science. There is a necessity in this structure which would integrate educational and scientific constituents involving both educational and research institutions of the Academy of Sciences.
Q. What is new in this? It seems as if during the whole life we are dealing with integration, uniting science and education, inviting academic institutions, etc. Perhaps new ideas have been introduced into REC which allow to hope that RECs will work more effectively than before.
N.E. A research educational center is formed to carry out basic scientific investigations in this region by this university and this scientific school which is the basis of a research educational center. A research educational center, first of all, has to bring fundamental studies, which are carried out by classical universities, to their concrete realization and application to life. In fact, application of those fundamental achievements which have been obtained by our classical universities is a weak point at present. Of course, we need certain structural changes, expansion of the existing centers, changes of their administrative-managerial constituent without which it is impossible to solve problems on innovation management and marketing. We have to create such a structure the managerial constituent of which would provide normal, fruitful, free and creative work of our scientists.
Q. You are right, this is an innovation constituent of the centers’ work. It often happens that interesting projects, ideas and results have no success because they cannot force their way into life. Do you mean this?
N.E. Yes, of course. A prerogative of our scientists is to obtain fundamental results. However, they have to be applied to life. This is another kind of activity, another service, and other people who have special training. Undoubtedly, they should be qualified people, people who are engaged in the programme of this REC, who understand tasks and goals of studies. These people should be able to realize this function leaving those issues for scientists which can be perfectly done by them.
Q. It means that everybody has to do their own business.
N.E. This is probably the main principle.
On interaction of science and education
Q. Well, the first part of REC activity is innovational. Another constituent is related to integration between science and education. On the one hand, education lacks modern scientific knowledge. On the other hand, as there is no close connection between students and studies, students do not have motivation to work on science. Due to this science feels deficit in active and energetic young people. How should REC act in this situation?
N.E. Educational constituent of REC has two moments. Firstly, a university cannot be developed, as well as the teacher’s staff, educational disciplines and courses without novel scientific achievements. It is impossible to develop a university without this. Secondly, we have to ascertain that scientific groups feel a real deficit in young talented people. In order to prepare a scientist, it is necessary to start working with a firs-year student, attract him, captivate with your idea and lead him. The main goal of REC is to select those students who indeed have abilities. And then such students will get qualitative education during five years of their studies and at the same time will be moulded as young promising researchers, future post-graduates, and future scientists. We often speak about continuous education during the whole life. We should speak also about continuity of scientific work beginning from the first years of studies at the university.
Q. It means education through science.
N.E. Ii is impossible in another way – it is impossible to get serious education only through textbooks. Of course, there is scientific knowledge in textbooks. However, it is not sufficient.
Q. As I understand, research educational centers can play a significant role as they create the so-called environment which unites people of different generations and with different level of experience. From this point of view, research educational centers may serve as an incubator and filter which select talented and motivated young people who are able to work.
N.E. Undoubtedly, this is the basic educational idea of REC. We can speak a lot about student scientific circles and the kind. However, their scientific activity is not vivid, while REC purposefully works with concrete young people in the advanced scientific sphere, filters, selects and brings them up. In such situation, the student understands how interesting and captivating the idea of investigations on the brink of science is – everything is provided by REC. REC allows to attract for joint studies outstanding scientists and other organizations, e.g. institutes of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and other universities.
Q. You have mentioned the development of university’s fundamental science. Do you think that research educational centers being an internal structure of universities are able to cooperate with external academic institutions? Which forms are possible and what could be the optimal trajectory of development for more effective attraction of external academic forces to the activity of research educational centers?
N.E. It is necessary to widely examine the idea of science integration which we have spoken about before. What does it mean to integrate university science and academic science? It is simple to form normal scientific creative groups which have one common idea and which can fruitfully apply this idea to life. Forms of cooperation may be different from discussion symposia, conferences and so on, which are well known, to various forms of temporal creative groups on some contract basis. At present, it is impossible to work without this.
Q. There is another side of research educational centers. Is it possible that any idea and new approaches which are created within research educational centers will affect the development of universities in the future and become the basis for modernization of university life?
N.E. A simple idea is created in research educational centers – to come to the brink of science. We have to admit that it is impossible to work, let say, on such unique object as Lake Baikal without interdisciplinary relations. Different scientific aspects should be interconnected. Qualified specialists should be engaged in this activity who, for example, can build mathematical models of this or that natural phenomenon and who can help biologists or geologists solve their problems. This interrelation and interdisciplinary relationship between different scientific trends will give an impulse for further development of science. Thus, we will solve the problem of applying fundamental results to practice within the framework of REC. This is one of the basic advantages of such structures.
Q. In other words, being on the shore of such a unique natural object as Lake Baikal, we may say that the main task of REC is not only promotion of some disciplines and trends of studies, but also the use of another approach which, in particular, is realized at Irkutsk State University and which orients the research educational center to the most comprehensive object, thus uniting uncoordinated forces and integrating scientists, postgraduates and students.
N.E. Lake Baikal is so different! It is so beautiful and marvelous! There is so much unknown here! Such different aspects of scientific investigations are joined on this unique lake! Undoubtedly, Irkutsk State University has to focus on this unique object. None of the narrow aspects of studies is possible to solve a problem in a full range. Integration is the main power of REC.
On organization of scientific investigations
Q. We did paid attention to the fact that a research educational center gives an opportunity to unite people, and from this point of view it is an interesting structure. Now I would like to touch upon another aspect of this problem. You are a famous specialist in the organization of a scientific process which may be characterized as a special type of management. Scientific processes put forward very complicated tasks: people with different characters, various aspects of studies, innovation trend related to education and involvement of new talented youth, etc. Do you think that research educational centers may serve as a platform for approbation and testing of new schemes of management? It is known that we sometimes have problems with management. Is REC able to test those methods which you have been developed?
N.E. For the last two years we have been working in the analytical targeted programme of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science “Development of Scientific Potential of Universities (2006-2008)”. As you understand, we have encountered interesting scientific projects which are realized within the framework of this programme. But as it always happens in methodology, we have to use a common concept to set a proper task, to find its proper solution, to realize and apply it, and finally to publish the results. When there is no such understanding, it is very difficult to judge about those scientific results which we would like to obtain within the framework of the programme. In the management structure of REC there should be people who determine conceptual and methodological trends of scientific studies. There should be a separate analytical group which will deal with tasks. Let it be formal tasks – at the level of application, requirements specification and other documents. But we will speak different languages if executives and supervisors are not informed about these concepts and if there is no mutual understanding.
Q. It means that people sometimes do not understand each other, do they? Do they treat a basic terminology in a different way? As far as I know, people often regard “a task” quite differently.
N.E. There are a lot of classical examples of this kind – the aim of studies, tasks of studies and scientific results. We clearly understand that when we speak about integration of education and science, scientific research should be accompanied by modernization of educational programmes and curricula, textbooks and training aids. However, the compilation of a textbook is not a scientific result. We have to carry out research, to obtain reliable scientific results and then to think how we can apply these fundamental results to the development of this or that discipline.
Q. Probably this is a service function of REC, namely the function of promotion and approval of the common methodology. On the other hand, the service function renders a support in preparation of grant applications and requirements specification. Sometimes researchers are left to the mercy of fate and they do what they are able to do. It often happens that a talented mathematician, for example, does not possess skills in writing applications and other documents.
N.E. That is just the point.
Q. Therefore, the main functions of REC are also services and support of researchers.
N.E. This is a managerial constituent of REC responsible for arranging documents into a necessary structure beginning from an application and ending with realization of scientific work. We have to teach students. We have to teach any postgraduate and a Ph.D. student who should clearly understand their scientific task, scientific problem and the aim of their research…
Q. In the end, you teach them how to lay out a dissertation.
N.E. Not to mention how to lay out a scientific report. In fact, everything is given in the Russian State Standards. We have to teach this. Let us examine what is happening in this field. Advanced training and continuous studying have to be done in everything. It is necessary to teach simple things a student, a postgraduate, even an honoured professor. Namely we deal with this aspect. We teach students and postgraduates, we teach scientific researchers and managers of scientific research departments. The aim of this teaching is to speak one understandable language.
ON FUTURE PROGRAMME
Q. You have gained large experience in realization of the programme on forming RECs. You have probably analyzed its first results. Will a new programme of the Ministry be updated taking into account the experience gained in the current programme?
N.E. Yes, we have already been working on this programme for two years and have obtained a number of quite interesting results especially those concerning fundamental investigations. There are lot of interesting projects, including those on Lake Baikal studies. Unfortunately, we have to state that at present the second educational component which is aimed at the development of educational structure does not completely meet those requirements which were laid in the very programme of development of scientific potential. Therefore, as the programme works on the open competitive basis, we had to announce an additional call. In 2008, we hope to obtain more effective results in the educational component of the programme.
Q. It means that the separation between science and education still remains and remains in people’s minds. People perceive REC, first of all, as a scientific project, and there is not enough attention to integration of science and education.
N.E. In this programme and its indicators, we are trying to show those issues which are necessary for the development of scientific potential and educational structure. We mean training of young researchers, defence of dissertations, compilation of textbooks, and elaboration of new curricula based on those REC projects which are being realized in order to develop an educational component. Let it be singular lectures with some scientific components. This will beautify any educational discipline. This is the main aim of this programme. The programme has already been working and its continuation is supposed for 2009-2010.
ABOUT LAKE BAIKAL
Q. Nikolay Mikhailovich, could you please share your impressions of Lake Baikal?
N.E. Impressions… It is difficult to express them even in words. Such an unusual beauty, such a pearl which belongs not only to Russia, but to the whole world! I cannot but mention those unique possibilities which Baikal presents to researchers. The beauty of Lake Baikal brings fame to Irkutsk State University. The University of Pribaikalye should become a pearl. I would like sincerely Lake Baikal to have such a pearl – an excellent classical university. This task does not have a final solution. This process is continuous. There are a lot of opportunities for perfection. I wish you a success. Irkutsk State University should go only in this direction.
Q. We have got the idea. Thank you very much that you support our ambitions. We would also like to make the project of Research Educational Center “Baikal” interesting. Thank you ever so much for such an interesting conversation.
N.E. Thank you.
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