|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
The Moscow Times / 06 November 2013 | Issue 5249
Technology Expert Sees Fear of Failure Inhibiting Russian Innovation
На форуме «Открытые инновации», проходившем с 31 октября по 2 ноября в Москве, главный редактор и издатель MIT Technology Review Джеймс Понтин представил результаты исследования, в котором определил перспективы России в важнейших областях инноваций на мировом рынке.
По его мнению, несмотря на имеющийся научный потенциал, пройдет несколько поколений, прежде чем вложения в инновации принесут плоды. Одна из причин - проблемы российского законодательства и особенности корпоративного управления, ставящие предпринимателей в невыгодное положение.
Despite its extraordinary scientific capacity, a stated desire to be competitive and the availability of capital, it may take several generations before Russia's investment in innovation will bear fruit, a report by MIT on the country's role in global innovation shows.
Russia has many of the necessary elements to take its place next to the U.S. and China as one of the great developers of global technologies, said Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief of MIT's Technology Review, which conducted the research.
But there are things that Russia is doing to encourage innovation that are really not best practice, he said in an interview.
"I did not know how idiosyncratic Russia's understanding of the innovation process was," Pontin said. "I admire Medvedev's commitment to making Russia a technological center of the world. Russia does have the intellectual capacity to do it." But there is an important aspect of corporate governance here that puts Russian technology entrepreneurs at a disadvantage, he added.
"If your company goes bankrupt in the U.S., and you are a founder, you are not personally responsible for the bankruptcy. But [this scenario] does not exist in Russia. And as long as Russian entrepreneurs feel that they are personally at risk … it forces them to fear failure. And the great point about being an entrepreneur and an innovator is you have to not care about failure. In fact, you have to know that failure is a good thing," he said.
"But in this country, failure is terrifying. And for a good reason as well - you can go to jail!"
Although Russia has the "OOO" structure as its equivalent to a limited liability company in the West, the understanding of "wrongdoing" by an owner that could lead to personal liability is much broader and includes errors committed by financial officers and even accountants.
"According to the Russian law, company founders are liable if the bankruptcy is caused by their wrongdoing. This includes more than just fictitious bankruptcy," Vadim Tkachenko, a lawyer from the Gradient Alpha consulting group said. "The judicial practice has been moving in this direction … since 1996."
In addition to that, Pontin said he did not realize how much Russia struggled with translating its research into commercial products - something that new research universities, like the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, are now trying to do.
It may well be due to the fact that Russian scientists and the general public still think that "business is somehow dirty, and that business is the province of crooks and distasteful unsavory people," Pontin said.
According to the Global Corruption Barometer, a survey published by Transparency International this year, 57 percent of respondents in Russia felt that business was corrupt or even extremely corrupt.
"I think it has been said by many voices - it is a challenge and a big problem," said Esko Aho, former Finnish Prime Minister and now head of Business Team for Russia, an organization promoting economic relations between Russia and Finland. "If and when Russia wants to be an active player in the global arena and be active in global business, you do not have a choice but to have a very good governance system and code of conduct. It is critical," Aho added.
The MIT study, which was prepared for last week's Open Innovations forum in Moscow, has identified nanotechnology, hyper-connectivity, work automation and consumer power as the four most important areas of innovation in the global economy.
In each of the areas, Pontin identified ways in which Russia could become a leader on the world arena.
The report showed that having already invested more than the U.S. or Britain in nanotechnology, and with its advances in nuclear power, space technology and heavy industry, Russia may have comparative advantages in the future.
In regards to hyper-connectivity - mobile Internet adoption and the use of Internet-enabled devices - Russia has become the largest Internet market in Europe. Companies and government entities, at every level, are using large amounts of data. Natural resource and financial sectors are the leaders in this sphere because they have the most to gain from this technology.
"A crucial and unique challenge to Russia will be to navigate how public companies may use the data they have collected on their customers," Pontin said.
The work automation encompasses such technologies as 3D printers, mass customization and robotics. Russia needs to modernize its traditional manufacturing and invest in research and development, instead of trying to achieve new heights by doing things the old way, Pontin said. A highly trained workforce is the key to success in this sphere.
Regarding consumer power, the potential of the Russian market is extraordinary, Pontin said. Electronic commerce is the future of the digital economy in Russia, where online shopping is still in its infancy but has the fastest growth rate in Europe.
According to a June report from East-West Digital News, online sales in Russia reached $13 billion in 2013, a 27 percent increase year on year. With only 61 million people out of the 143.5 million total population using the Internet on a weekly basis, the Russian e-commerce market has huge potential.
Just a few years ago there was only a handful of researchers able to present their ideas to investors, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said during the innovation forum. "Now, we have tens of thousands to choose from."
This happened because the government has set innovation development as a political priority, Dvorkovich said.
© Copyright 1992-2013. The Moscow Times. All rights reserved.
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The Conversation / 11 November 2013
Russia's floating nuclear plants to power remote Arctic regions
Россия приступает к реализации программы по созданию плавучих атомных электростанций. Первая из них - "Академик Ломоносов" - уже построена, после установки двух реакторов ее отправят на Дальний Восток. Всего же планируется построить десять станций для использования в отдаленных и малонаселенных районах.
Though Russia is one of the world's largest producers of oil and gas, it is embarking on an ambitious and somewhat imaginative programme of building floating nuclear power stations. These are part of Russia's wider investment in nuclear energy, with many reactors beginning construction in the next few years and technology being exported to China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Jordan and Turkey.
These reactors, mounted on huge, 140m by 30m barges, are being built in the Baltic shipyard in St Petersburg and will be floated through the Norwegian and Barents Seas to where they will generate heat and electrical power in the Arctic.
The first, Academician Lomonosov, has been built and its two 35MWe KLT-40S reactors are now bein installed. Lomonosov is destined for Vilyuchinsk, on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East where she will be operating by 2016. Up to ten similar plants are destined for similarly remote and unpopulated areas.
Power where it's needed
Russia is building these reactors to help extract its most valuable asset: Siberian oil and gas. This requires huge quantities of energy and large amounts of heat for the operators living in subzero temperatures. Relatively small, self-contained nuclear power units such as these are a way of providing energy in this inhospitable, isolated region far from the grid. Nuclear power is seen as both dependable and relatively simple to operate.
The concept is not new. The US mounted a submarine nuclear power plant on the Liberty ship, Sturgis, in 1966 to power the Panama Canal Zone from 1968 to 1975.
The Russian concept shares a similar heritage, using two small, military reactors designed for nuclear powered icebreakers. Instead of driving a ship's propeller, it drives electricity generators and has facilities to provide heating. Larger barge-mounted reactors up to 600MWe are planned - a similar size to a civil nuclear, gas- or coal-fired power station on land.
Cheaper to run?
Such plants are ideal for remote regions and these reactors are a direct application of military industries. Can they tell us anything about the economics and safety of small power reactors?
The KLT-40S reactor is fuelled by 30-40% enriched uranium, which falls outside what would be allowed for civil use (concern about weapons proliferation limits enrichment to very low levels). The reactors are built in factories and assembled in shipyards, where productivity is much higher and quality standards easier to police than on construction sites. But military reactors are designed with little thought for costs and because of their small power output it's very likely that their lifetime generating costs will be several times that of large, grid-connected reactors, and many more times higher that of a gas power station.
Mixed safety record
Modern nuclear safety practice focuses on the "three Cs": control of reactivity, cooling of the core, and containment of radioactivity. Each of these has to be completely effective and reliable, so designers employ multiple system redundancy with backups and layers of protection.
Just how safe Russian military reactors are is clouded in secrecy; we just don't know how safe the KLT-40S is. Russia has successfully operated nine nuclear icebreakers over the past 50 years. On the other hand we know that seven Russian nuclear submarines have sunk, some due to reactor problems and others due to weapons explosion onboard, and a further ten reported reactor accidents. So this reactor's pedigree is not unblemished.
Cooling systems for civil reactors have become very complex and this is a prime cause of soaring construction costs. It is difficult to install in a naval vessel the number of systems and separate them so that they provide redundancy should one fail. New ideas are needed, such as the natural circulation cooling used in some small reactor designs in the US. They provide cooling through largely passive systems, which are inherently less complex and therefore cheaper.
Providing containment is difficult in a small plant. The usual approach is to construct a very large, almost cathedral-like, box around the reactor to ensure that even in the worst case a radioactive release is kept inside the plant. The result of poor containment design can be seen from the disaster at Fukushima in 2011, where radioactivity had to be vented into the atmosphere to ensure the structure did not burst from built up pressure.
As with many other aspects, we do not know whether the containment structure of the Russian reactors will be effective. Though the Russians are being imaginative in developing barge-mounted reactors to address a problem specific to their geography and their needs, the lack of openness makes it hard to see how useful their nuclear technology can be in the West.
Britain still has a similar nuclear capability and a nuclear-powered naval fleet, but one more attuned to civil safety standards. But, unlike Russia and the US, Britain is making little attempt to develop such small, factory-built reactors as a counter to the huge costs of civil reactors - such as the multi-billion pound planned power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Copyright © 2010-2013, The Conversation Trust (UK).
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Le Temps / Mardi 12 novembre 2013
Main basse sur la science
Одним из последствий реформы Академии наук может стать новый всплеск "утечки мозгов".
A l'initiative de Vladimir Poutine, la vénérable Académie des sciences a perdu le contrôle de ses instituts de recherche et de ses laboratoires, ce qui met en émoi toute la communauté scientifique.
Piètres funérailles pour l'Académie des sciences de Russie. L'adieu à la vieille dame fondée en 1724 à l'initiative de Pierre le Grand et mère de 14 Prix Nobel, a eu lieu en petit comité, sans oraison funèbre ni requiem.
C'était le 18 septembre, à deux pas du Kremlin, devant l'imposant bâtiment de la Douma (chambre basse du parlement). Quelques centaines de chercheurs, scientifiques et étudiants s'étaient rassemblés pour protester contre la réforme de l'institution, approuvée au même moment par les députés - 226 voix pour, 107 voix contre, une abstention. Sur le trottoir, la police tardait à entrer en action. L'apparition d'une couronne funéraire et d'un cercueil en carton changea la donne. La symbolique mortuaire, prestement confisquée, fut embarquée à bord d'un fourgon avec quelques récalcitrants. Le cercueil et la couronne serviront de pièce à conviction en cas de poursuites contre les auteurs de la parodie.
Non autorisée, la manifestation n'a pas fait recette. Quelques centaines de personnes, bien peu au regard des 12 millions de Moscovites, et même des 95000 employés de l'Académie (de l'appariteur au directeur d'institut) répartis sur tout le territoire de la Fédération. Indifférence? Non, tant le projet de réforme définitivement validé par Vladimir Poutine le 27 septembre a suscité l'émoi de la communauté scientifique.
La plupart des têtes pensantes de la Russie ont été choquées avant tout par la méthode. Les chercheurs reconnaissaient sans mal la nécessité de "rationaliser" et de "moderniser" l'institution, pour reprendre les termes chers au président. Mais, en fait de réforme, ils dénoncent une "opération spéciale" menée tambour battant pour confisquer les biens immobiliers conséquents - 2,5 millions de mètres carrés - de l'Académie.
En juin, les députés de la Douma ont sorti de leur chapeau une première version de la réforme. Ses auteurs préfèrent rester anonymes et on peut les comprendre. La loi dit noir sur blanc que la vénérable institution doit être soumise à "liquidation", un peu comme on brade les vieux stocks d'un grand magasin.
Voté au pas de charge, le texte est entré en vigueur le 27 septembre. Le mot "liquidation" a disparu mais l'esprit est resté. L'Académie perd le contrôle de ses instituts de recherche et de ses laboratoires. La bureaucratie prend le relais. Dans un premier temps, trois académies (sciences, médecine, agronomie) vont être réunies. Les académiciens ne voulaient pas de cette refonte, ils l'ont eue. Les discussions entamées en juillet entre Vladimir Poutine et le président de l'Académie, Vladimir Fortov, n'y ont rien fait. Malgré les promesses faites par Vladimir Poutine au début du mois de septembre, les amendements proposés par les scientifiques n'ont pas été retenus, laissant chez les chercheurs un sentiment de trahison.
Propriétés, flux financier, gestion des programmes et du personnel, dorénavant tout sera géré par une "agence" gouvernementale aux contours mal définis. Vladimir Fortov devait la diriger, le président Poutine s'y était engagé. Finalement, Mikhaïl Kotoukov, 37 ans, ex-vice-ministre des Finances, inconnu de la communauté des chercheurs, a été nommé le 19 octobre.
Plus que tout, les scientifiques craignaient de voir Mikhaïl Kovaltchouk, le directeur de l'Institut nucléaire Kourtchatov, prendre la tête de l'institution. Chouchou du maître, l'homme est copieusement détesté par la communauté scientifique. Son portrait est ainsi apparu, lors d'une conférence de l'Académie, accolé à celui de l'agronome Trofim Lyssenko (1898-1976), auteur d'une théorie génétique bidon mais ami de Staline. Manipulateur et sans scrupule, Trofim Lyssenko fit interdire les recherches génétiques, une "pseudoscience" disait-il, et contribua au massacre d'une bonne partie des généticiens, de 1940 à 1950.
C'est par Mikhaïl Kovaltchouk que la réforme est arrivée. En mai, le physicien se représentait à l'élection de directeur de l'Institut de cristallographie de Moscou, une routine, pensait celui qui dirige cet établissement depuis 1998. Au point qu'il ne se déplaça pas le jour du vote.
Au moment du décompte des voix, seules 66 personnes avaient voté pour lui au lieu des 73 nécessaires. Un nouveau scrutin fut prestement organisé. Le résultat se révéla plus désastreux encore. Mikhaïl Kovaltchouk dut se contenter du titre de directeur ad interim. Un mois plus tard, Vladimir Poutine ripostait à la mauvaise manière faite à son ami en annonçant sa réforme.
Le coup est rude, car l'institution se trouve privée de son fleuron: l'élection à bulletin secret des directeurs par les collectifs de chercheurs. Un scrutin sans bourrage d'urnes, véritable rareté dans la Russie poutinienne. Désormais, les élections deviennent une pure formalité, puisqu'il faut l'accord des fonctionnaires pour désigner des candidats.
Ni les tsars ni les soviets n'avaient osé aller jusque-là. En 1979, le dirigeant soviétique Leonid Brejnev demanda au président de l'Académie, à l'époque Anatoli Alexandrov, de retirer son titre à l'académicien Andreï Sakharov, Prix Nobel de la paix 1975 et critique du régime. Peine perdue, rétorqua Alexandrov, car pour être exclu il faut avoir contre soi les deux tiers des votants, un processus difficile à contrôler car le vote est secret. Les dirigeants du Politburo durent renoncer. Sakharov garda son titre et son bureau pendant toute la durée de son exil à Gorki.
Pour la plupart des chercheurs, la réforme est une pilule amère. "Les recherches seront dirigées par des bureaucrates qui n'y comprennent pas grand-chose. Ils risquent d'imposer aux chercheurs des contrôles de plus en plus lourds et dépourvus de sens", assure Askold Ivantchik, 48 ans, membre-correspondant de l'Académie.
Cet historien vit entre Moscou et Bordeaux - il est directeur de recherche au CNRS. Depuis son bureau de Moscou, situé au 32e étage du bâtiment blanc et or de l'Académie, avec vue imprenable sur la ville, les forêts denses et les méandres de la Moskova, il craint le pire: "L'Académie aura un rôle purement consultatif lors de la nomination des directeurs, l'élaboration des programmes de recherche et l'attribution des financements." Cela tient aussi à la conception du texte. Selon lui, au lieu de s'inspirer du modèle américain, avec ses exigences de rentabilité, les auteurs de la loi auraient dû davantage coller au "modèle européen", de type CNRS.
Il est vrai que l'Académie représente un enjeu financier majeur. Richement dotée, elle administre un patrimoine immobilier considérable - hôtels particuliers, bâtiments historiques avec parcs au centre de Moscou. Jadis, la propriété privée n'existait pas, tout était aux mains de l'Etat. Vingt-deux ans après l'effondrement de l'URSS, c'est encore le cas pour les trois quarts des immeubles et des terres.
Jusque-là, le praesidium de l'Académie gérait ces biens conjointement avec le Département des propriétés de l'Etat. Le nouveau texte y a mis fin. Pour le reste, un grand flou domine. "La seule chose que je peux dire avec certitude, c'est que nous sommes dans l'incertitude, souligne Vladimir Martchenko, enseignant et docteur en physique. L'oukase a été publié, des changements vont se produire. Mais lesquels?"
L'institut de recherche dont il dépend, créé en 1934 par le savant Piotr Kapitsa, est un havre de paix, loin du brouhaha de l'avenue Leninski et de ses 4x4 lancés à tombeau ouvert. Dans la salle où les chercheurs se retrouvent pour siroter un café, l'esprit du génial Kapitsa, Prix Nobel de physique en 1978, est toujours là. Ses photos ornent les murs, ainsi que celles de Lev Landau, son successeur à la tête de l'institut. Tombé en 1938 dans les griffes du NKVD, la police politique, Lev Landau fut expédié au goulag. Il fut libéré grâce à Kapitsa, qui fit des pieds et des mains pour le tirer de là.
Les purges n'épargnaient personne. Sergueï Korolev, le père du Spoutnik, fut extrait in extremis du goulag pour reprendre ses recherches; Nikolaï Vavilov, qui avait accumulé la plus vaste collection de semences, mourut de faim à la prison de Saratov en 1943; Piotr Kapitsa lui-même fut interdit de sortie du pays en 1935, avant de tomber en disgrâce en 1945 - il avait osé tenir tête à Lavrenti Beria, chef de la police politique, patron du programme nucléaire soviétique.
La maison du parc où résidait la famille Kapitsa est devenue un musée. Les visiteurs y sont plutôt rares. Avec sa bâtisse à colonnades, son parc et son étang, la propriété attirera certainement les convoitises des promoteurs dans un quartier où le prix du mètre carré atteint facilement 5000 euros.
La loi est donc entrée en vigueur. Les manifestants sont rentrés chez eux et le cercueil en carton de l'Académie dort dans un commissariat. Licenciements, restrictions budgétaires, captations de bâtiments sont redoutés. "Les scientifiques, en premier lieu les plus jeunes et les plus mobiles, vont quitter le pays ou changer de travail. La fuite sera massive, pour la bonne raison qu'il n'y a pas de perspective dans le cadre de ce système politique. La science en fera les frais", prévient Alexeï Zakharov, chargé de cours à l'Ecole supérieure d'économie, dans une tribune publiée par le quotidien Vedomosti le 3 octobre.
De quoi nourrir le thème douloureux de la fuite des cerveaux. Depuis la chute de l'URSS en 1991, des dizaines de milliers de chercheurs ont pris le chemin de l'étranger, tels Andre Geim et Konstantin Novoselov, lauréats du Prix Nobel de physique 2010. Diplômés tous deux de l'Institut de physique et de technologie de Moscou, ils ont quitté le pays au tournant des années 1990 et ont été recrutés par l'Université de Manchester. Revenir en Russie? Ils n'y songent même pas, étant donné le manque de moyens et la faible compétitivité, ainsi que la toute-puissance bureaucratique, que la réforme de l'Académie des sciences n'est pas près d'atténuer.
© 2013 Le Temps SA.
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Xinhua / 2013-11-14
Asteroids could be used as transport to deep space: Russian scientist
На прошедшем в Новосибирске форуме "Технопром-2013" руководитель Проектно-исследовательского центра ФГУП ГКНПЦ им. Хруничева Сергей Антоненко высказал мнение, что одним из наиболее перспективных направлений развития космонавтики является колонизация астероидов. Например, астероиды с вытянутыми орбитами можно использовать как транспортное средство на пути к Марсу или Юпитеру.
MOSCOW, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) - Asteroids could be used as natural spaceships for travels to the deep space, a Russian space industry scientist said Thursday.
"There are about 10,000 asteroids orbiting close to the Earth and about 2 millions of them in total," head of the Designer and Research Bureau in the Khrunichev Research and Production Space Center, Sergei Antonenko, told the Technoprom-2013 conference in Novosibirsk, southern Siberia.
He proposed to use asteroids' underground for setting up permanent bases there and use them as "natural spaceships" for travels to Mars and Jupiter.
Some asteroids regularly approach Earth closer than the Moon, so it would be easy to land on them, Antonenko believed.
The scientist said if people land on Mars for permanent residency, this would lead to formation of the new biological type of a human being due to the different gravity and completely non-Earthly environment.
"These creatures will never come back to Earth," he said.
Participants of the two-day conference will discuss ways of providing Russia's technological leadership in the modern world.
© 2013 Xinhua, english.news.cn. All rights reserved.
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PR Newswire / Nov. 20, 2013
Thomson Reuters Collaborates with Ural Federal University to Advance its Global Research Impact
Initiative will map the University's scientific research efforts to determine global impact and enhance its strategies.
Подразделение Intellectual Property & Science корпорации Thomson Reuters заключило соглашение с Уральским федеральным университетом для создания "карты" научно-исследовательской деятельности. Цель "карты" - продемонстрировать эффективность и глобальное воздействие программ и достижений ученых. Также это поможет определить области, в которых УФУ и УрО РАН имеют наибольшую конкурентоспособность.
PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/- The Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters, the world's leading source of information for businesses and professionals, today announced a commitment with Ural Federal University (UrFU) to create a map of the University's scientific research efforts in order to demonstrate the efficiency and global impact of its programs and scientists. The first phase of the project will focus on determining how the scientists of the UrFU and the institutes of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (UB RAS) compare internationally with scientists at competing laboratories, universities and institutes.
This strategic relationship between Thomson Reuters and UrFU will identify the areas of science in which the UrFU and UB RAS are the most competitive, as well as other areas that may require further attention, and support the University's plans to further the global impact of its research efforts by developing new strategies to retain talent, pinpoint emerging trends and discover new opportunities for collaboration.
The map of UrFU's scientific research will be developed by tracking citation data in the Thomson Reuters Web of Science™, the world's most trusted citation index for leading scholarly literature, the Conference Proceedings Citation IndexSM, Book Citation IndexSM, BIOSIS Citation Index™, Derwent Innovations Index, Medline®, and Journal Citation Reports®. The trusted indicators of Thomson Reuters InCites™, the company's flagship, web-based research evaluation tool, will further the reach of the map by enabling the institution to measure research output and impact, monitor trends, and benchmark its performance against peers at the individual, departmental and global levels. These tools will ensure that UrFU and UB RAS objectively evaluate with the maximum amount of transparency.
"Objective and qualitative assessment of Russian scientists and research groups is very important, as Ural Federal University seeks to quantify the scientific activities of its employees and to determine the relevance of those activities to the world of science," said Vladimir Kruzhaev, vice reactor on research, Ural Federal University. "After assessing our intellectual property and our role in the world of science, as well as our efficiency in different fields of science, we will be able to effectively allocate resources and improve the competitiveness of UrFU among the world's leading research and education centers."
The UrFU will draw upon the comprehensive view provided by the map of its research efforts to determine the strengths of its scientific activities and opportunities for further improvement in cooperation with the scientific institutions of UB RAS. The data will also help clarify the scope of the University's scientific activities through the analysis of authors, articles, journals, patents, conference proceedings and books indexed in Thomson Reuters industry-leading databases.
"We are pleased to collaborate with Ural Federal University to map the reach and performance of its scientific research," saidGordon Macomber, managing director of Thomson Reuters Scholarly and Scientific Research. "The amount of scientific research data is becoming increasingly vast and complex. It is critical for a research institution to have a clear, accurate and comprehensive view of its impact on the global scholarly community in order to generate evidence-based decisions to enhance competitiveness."
Copyright © 2013 PR Newswire Association LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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The Washington Post / November 21 2013
DNA indicates Eurasian roots for Native Americans, new study says
Генетический анализ костей человека, жившего в Сибири около 24 тысяч лет назад, показал, что происхождение коренных жителей Америки сложнее, чем считалось раньше. Согласно опубликованным в журнале Nature результатам исследования, некоторые из отдаленных предков американских индейцев переселились на другой континент из южной части Центральной Сибири, с берегов озера Байкал.
The genetic analysis of a 24,000-year-old arm bone from an ancient Siberian boy suggests that Native Americans have a more complicated ancestry than scientists realized, with some of their distant kin looking more Eurasian than East Asian.
The new study, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the oldest genome of a modern human ever fully sequenced.
Modern-day Native Americans share from 14 to 38 percent of their DNA with the Siberian hunter-gatherers - who are not closely related to East Asians - with the remainder coming from East Asian ancestors. Most scientists have thought that the first Americans came only from the East Asian populations.
"If you read about the origins of Native Americans, it will say East Asians somehow crossed the Bering Sea," said study author and evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev at Copenhagen University. "This is definitely not the case - it's more complex than that."
It isn't known where or when the meeting of the two peoples happened, but a likely location could be Beringia, the region surrounding the current gap between Alaska and Siberia. Although presently occupied by the Bering Strait and its surrounding waters, the glaciers of roughly 20,000 years ago locked up much of the earth's water, exposing a land bridge between the two continents.
The prehistoric crossroad provided an easy way for people, animals and plants to spread.
Originally excavated in the 1950s, the remains of the boy had been tucked away in the bowels of a museum in St. Petersburg. He was about 3 when he died, and he was buried with a variety of "grave goods," including a swan figurine and an ivory pendant.
When Willerslev sequenced the DNA from the boy's upper arm bone, he thought the results were a mistake: It said the boy belonged to a lineage commonly found among Europeans, but not in East Asians.
"We put the study on hold for a year because I thought it was contamination," Willerslev said.
They tried again, this time digging deeper and looking at the Y chromosome. It and the rest of the genome told the same story: The boy had links to present-day western Eurasians and Native Americans, but not East Asians.
They also sequenced a more recent Siberian adult whose DNA wasn't as well preserved, and they got similar results.
"They were members of a really cosmopolitan group that probably reflect early modern humans leaving Africa and spreading into central Asia," said study author Kelly Graf, a Texas A&M anthropologist.
Their results support fossil evidence from early Paleo-Indian humans, such as a well-preserved skeleton known as Kennewick man found in Washington state. Dated to about 9,000 years old, he has facial features that don't look East Asian but rather somewhat Caucasian - a mystery found replicated in other skulls.
The fact that the first Americans were already mixed to begin with could answer these controversies, Willerslev said. Any Western Eurasian genetic signatures found in Native Americans today were previously attributed to post-1492 colonial mixing with Europeans.
"Maybe it has much deeper roots - from Siberia, not Europeans coming over in their boats," Graf said.
Graf and Willerslev said their next step is to gather DNA samples of early American populations to find evidence of those proto-Eurasian roots in the New World.
© 1996-2013 The Washington Post.
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Fox News / November 20, 2013
International Space Station celebrates 15th birthday in orbit
15 лет назад, в ноябре 1998, в космос был выведен первый модуль Международной космической станции - "Заря".
The International Space Station celebrates its 15th birthday Wednesday, marking the day in 1998 when a Russian rocket lifted the first piece of what is now the largest manmade structure ever built in space.
The launch of the module named Zarya ("Sunrise" in Russian) kicked off an unprecedented international undertaking to build the astronaut outpost one piece at a time. Five different space agencies representing 15 countries contributed to the project, and by 2000, rotating crews of spaceflyers were - and still are - living on the $100 billion International Space Station.
Today, the space station is about the size of a football field with roughly the same amount of liveable space as a six-bedroom house. It ranks second only to the moon among bright objects in the night sky.
The module that started it all, Zarya, also known as the Functional Cargo Block (FGB), is mostly used for storage now. But initially it was intended to serve as a central node of orientation control, communications and electrical power as other parts of the space station were added, according to NASA.
In light of the launch anniversary, space industry leaders reminisced about Zarya's historic day.
"We were in the control center in Houston that night to watch Zarya launch, along with a good number of people from the program," said Bill Bastedo, who was the launch package manager for the next piece of the space station, the U.S.-built module Unity, in a statement.
"It was actually, for us, exciting to have Zarya on orbit so we could get our chance to execute our mission," Bastedo, now senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, said in a statement.
Two weeks after Zarya was carried into orbit, on Dec. 4, 1998, NASA's space shuttle Endeavour launched Unity, sometimes called Node 1, during the STS-88 mission, and the two modules were linked together.
"I was very confident in our ability to dock the two," Bastedo added in a statement from NASA. "I was most worried about making sure we could verify that Unity, the mating adaptors and Zarya all worked as a system together and we could safely leave it on orbit, because it was going to be about a six-month gap until the next flight. It turns out it was a lot of worry about nothing, because it almost went flawlessly."
Less than two years later, on Oct. 31, 2000, the first crew to live inside the International Space Station launched on a Russian Soyuz capsule. Expedition 1 consisted of NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. The three spaceflyers climbed on board the station on Nov. 2, 2000, kicking off humanity's continuous presence in space.
The space station is currently occupied by the six crewmembers of the station's Expedition 38 mission. They are Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata; Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, Mikhail Tyurin and Sergey Ryazanskiy; and NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins.
"It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since we joined Unity and Zarya in orbit and laid the cornerstone for the International Space Station,"said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, who was the STS-88 mission's commander. He described the outpost as " an engineering marvel and a testament to what we can accomplish when we all work together."
"I think one of the most enduring legacies will be the international cooperation we have achieved in building and operating it," Cabana said in a statement from NASA. "It has provided us the framework for how we will move forward as we explore beyond our home planet, not as explorers from any one country, but as explorers from planet Earth. We have seen great results in areas such as biotechnology, Earth and space sciences, human research, the physical sciences and technology being accomplished in this remarkable laboratory in space."
© 2013 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
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EU News / 22 November 2013
Launch of the EU-Russia Year of Science 2014
25 ноября в Москве состоялась торжественная церемония открытия года науки Россия-ЕС. Что запланировано на этот год?
The "EU-Russia Year of Science 2014" will be officially launched at an event in Moscow on November 25. Its purpose is to celebrate and promote the vibrant and multifaceted scientific and technological cooperation between the two partners. In the course of twelve months, a rich programme of events and initiatives across Russia and the EU will highlight joint achievements, successes, and the strong potential for future cooperation in research, innovation and higher education. Involving scientists, research organisations, innovators, enterprises and the wider public, the EU-Russia Year of Science will build on the longstanding and fruitful cooperation between the EU and Russia in this area.
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What events are planned during the year
About 200 events are planned in both Russia and EU Member States. Some will be dedicated events, others will include a strong focus and/or special sessions on EU-Russia S&T cooperation. For more information on the EU-Russia Year of Science, the latest news, events and a guide on how to participate in the Year of Science please see: http://eu-russia-yearofscience.eu/
Key related events in 2014
The timing of the Year of Science benefits from the conjunction of key related events in 2014, including: the launch of the new European Union research framework programme "Horizon 2020"; the renewal of the EU-Russia Science and Technology (S&T) Agreement; the launch of the Russian State Programme and the Federal Targeted Programmes for R&D. These programmes provide the basis for a new balanced relationship in science, technology and innovation based on shared responsibility through co-funding and programme-level coordination.
A long-standing and strong partnership
The European Union and Russia are both leaders in the generation of scientific insights. The EU produces a third of the world's scientific knowledge and is at the forefront in many research areas. Russia has a long history as one of the world's leading scientific nations and has been at the origin of many of today's scientific schools and discoveries.
The EU, its 28 Member States and Russia are thus natural scientific partners, and this is reflected in a number of bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements that have been established in the past decade, including:
1. Agreement on cooperation in science and technology between the European Community and the Government of the Russian Federation (2000)
2. Agreement for cooperation between the European Atomic Energy Community and the Government of the Russian Federation in the field of controlled nuclear fusion (2001)
3. Agreement for cooperation between the European Atomic Energy Community and the Government of the Russian Federation in the field of nuclear safety (2001)
4. Roadmap for the EU-Russia Common Space in Research and Education including Cultural Aspects (2005)
5. EU-Russia Partnership & Cooperation Agreement (chapter on science & technology - article 62).
Key areas of EU-Russia cooperation have included aeronautics research, space, ICTs, energy, nanotechnology, health and research infrastructures (see chart). In keeping with the EU's new international cooperation strategy for research and innovation, future cooperation will focus on three mutually agreed "flagship" priority areas: aeronautics, ICTs and research infrastructures.
How is scientific cooperation between the EU and Russia organised?
Science and technology cooperation is coordinated by the Joint S&T Cooperation Committee and EU-Russia thematic working groups established under the Cooperation Agreements. The joint working groups meet regularly to discuss potential research topics of mutual interest for joint actions in common scientific and technological priority areas.
The trilateral EU-Russia Dialogue on Space Cooperation between the European Commission, the European Space Agency, and the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation oversees cooperation in the areas of Satellite Systems (in particular Earth Observation, Satellite Communication and Satellite Navigation) and Space Science and Technology (in particular Fundamental Space Sciences and Applied Space Sciences). Russia and the EU also collaborate within the framework of the Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on global research infrastructures.
Global research infrastructures
A key area of Russia-EU S&T cooperation involves the development of global research infrastructures, including the large-scale 'mega-science' projects. For example, Russia and the EU are cooperating in the development of the EU X-ray Free-Electron Laser (XFEL), the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR), the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).
EU-Russia S&T cooperation in figures
Russian entities are very active participants in the EU's framework programmes for research and technological development. The Russian Federation has been the most successful international partner in the EU 7th Framework Programme, both in terms of budget and number of participations. 273 different Russian institutions have recorded 459 participations in 298 projects, receiving €64 million in EU financing. Half of Russia's participations are from research organisations based in Russia's regions. Nearly 20% are from industry and the private sector.
The participation of Russian citizens in EU mobility programmes has been equally impressive. Between 2007 and 2013, Marie-Skіodowska Curie Actions funded nearly 350 Russian researchers coming to Europe. In recognition of the quality of Russian research, 25 European Research Council (ERC) grants have also been won by Russian nationals: 18 in the area of physical sciences, four in social sciences and humanities, and three in life sciences. Of these, 17 grantees hold a Starting grant - for young, early-career top researchers - and eight hold an Advanced grant - for senior research leaders. They are hosted by research institutions in the UK (6 grantees), France (4), Germany (4), Switzerland (3), the Netherlands (2), Sweden (2), Austria (1), Belgium (1), Spain (1) and Norway (1).
One of these researchers is Dr Konstantin Novoselov, who holds British and Russian citizenship. He received an ERC grant in 2007 for his project on graphene, the one-atom-thick crystal with unusual properties that is tipped for a number of future applications in electronics and photonics. He was also awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 together with Andre Geim, for their "ground-breaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene". Both work at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
European Union researchers have also been successful in winning grants offered by Russia under its April 2010 decree on "Measures to Attract Leading Scientists to Russian Educational Institutions" (Mega-grants). These research projects are implemented by university research teams under the supervision of leading scientists. Thirty one grants awarded under the first three calls are held by EU citizens.
Does the European Commission's Joint Research Centre also have programmes with Russia?
Yes. The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission's in-house science service, and Russia cooperate in many areas, including nuclear energy, the environment, soils and food security, forestry, agriculture and energy efficiency.
Assistance and knowledge sharing in the nuclear field have covered nuclear safety, radioprotection, safeguards and security. It has included Russian nuclear operators, the nuclear regulatory authority Rosatom, technical support organisations and bodies responsible for radioactive waste management and remediation of contaminated sites within the TACIS programme. The JRC (representing Euratom) and Rosatom also have regular collaborative activities within the reactor system committees of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) and within the IAEA International Project on Innovative Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO).
JRC has collaborated with the V.V Dokuchaev Soil Science Institute of the Russian Academy of Science since 1998. The 2010 Soil Atlas of the Northern Circumpolar region was developed in close cooperation of the two organisations. Russia is also a member of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) network. This will allow for harmonisation of the monitoring of forest fire activity in Europe and in Russia. Preparatory works for detailed forest cover mapping over Russia has been carried out with the Space Research Institute (IKI) of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
In agriculture, JRC carries out a study on the farming sector and rural development with the Russian Research Institute of Agrarian Problems and Informatics. The two organisations have also collaborated in a project on the agri-food sector in Russia and market outlook until 2025. Joint activities on food security will be pursued through the newly established Eurasian Centre for Food Security (ECFS).
Further cooperation in various fields is being pursued through the on-going EU-funded ERA-Net.RUS project, which gathers 18 partner organisations, six from Russia and 12 from the EU, among which the JRC.
Renewal of the EU-Russia S&T Agreement
The EU-Russia S&T Agreement is due for renewal in February 2014. The renewal process is now well underway. A joint team of independent EU and Russian experts carried out an in-depth evaluation of the Agreement - the first time such an evaluation was done jointly with a third country. Their report, which proposed to renew the agreement as is, was accepted by both the Commission and the Russian Ministry and will be published in the next few weeks. The EU expects to formally adopt the new agreement by the end of the year.