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    Интервью с политологом Кевином Лимонье (Институт геополитики Франции) об инновационной политике России и наукоградах.

Kevin Limonier est chercheur à l'Institut Français de Géopolitique (Université Paris VIII) et enseignant à l'Université d'Etat de sciences humaines (RGGU) de Moscou. Il est le fondateur du site http://villesfermees.hypotheses.org qui se présente comme un carnet de recherche dédié à la science et l'innovation en URSS et dans la Russie contemporaine. Il est auteur d'une thèse sur "la cité scientifique de Doubna. De la "ville idéale" soviétique à la vitrine du renouveau de la Russie contemporaine, étude d'un territoire d'innovation mis au service d'un discours de puissance".
Bulletin Electronique Russie : Vous êtes docteur et professeur de géopolitique en Russie, mais vous vous intéressez beaucoup à l'innovation : quel lien faites-vous entre les deux, géopolitique et innovation ?
Kevin Limonier : La géopolitique, telle que nous l'entendons au sein de "l'école française de géopolitique", fondée par Yves Lacoste, est une méthode de déconstruction des discours sur lesquels s'appuient un état ou un groupe de pouvoir donné pour justifier d'une ambition territoriale (conquête, développement, aménagement ... etc.). L'innovation joue un rôle très important dans l'imaginaire que le pouvoir russe actuel entend mobiliser pour promouvoir son ambition et sa vision de ce morceau d'écorce terrestre que l'on appelle "Russie". Et surtout pour faire en sorte que les gens qui vivent sur cet immense espace en partagent cette vision - ce qui garantit le maintien au pouvoir du groupe actuellement aux commandes. Or, la Russie contemporaine est dans une phase de questionnement quant à son identité, son histoire et son modèle de "vouloir vivre ensemble" : la guerre en Ukraine n'en est que la plus tragique des évocations. L'innovation, parce qu'elle est l'une des marques de la puissance économique et de l'excellence d'un système de formation, est une problématique cruciale pour répondre à la terrible question du rôle que l'Etat russe peut et doit jouer dans les affaires mondiales, mais aussi vis-à-vis de sa propre population. D'autant plus que l'URSS et le marxisme-léninisme réservaient à la science et à l'innovation une place importante non seulement dans l'idéologie, mais également dans la définition de ce que signifiait "être soviétique" : la conquête spatiale, le nucléaire, l'aviation ... toutes ces "aventures technologiques" ont pu concourir, en même temps que le souvenir du sacrifice de la seconde guerre mondiale et d'autres choses, à forger une identité commune aux très nombreux peuples ayant composé l'URSS.
Aujourd'hui, l'innovation considérée comme récit politique est l'un des leviers dont dispose le pouvoir russe pour promouvoir sa vision du pays sur la carte mentale du monde.
BE Russie : Vous travaillez notamment sur les villes scientifiques, en Russe naukograd : quel en est l'héritage aujourd'hui ? Sont-elles des modèles pour l'avenir ?
K. L. : Les naukograds sont une chance pour la Russie, notamment en raison de leur caractère patrimonial. Avant l'écroulement de l'URSS, ces villes connaissaient des destins certes divers suivant leur spécialisation (certaines d'entre elles étaient fermées, d'autres secrètes...), mais partageaient toutes la caractéristique d'être d'incroyables concentrations territoriales de savoirs et de compétences. Tout cela s'est fait dans le contexte d'une économie planifiée, sur fond de division territoriale du travail et des changements stratégiques induits par la fin du stalinisme (fin des laboratoires carcéraux, montée en complexité de l'innovation technique). Ainsi en est-on arrivé progressivement, au tournant des années 1950 et 1960, à la constitution de villes nouvelles à l'architecture parfois audacieuse et spécialisées dans divers domaines de recherche et d'innovation. Il a résulté, dans ces nouveaux espaces urbains, l'apparition de nouveaux récits d'appartenance, de nouvelles identités et de véritables "folklores locaux" d'abord caractérisés par l'attachement des habitants à la science et à une certaine conception du progrès. D'autant plus que ces villes nouvelles étaient caractérisées par un certain privilège matériel : on y vivait globalement un peu mieux que la moyenne soviétique, et cette qualité substantielle favorisait elle aussi des solidarités corporatistes qui se sont rapidement transformées en de véritables identités articulées autour de la fonction de la ville. Par exemple, l'identité d'une ville comme Doubna est très profondément liée à son activité nucléaire.
Aujourd'hui, les cités scientifiques sont donc autant des points de concentration de compétences que des lieux de mémoire, dont la représentation est structurée par le souvenir des époques héroïques. C'est bien en cela qu'elles sont une opportunité pour le pays : le terreau humain, mais aussi matériel et culturel y est particulièrement fertile pour pérenniser des "écosystèmes d'innovation" qui ne seraient pas hors-sol, mais qui auraient une histoire, des racines.
BE Russie : Selon plusieurs rapports et classements, et d'après l'aveu même du gouvernement russe, les entreprises n'investissent que trop peu dans la R&D. L'administration semble donc favoriser une approche résolument descendante, ou top-down : est-ce selon vous la solution ? Existe-t-il d'autres alternatives ?
K. L. : Il faut évidemment des politiques diversifiées de soutien à l'innovation. Cependant, j'émets des doutes sur la stratégie actuelle du gouvernement russe, qui consiste effectivement à injecter des masses d'argent public dans le développement de la R&D. Je m'explique : les autorités qui promeuvent des politiques expliquent que l'investissement public permet de favoriser le développement de l'innovation, notamment par des subventions délivrées, par exemple, aux cités scientifiques. Or, l'un des gros problèmes rencontrés dans ce schéma sont la corruption et le clientélisme. Une partie des subventions sert à des objectifs qui n'ont rien à voir avec le soutien à l'innovation (rétro-commissions, marchés publics "truqués"), confortant ainsi la position dominante des acteurs qui en retirent des bénéfices. Ces mêmes acteurs auront intérêt à ce que le système continue de fonctionner ainsi, afin de maintenir leur position dominante.
A mon avis, l'approche top-down telle que conçue aujourd'hui en Russie favorise ce genre de cercles vicieux, surtout dans des petites villes comme les naukograd, où les rapports de domination sont anciens et bien établis. L'alternative qui a été trouvée par le pouvoir à ce problème est en apparence séduisante : créer ex nihilo, ou "na chistom pole", un nouveau centre d'innovation et d'excellence, ce qui permettrait de faire table rase des problèmes complexes qui existent dans les cités scientifiques. Cette alternative, présentée en 2010 comme la panacée aux problèmes que connait la Russie dans les domaines de la R&D porte le nom de Skolkovo, également connu sous le nom de "Silicon Valley russe".
BE Russie : Vous semblez relativement critique à l'égard de Skolkovo : qu'y reprochez-vous ?
N'y at-il pas une chance que cela devienne justement une "Silicon Valley" russe ? Quid des autres projets comme Innopolis à Kazan, ou ceux de l'Université d'état de Moscou autour des biotechnologies ?

K. L. : Je reprendrais ce que m'a un jour dit le président de l'Union pour le développement des cités scientifiques : "vous aurez beau construire une smart city ultramoderne à quelques kilomètres du MKAD, ce ne sera jamais la Silicon Valley. Cela restera toujours un quartier moderne à quelques kilomètres du MKAD". Ce que voulait dire le président, c'est que la Silicon Valley est le fruit d'une conjoncture historique, mais également d'un récit qui s'est nourri de sa position géographique, à proximité de Berkeley, d'un climat et d'un paysage agréable ayant attiré les diplômés. A mon sens, Skolkovo ne peut pas être aussi attractif que la Silicon Valley, d'abord parce qu'il s'agit justement d'une création hors-sol, fruit d'un mimétisme contre-productif. En clair, il manque une âme à Skolkovo, et ce n'est pas en essayant de produire une "version russe" de l'exemple californien que ce problème sera résolu. Ensuite parce que la stratégie de la tabula rasa n'a pas empêché les scandales de corruption, bien que l'on puisse en faire des lectures à plusieurs niveaux, comme le cas de l'affaire Ponomarev, très politique.
Aussi je pense que si "Silicon Valley" il doit y avoir en Russie, mieux vaut les créer dans ces dizaines de villes issues du complexe scientifique soviétique : la plupart ont été fondées dans des endroits particulièrement agréables (en forêt, au bord d'un lac ...) afin de fournir à l'élite de la recherche soviétique des conditions de vie propices à la créativité. Sans parler de leur histoire et de leur identité, ces villes ne ressembleront certes jamais à la Californie, mais elles sont une chance que la Russie peut saisir pour créer son propre modèle d'écosystèmes d'innovation.
BE Russie : L'innovation était le fer de lance des projets de réforme du D. Medvedev, chef de l'Etat, qui semblait réellement partisan d'une transformation de l'économie. Quel bilan peut-on en tirer ? L'innovation vous semble-t-elle encore une priorité aujourd'hui de Medvedev, chef du gouvernement ?
K. L. : Il est vrai que l'on a tendance à associer l'ère Medvedev au thème de l'innovation. C'est d'une part dû au rôle central que l'ancien président a joué dans le développement de Skolkovo, et d'autre part à la communication du chef de l'Etat, très orientée IT. Cependant, c'est une représentation quelque peu caricaturale. En fait, l'innovation a commencé à devenir un thème central dès 2005, à une époque où certains hommes politiques n'hésitent pas à comparer la Russie à un "vaste émirat pétrolier", en référence à la condition rentière du pays, dangereuse à long terme, si une crise venait à survenir. Il fallait alors réfléchir à la diversification des sources de la croissance nationale. Je pense que le chantier que Medvedev a lancé dans les domaines de l'innovation se situe dans cette lignée, d'autant plus que durant son mandat, l'ancien président a dû faire face aux conséquences de la crise financière en Russie : baisse des prix des hydrocarbures, et récession pour le pays en 2010-2011. C'est à ce moment-là que le thème de l'innovation a été effectivement popularisé afin de trouver de nouvelles perspectives de croissances, alors que les "prophéties" de 2005 se réalisaient. Je crois également que l'innovation a été un marqueur politique fort de l'identité d'un président que l'on présente à tort comme marchant main dans la main avec son encombrant premier-ministre. C'est d'ailleurs pour cela que Skolkovo peut être considéré comme l'un des grands terrains de rivalité entre Medvedev et Poutine. Il ne faut pas oublier que peu de temps après le lancement de Skolkovo par Medvedev, Poutine lançait son propre programme : l'agence des initiatives stratégiques (ASI), tournée vers le développement de l'innovation en région, dans une logique à l'opposé de l'extrême centralisation du projet Skolkovo.
On peut tirer de cette période un bilan mitigé : d'une part, Skolkovo est loin de remplir tous les espoirs qui y ont été initialement placés, sans doute pour des raisons politiques. Il faut se souvenir que les premiers scandales de corruption concernant la "Silicon Valley russe" concordent avec le retour au pouvoir de Poutine. D'autant plus que certains ténors du soutien à l'innovation, comme Anatoli Tchoubaïs, avaient émis des opinions contestataires à l'occasion de la vague de manifestations que le pays a connu à l'hiver 2011-2012.
D'autre part, on peut également dire que la Russie a hérité de l'époque Medvedev de très nombreux doublons dans les programmes de soutien à l'innovation, là aussi en raison de rivalités politiques très complexes : technoparcs, naukograds, zones économiques spéciales, Skolkovo ... la carte des programmes de soutien à l'innovation est parfois illisible, si bien qu'Irina Dezhina a pu qualifier cette situation de "jeu de poupées russes". A l'image d'une matriochka, le soutien à l'innovation est en apparence cohérent, logique. Pourtant il est constitué d'un empilement de couches diverses, qui se ressemblent beaucoup ...
BE Russie : La Russie a-t-elle les moyens de ses ambitions ?
K. L. : Dans une certaine mesure. Le pays ne manque pas d'atouts, et l'exemple des naukograds suffit à concentrer la plupart d'entre eux : une histoire d'excellence scientifique, une solide culture de la recherche, un "patrimoine scientifique et intellectuel" conséquent, une population parmi les mieux formées du monde ... Je crois cependant que le grand frein à tout cela est l'hyper politisation du thème de l'innovation, forcément récupéré politiquement, quitte à engendrer des doublons contre-productifs, comme je les ai évoqués précédemment. De même, la question de la corruption et du clientélisme fausse considérablement la logique même du soutien à l'innovation, qui n'est pas assez "méritocratique".
BE Russie : Etes-vous d'accord avec l'idée selon laquelle la Russie est une puissance scientifique qui n'innove pas ? Que manque-t-il à la Russie pour passer de puissance scientifique à puissance innovante ?
K. L. : La Russie est une grande nation scientifique, et là c'est le chercheur qui parle ! Cependant, la réponse à votre deuxième question est à trouver dans le choix des termes que vous utilisez dans la première. Je m'explique : je pense que ce qui fait défaut à la Russie est justement que l'on a trop tendance à y associer les thèmes de la recherche et de l'innovation à celui de la "puissance". C'est très évocateur que vous utilisiez ce terme. La puissance est un concept particulièrement flou, un mot-valise que beaucoup de sociologues, politistes et historiens des idées ont tenté de définir. Tous sont d'accord pour dire qu'il s'agit d'une représentation particulièrement mouvante, et surtout politique. Associer l'innovation au concept de puissance la transforme de fait en objet politique mobilisable et utilisable dans des luttes de pouvoir. C'est un fait partout dans le monde. Or, dans la Russie contemporaine, la notion de puissance renvoie généralement à des codes, à un imaginaire hérité de la "grandeur" soviétique, ou de ses dérivés.
En politisant l'innovation, c'est à dire en la mettant en récit selon les aspirations politiques d'un groupe de pouvoir donné, on finit par en modifier les mécanismes de fonctionnement et la structure. De fait, à trop vouloir reproduire ce qui a été, on finit par avoir des systèmes de soutien à l'innovation inefficaces en cela qu'il se sont détournés de leur objectif économique pour servir une certaine vision politique, pour ne pas dire idéologique. C'est typiquement le cas de Skolkovo, ou d'autres programmes, qui s'inspirent d'un mode de gouvernance centralisé où l'Etat joue les stratèges. Je crois que ce qui manque alors à la Russie pour devenir un pôle d'innovation à la mesure de ses moyens, c'est de considérer le progrès technologiques comme une fin en soi, et non pas comme un outil au service d'une "vision" alimentée par la nostalgie du passé et l'angoisse du temps présent. Car comme le disait Raymond Aron, il est toujours dangereux et contre-productif de voir le politique s'immiscer dans le laboratoire...
BE Russie : Quid des politiques territoriales ? Diriez-vous que le rôle des régions russes en matière d'innovations est positif ?
K. L. : Il y a des choses qui sont faites, c'est indéniable. Cependant, nous sommes ici encore dans la problématique des "jeux de poupées russes". Depuis 2005, et les premières lois de soutien territorial à l'innovation, notamment en Sibérie, les initiatives se sont multipliées pour les raisons que j'évoquais tout à l'heure, et les budgets ont été mécaniquement divisés. C'est par exemple le cas du programme de soutien aux cités scientifiques, qui a fait les frais d'une redirection massive de l'argent public dont elles disposaient vers le programme Skolkovo. Il s'agit là de l'une des grosses limites du système de soutien régional à l'innovation.

bulletins-electroniques.com tous droits réservés.
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    Обнаруженный археологами в 2008 г. в Денисовой пещере обломок каменного браслета насчитывает, согласно результатам исследования, около 40 тыс. лет и, таким образом, на данный момент является древнейшим изделием подобного рода.

After a comprehensive analysis of a stone bracelet uncovered in the Altai region of Siberia in 2008, scientists have now confirmed the age of the bracelet.
As per Russian experts, the previous predictions that the bracelet dates back 40,000 years are accurate. The confirmation implies that the bracelet is apparently one of the oldest pieces of jewellery in the world.
In the latest pictures this ancient piece of jewellery is seen in its full glory, and scientists have concluded that it has been made by our prehistoric human ancestors, the Denisovans. The ornament has shown them to have been far more advanced than ever realized.
Anatoly Derevyanko, director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, part of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that 'the bracelet is stunning. He said that in bright sunlight it reflects the sun rays, and at night by the fire it casts a deep shade of green.
He said that from the bracelet it is unlikely that it was used as an everyday jewellery piece. He mentioned that according to him the beautiful and very fragile bracelet was worn only for some exceptional moments.
They found the bracelet inside the well known Denisova Cave, in the Altai Mountains. The cave is renowned for its palaeontological finds that dated back to the Denisovans, who were known as homo altaiensis, an extinct species of humans genetically different from Neanderthals and modern humans.
The bracelet was made of chlorite. It was found in the same layer as the remains of some of the prehistoric people and was thought to belong to them.
The thing that has made the discovery striking was that the manufacturing technology was more common to a much later period, including the Neolithic era. Scientists are still not clear about how the Denisovans could have made the bracelet with such skill.

© 2012 NYCityNews. All rights reserved.
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    Mirror.co.uk / 11 May 2015
    "Extinct" bear might have survived after scientists find giant paw prints in Siberian mountains
    • By Will Stewart
    В Сайлюгемском национальном парке (Республика Алтай) обнаружены следы считавшегося вымершим подвида бурого медведя. Последний раз живого представителя этой популяции видели в 1980-х годах.

The white-clawed species hasn't been seen since the 1980s but tracks have been found in Saylyugem National Park, created in 2010 to protect animals from poachers.
Scientists have stumbled across proof a white-clawed bear thought to have become extinct decades ago is still surviving in a remote area of Siberia.
The Saylyugem bear, which resembles a Russian brown bear except for its paws, had not been sighted since the 1990s and was given a "zero" rating on the list of endangered species in the region. But giant paw prints and strange holes in the ground in the shadow of the snowy Altai mountains are seen as the first evidence they did not die out. Conservationists have mapped more than 20 sites where it appears the bears have been digging in the newly created Saylyugem National Park. But, as yet, there have been no contemporary sightings of the little-known creature. Some of the holes were as much as 60cm deep and three metres long, and nearby there was also an unfinished bear den two metres deep.
The Saylyugem National Park was only created in 2010 to help protect the wildlife living near the Altai Mountains, particularly the snow leopard and argali mountain sheep. Now directors are hoping to learn more about the existence of the bear, seen as a sub-species of the brown bear.
At the end of the 1980s it was thought there were about 70 Saylyugem bears in the wild but there have been no subsequent sightings. In a scientific paper in 1996 by biologist and researcher Genrikh Sobansky, at Altai BioSphere Natural Reserve, called for the bears to be put on the endangered list. He has spent more than 50 years studying wildlife in this part of Siberia. He noted the bears might be relatives of Tien Shan bears - also white-clawed - which live in a similar habitat in mountains bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China.
Saylyugem National Park stretches to a total area of 118,380 hectares and is divided into three separate areas with different protection remits. Until the park was created, rangers had no way of protecting the area from poachers. It is open for tourists to visit and explore the animals in the wild, as well as get an understanding of the unique peoples and cultures of the region, where the border of Russia meets China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Foreign visitors are welcome, although they do have to obtain a special visa and additional visitor documents since the region is close to the Russian border.

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    Ученые из Калифорнийского университета и Института радиотехники и электроники им. В.А.Котельникова РАН продемонстрировали распознавание образов с помощью устройства магнонной голографической памяти. Такие устройства совместимы с традиционной электроникой, могут быть встроены в микросхемы и позволят значительно усовершенствовать оборудование для распознавания изображений и речи.
    Статья «Pattern recognition with magnonic holographic memory device» опубликована в журнале Applied Physics Letters.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering and the Russian Academy of Sciences have successfully demonstrated pattern recognition using a magnonic holographic memory device, a development that could greatly improve speech and image recognition hardware. Pattern recognition focuses on finding patterns and regularities in data. The uniqueness of the demonstrated work is that the input patterns are encoded into the phases of the input spin waves.
Spin waves are collective oscillations of spins in magnetic materials. Spin wave devices are advantageous over their optical counterparts because they are more scalable due to a shorter wavelength. Also, spin wave devices are compatible with conventional electronic devices and can be integrated within a chip.
The researchers built a prototype eight-terminal device consisting of a magnetic matrix with micro-antennas to excite and detect the spin waves. Experimental data they collected for several magnonic matrixes show unique output signatures correspond to specific phase patterns. The microantennas allow the researchers to generate and recognize any input phase pattern, a big advantage over existing practices.
Then spin waves propagate through the magnetic matrix and interfere. Some of the input phase patterns produce high output voltage, and other combinations results in a low output voltage, where "high" and "low" are defined regarding the reference voltage (i.e. output is high if the output voltage is higher than 1 millivolt, and low if the voltage is less than 1 millivolt.
It takes about 100 nanoseconds for recognition, which is the time required for spin waves to propagate and to create the interference pattern.
The most appealing property of this approach is that all of the input ports operate in parallel. It takes the same amount of time to recognize patterns (numbers) from 0 to 999, and from 0 to 10,000,000. Potentially, magnonic holographic devices can be fundamentally more efficient than conventional digital circuits.
The work builds upon findings published last year by the researchers, who showed a 2-bit magnonic holographic memory device can recognize the internal magnetic memory states via spin wave superposition. That work was recognized as a top 10 physics breakthrough by Physics World magazine.
"We were excited by that recognition, but the latest research takes this to a new level," said Alex Khitun, a research professor at UC Riverside, who is the lead researcher on the project. "Now, the device works not only as a memory but also a logic element."
The latest findings were published in a paper called "Pattern recognition with magnonic holographic memory device" in the journal Applied Physics Letters. In addition to Khitun, authors are Frederick Gertz, a graduate student who works with Khitun at UC Riverside, and A. Kozhevnikov, Y. Filimonov and G. Dudko, all from the Russian Academy of Sciences. Holography is a technique based on the wave nature of light which allows the use of wave interference between the object beam and the coherent background. It is commonly associated with images being made from light, such as on driver's licenses or paper currency. However, this is only a narrow field of holography.
Holography has been also recognized as a future data storing technology with unprecedented data storage capacity and ability to write and read a large number of data in a highly parallel manner.
The main challenge associated with magnonic holographic memory is the scaling of the operational wavelength, which requires the development of sub-micrometer scale elements for spin wave generation and detection.

© 2015 (e) Science News.
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    The Moscow Times / May 12 2015
    Currency Crisis Leaves Russian Scientists With No Funds for Foreign Journal Subscriptions
    • By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
    Из-за резкого обесценивания рубля российские ученые остались без доступа к зарубежным журналам издательства Springer - с учетом нового курса валют выделенной на подписку суммы оказалось недостаточно.

After scientists across Russia lost access to thousands of academic journals on Tuesday due to the ruble's sharp devaluation, Education Minister Dmitry Livanov vowed to restore access to academic publishing giant Springer, Russian media reported.
Universities and research institutions across the country lost access to Springer due to a failure to pay for their subscriptions, newspaper Kommersant reported.
The Russian Foundation for Basic Research, a government-controlled organization that oversees scientific research across the country, reportedly owes the company some 890,000 euros ($1 million), having been unable to cover the costs of subscriptions for Russia's many universities and researchers after the ruble lost nearly half its value in 2014.
Matthias Aicher, the head of Springer for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, told Kommersant that the Russian Foundation for Basic Research had received the company's publications for free for the past four months but that this situation could no longer continue.
Founded in 1842, Springer publishes books and academic journals, mainly in the fields of medicine, technology and natural sciences, and hosts many scientific databases. The publishing company boasted 2,400 English-language journals in 2014, and offers 170,000 electronic books. The head of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Fortov, was quoted by Kommersant as saying that a lack of access to foreign academic publications could undermine the development of science in the country.
Last year, the subscriptions of Russian scientists to Springer's academic journals amounted to 3.2 million euros ($3.6 million). The Russian Foundation for Basic Research receives applications for Springer subscriptions from educational institutions and researchers throughout the country, which are then allocated funds (in rubles) to cover their costs. The institutions then paid for their subscriptions through the National Electronic Information Consortium, which had been responsible for converting the funds into euros and transferring them to Springer.
The convoluted pay scheme has left it unclear which party will be held responsible for paying Springer the outstanding 890,000 euros in unpaid subscriptions, Kommersant reported.
But after news of the cutoff spread, Livanov pledged that Russian scientists would regain access to their Springer subscriptions, saying that the ministry would cover their costs if the Russian Foundation for Basic Research was unable to do so, the TASS news agency reported.
President Vladimir Putin said in December that the state would not slash funding for science, pledging it would be kept above 834 billion rubles ($16 billion at the current exchange rate). Yet Russian scientists have faced trying conditions at home. In 2013, the Russian government ordered the reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an umbrella organization that comprises 500 research institutes. The new reforms place the academy's property and some of its affairs under government control, which has sparked fear among scientists that the institution could lose its independence.

© Copyright 1992-2015. The Moscow Times. All rights reserved.
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    Лорен Грэхэм, один из ведущих историков науки в мире и главный западный специалист по научной истории России, - об эпигенетике, возвращении к идеям академика Лысенко и о нежелательном влиянии политики на науку.

Politics is once again threatening science in Russia, just as it did in Stalin's time. President Vladimir Putin's emphasis on nationalism and Russian pride is encouraging some politicians and a few scientists to resurrect an old Stalinist tyrant in biology, Trofim Lysenko, using new developments in epigenetics to strengthen their case. Lysenko did great damage to Soviet agriculture, but his new supporters ignore his faults and try to portray him as a prescient scientist.
Epigenetics is a booming, albeit somewhat controversial, field in biology worldwide. The term is being featured not only in scientific journals but also, often inaccurately, in popular media. The German magazine Der Spiegel several years ago featured epigenetics on its cover with the exaggerated announcement "Victory over Genes!"
According to epigenetics, environmental influences such as nutrition and stress can cause changes in inheritance in animals. This changed inheritance can last several generations, maybe more. Epigenetic changes are not based on alterations of the underlying DNA; rather, genes are marked in such a way that they are turned "on" or "off." Cells then either do or don't express these genes in further development depending on how they're marked.
One of the reasons that epigenetics is controversial is that it postulates genes are marked by experiences during the lives of individual organisms; therefore, it seems to revive the doctrine of "the inheritance of acquired characteristics," often called Lamarckism. Early 19th-century naturalist Lamarck argued an organism can pass along traits acquired during its own lifetime to its offspring; imagine a bodybuilder who develops his muscles, and then passes on to his sons a heavily muscled physique. Lamarckism was seen as discredited by most biologists in the 20th century - but now has some new supporters.
A particularly infamous exponent of the inheritance of acquired characteristics in the 20th century was Trofim Lysenko, the agronomist who ruled Soviet biology for several decades. "Lysenkoism" was a prime example of the ruinous effects of political rule over science. He denied the importance of genes and denounced to the secret police those geneticists who disagreed with him. Many of them were imprisoned. With Stalin's support, Lysenko purged the field of his critics.
While researching my forthcoming book on Lysenko, I've been following the rebirth of Lysenkoism that's occurred in Russia in recent years.
Dozens of publications have appeared praising Lysenko and claiming that his 1930s views are confirmed by modern-day epigenetics. These publications have titles such as "The Truth of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko is Confirmed by Modern Biology," and "A Sensation: Academician Lysenko Turned Out to Be Right!"
Most Russian authors, but not quite all, writing such publications are admirers of the old Soviet Union. An example is S Mironin, who says he has a doctorate in biology; he writes that Lysenko was "an outstanding natural scientist" who anticipated epigenetics. He simultaneously says Stalin should be lauded for his policies toward science, which, let's not forget, included tight police controls over scientists, their institutions and their foreign contacts.
Many Russian geneticists are fighting back, pointing to Lysenko's incompetence and ignorance of statistical methods. They also often observe, as do many Western biologists, that the true significance of epigenetics is still unknown.
However, in a curious twist of interpretation, a few Russian biologists have tried to turn the tables on the new supporters of Lysenko by using epigenetics against the Stalinist regime that supported him. These critics point to recent US research maintaining that rats can inherit fear of certain smells if those same smells in an earlier generation had been associated with negative experiences, such as electrical shocks. These Russian anti-Stalinists then maintain that the political passivity of Russian citizens and even their toleration of an authoritarian ruler like Putin can be explained by fears inherited from ancestors who endured the Stalinist repressions. The director of Russia's Institute of Clinical Immunology, Vladimir Kozlov, has recently written that the Russian people have epigenetically inherited "fear for themselves and their families" stemming from Stalinist times.
A sprinkling of leading Russian scientists has joined the Lysenko bandwagon. One of them is Lev Zhivotovsky, a population geneticist in Moscow who has published in international peer-reviewed journals. Recently Zhivotovsky wrote a book in which he maintained that Lysenko's views were close to modern-day epigenetics. The book is causing intense controversy in Russia, both among other geneticists who disagree with Zhivotovsky's scientific views and from anti-Stalinists who see a defense of Lysenko as as a defense of Stalin, who supported Lysenko.
The argument that Lysenko anticipated epigenetics is strained, since Lysenko condemned molecular biology, out of which epigenetics grew and upon which it is dependent. But Putin's revival of Soviet attitudes is bringing back ghosts of the past and, once again, scientific arguments do not always win over political ones.
Little danger exists that Lysenkoism will again take over academic genetics in Russia. Instead, the threat is that public perceptions and perhaps even secondary education will be influenced by the new supporters of Lysenko. Already nationalists have produced a new biology textbook for 10th- and 11th-graders in which these views are represented, and they are pushing for its adoption in local schools.
The conflict between political views and scientific standpoints is not unique to Russia, as debates over evolution and global warming in the United States illustrate, but Russia throughout its history has been particularly vulnerable to the undermining of science by politics.

Copyright © 2010-2015, The Conversation Trust (UK).
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    Результаты исследований группы ученых из Института Карнеги (Вашингтон), Института геологии и минералогии СО РАН и Новосибирского государственного университета могут прояснить вопрос о существовании в недоступной прямому наблюдению нижней мантии Земли железосодержащих карбонатов.
    Статья «Optical properties of siderite (FeCO3) across the spin transition: Crossover to iron-rich carbonates in the lower mantle» опубликована в журнале American Mineralogist.

Washington, D.C. - Carbonates are a group of minerals that contain the carbonate ion (CO32-) and a metal, such as iron or magnesium. Carbonates are important constituents of marine sediments and are heavily involved in the planet's deep carbon cycle, primarily due to oceanic crust sinking into the mantle, a process called subduction. During subduction, carbonates interact with other minerals, which alter their chemical compositions. The concentrations of the metals gained by carbonate ions during these interactions are of interest to those who study deep earth chemistry cycles.
Carbonates were known to exist in the upper mantle due to their role in the deep carbon cycle. But it was thought that they could not withstand the more-extreme conditions of the lower mantle. Laboratory experiments and the discovery of tiny bits of carbonate impurities in lower mantle diamonds indicated that carbonates could withstand the extreme pressures and temperatures of not only the upper mantle, but the lower mantle as well.
Previous research had shown that upper mantle carbonates are magnesium-rich and iron-poor. Under lower mantle conditions, it is thought that the arrangement of electrons in carbonate minerals changes under the pressure stress in such a way that iron may be significantly redistributed. However, accurate observations of lower mantle carbonates' chemical composition are not possible yet.
A research team - Carnegie's Sergey Lobanov and Alexander Goncharov, along with Konstantin Litasov of the Russian Academy of Science and Novosibirsk State University in Russia - focused on the high-pressure chemistry of a carbonate mineral called siderite, which is an iron carbonate, FeCO3, commonly found in hydrothermal vents. Their findings help resolve questions about the presence of iron-containing lower mantle carbonates, and are published by American Mineralogist.
Until recently the electron-arrangement change responsible for iron redistribution in the lower mantle had not been measured in the lab. It was previously discovered that this change, a phenomenon called a spin transition, took place between about 424,000 and 484,000 times normal atmospheric pressure (43 to 49 gigapascals).The team was able to pinpoint that spin transition was occurring in iron carbonates under about 434,000 times normal atmospheric pressure (44 gigapascals), typical of the lower mantle.
A spin transition is a rearrangement of electrons in a molecule or a mineral. Electrons hold a compound's atoms together by bonding. Certain fundamental rules of chemistry govern this bonding process, which have to do with the energy it takes to form the bonds. Pressure-induced spin transitions rearrange electrons and change the energy of the chemical bonds. If the change in chemical bond energy is high enough, the spin transition may trigger iron redistribution between coexisting minerals.
To quantify the energy change, siderite's spin transition was examined using highly sensitive spectroscopic techniques at pressures ranging from zero to about 711,000 times normal atmospheric pressure (72 gigapascals), and also revealed by a visible color change after the transition, indicating rearrangement of electrons. The obtained spectroscopic data provided the key ingredient to estimating the carbonate composition at pressures exceeding the spin transition-pressure. It turned out that lower mantle carbonates should be iron-rich, unlike upper mantle carbonates. Similar effects may exist in other lower mantle minerals, if they also undergo spin transitions.
"As we learn more about how the spin transition affects chemical composition in carbonates, we improve our understanding of all iron-bearing minerals, enhancing our knowledge about lower mantle chemistry," said Lobanov.
###
This work was supported by the Deep Carbon Observatory, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, NSF EAR, and the Carnegie Institution for Science.
The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.

Copyright © 2015 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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    В Томском государственном университете разработан уникальный хирургический лазер на парах стронция, способный резать кости и биологические ткани без их обугливания.

Russian researchers at the Tomsk State University in Siberia have developed the world's first metal vapour laser that can cut materials without burning them and is usable in a wide number of different industries.
The new laser utilises strontium vapour and works by vaporising the metal from a solid state to a gaseous state at a high temperature. It is able to operate at a wide range of different wavelengths, such as 6.45 microns, which is the optimum range for medical laser surgery cutting live human tissue and bones.
Because the laser can operate at different wavelengths, unlike other lasers which need to be built for a specific purpose, the Tomsk laser can be used by geologists to analyse the gas composition of the atmosphere, but also to cut glass for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
World's first metal vapour laser
"There is no such laser anywhere else in the world, and there is a lot of interest in it," Professor Anatolyi Soldatov, dean of the Innovative Technologies department at Tomsk State University, told the Siberian Times.
Now, a number of major companies and universities are keen to partner with the researchers, including tech giant Samsung and the Wuhan University of Technology in China.
"We tried our laser to cut glass that Samsung Electronics sent us. It turned out that the strontium vapour laser is the best for cutting and it's not a mere coincidence," said Soldatov.
"Industrial devices use carbon dioxide lasers with a 10.6 micron wavelength. It doesn't go through the glass, but instead focuses on it and heats it. Eventually, 20% to 30% of the glass cut this way can't be used because of the small chips forming during the procedure."
Tomsk State researchers found that glass imperfections are a hundred times smaller using the strontium vapour laser to cut the glass, compared with using a carbon dioxide laser.
Laser breakthrough has taken decades
"Russian scientists started working in this area earlier than the rest of the globe, and the first papers on copper vapour lasers were published in Russia. Our research group also made significant scientific results in this direction," said Soldatov, adding that the theory for the laser was developed by Tomsk State University half a century ago in the 1960s.
Then in 1982, a paper was published about the Light Identification Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) laser that was built for the Russian military. Unlike the LIDAR lasers commonly used today in countries like the UK and the US to create 3D models of the Earth, the Russian laser was made from strontium vapour.
It was used to measure the concentration of water vapour on Lake Balkhash, but then the invention was forgotten about until academics from Vanderbilt University in the US began researching the best wavelength for drilling bones and cutting human tissue to embed implants in the early 2000s.
"After that, the Americans began to wonder whether there were any lasers in the world at this wavelength but are smaller than the free-electron laser. They found our old publication from 1983 and they found us," Soldatov said.
"Obviously, it was necessary to improve it, and now we're developing the technologies for cutting live tissue and working on optimising the laser, the shortening of the pulse duration to a few nanoseconds, increasing the energy density."

© Copyright 2015 IBTimes Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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    Nature / 20 May 2015
    Russia turns screw on science foundation
    Ministry of Justice threatens to label Dynasty Foundation a "foreign agent".
    • Quirin Schiermeier
    Российский фонд «Династия», созданный в 2002 г. - первая частная некоммерческая организация, финансирующая проекты в области науки, образования и просвещения. В феврале этого года фонд получил премию Минобрнауки «За верность науке», а в мае Министерство юстиции по результатам проведенной проверки приняло решение (пока не окончательное) включить фонд в реестр «иностранных агентов», вызвав возмущение в научных кругах.

Dmitry Zimin is not your typical Russian oligarch. Whereas some choose to pump their fortunes into yachts and football clubs, the 82-year-old former president of VimpelCom, one of Russia's largest telecommunication companies, turned to philanthropy - creating modern Russia's first private science-funding organization.
The Dynasty Foundation has earned Zimin prestigious government awards, but has now fallen out of favour with the Kremlin, putting its future at risk.
After a lengthy audit of the 13-year-old foundation's finances and funding activities, the Russian Ministry of Justice indicated in a preliminary report last month that Dynasty qualifies as a "foreign agent", although it offered no justification for why. The designation relates to a controversial law passed by President Vladimir Putin in 2012 that requires non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and are deemed to be involved in vaguely defined "political activities" to register with the ministry as foreign agents.
The term is a loaded one to Russian ears, carrying Soviet-era connotations of espionage and treachery. Dynasty's executive director, Anna Piotrovskaya, says that its possible association with the foundation has deeply upset Zimin. Dynasty officials and Russian scientists fear that finalizing the label would seriously damage the reputation of the foundation and hamper its activities, and might even lead Zimin to shut it down.
So far, the ministry has labelled more than 50 human-rights groups, news agencies and environmental watchdogs as foreign agents, and issued warnings or brought charges against dozens of other groups for failing to register. Dynasty would be the first natural-sciences organization to be targeted, following at least two social-science research centres.
"The foreign-agent law is an outrageous attack on free speech," says Tanya Lokshina, who is the Russia programme director at Human Rights Watch in Moscow. "Sadly, hostility to anything foreign is as high in Russia as it has been since the height of the cold war."
The Dynasty Foundation is a force in Russian science. This year, it plans to spend some 435 million roubles (US$8.9 million) on fellowships, summer schools and educational projects. Fellowship grants are available for molecular biologists, theoretical physicists and mathematicians at various stages in their careers: in 2014, Dynasty helped 288 physicists, 14 mathematicians, 21 biologists and 509 science teachers. Support from the foundation - up to 600,000 roubles (US$12,000) per year for a postdoctoral researcher - has allowed hundreds of young Russian scientists to supplement their poor salaries, buy lab equipment and travel to meetings abroad.
Fair peer review
Many Russian scientists are shocked and outraged by the suggestion that Dynasty be designated a foreign agent. They hold the foundation in high regard for its cosmopolitan air - it requires all grant proposals to be submitted in English, for example - and its strictly merit-based funding criteria. These qualities help Russian science to flourish, something that the government has professed to be committed to, says Konstantin Severinov, a molecular biologist at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology near Moscow, and a professor at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. "For scientists who grew up in Russia, English-language proposals and fair peer review are very new experiences," he says. "These kinds of things are really indispensable for bringing our scientists closer to their Western counterparts." They are a far cry from counting as the activities of a spy agency, he says.
Dynasty also seeks to foster free speech and scientific enlightenment. It supports the translation and publication of popular science books, such as physicist Stephen Hawking's The Universe in a Nutshell (Bantam, 2001). But although Dynasty has been careful to remain apolitical, says Lokshina, it might have been scuppered by its support of a Moscow museum and exhibition hall named after the famous Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.
Some, however, place the blame on an increasingly nationalistic and inward-facing government. Tightening the screws on science and education is consistent with the ongoing crackdown on liberal groups and ideas, says Fyodor Kondrashov, a group leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain, who organizes Dynasty-funded summer schools in molecular and theoretical biology. "Russian society is undergoing hard-line changes," he says. "Where will it end?"
The popular summer schools are held every August in the academic city of Pushchino south of Moscow, and bring together talented high-school students, postdoctoral researchers and senior scientists from Russia and abroad. Experiments done there have produced several papers published in international journals, with students as co-authors. If the foundation is labelled a foreign agent, parents who back Putin, as most Russians do, might not want to send their children to the schools, and scientists who do the lecturing might also grow cautious. "Supporters of Putin and anyone fearful of trouble will stay far away," says Kondrashov.
As Nature went to press, the justice ministry had not announced its decision on the issue, which it was expected to do on 13 May. Members of Dynasty's board have scheduled a meeting on 8 June to discuss the ramifications of any ruling. The case is an example of problems that have been plaguing Russian science for years, says Valery Yakubovich, a sociologist at ESSEC Business School in Cergy Pontoise, France, including questionable accusations of espionage and political subversion against individual researchers. "Whatever happens," he says, "this is all very troubling."
Nature, 521, 273 (21 May 2015), doi:10.1038/521273a

© 2015 Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.
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    Среди причин последней аварии ракеты-носителя Протон-М называют системный кризис в российской космической отрасли, саботаж и диверсию, халатность и некомпетентность, а также длительный период недофинансирования: попытка повысить производство, не имея на это достаточно средств, ведет к недоработкам и, соответственно, катастрофам.

MOSCOW - Compared to last century's Cosmonaut glory, Russia's space program is looking more like a dud these days.
On May 16, a Proton-M rocket crashed in Siberia with its commercial load, a Mexican telecommunications satellite. A week earlier, a Progress spacecraft, a Russian cargo craft that was supposed to deliver more than three tons of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), instead disintegrated in the Pacific Ocean after falling out of orbit. And the difficulties of another Progress craft already docked to the ISS have hampered a planned correction of its orbit.
This isn't the first time that Russia's space industry has faced a succession of misfortunes, even in recent years. But this latest rough patch coincides with the May 18 approval of legislation aimed at overhauling the sector. It calls for all the industry's actors to be regrouped inside a single state corporation, the Russian Federal Space Agency, more commonly known as Roscosmos.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin reacted to the recent series of failures by urging patience. "These contingencies result from a systemic crisis in the industry, which Roscosmos has yet to overcome," he said.
But Mikhail Degtyarev, deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for Science and High Technology, characterized the nature of the problem very differently. "Suddenly, two spacecrafts of different types crash," he said. "There's something fishy. National security organizations need to look abroad or inside the sector to find the causes, focusing in priority on the possibility of sabotage." The influential lawmaker believes the right recipe involves a "relentless ideological work from space technicians who need to understand that the goal is to turn Russia into a superpower."
Such Soviet-like stances are raising smiles among space experts such as Yuri Karash, a member of the Russian Space Academy. "Everybody knows the name of the two saboteurs," he says. "They're called Negligence and Incompetence."
A return to the Soviet style
The failures are the consequence of a long period of underfunding, which drove out a great part of our technicians and engineers, says independent expert Vadim Lukashevich.
"Today, Russia is greatly boosting production without having the means for it, which leads to accidents," he says.
He believes the formation of a state corporation like Roscosmos is a step in the wrong direction. "The previous model, which consisted in separating the client, that is the space agency, and the manufacturers was better. It's the model that almost everybody uses. But we, on the contrary, have decided to go back to a Soviet-style, opaque model that bans competition. The problem is that we no longer have the USSR's resources, nor do we have the same goals."
The repeated failures of the Proton and Soyuz spacecrafts are forcing some to question the last area of the space industry in which Russia still dominates - namely, launches. Oleg Frolov, a member of the Russian Military Industrial Commission, recently acknowledged that the country's share in the global space industry market had fallen to just 1%.
"That's right," Lukashevich confirms. "We are the very last in scientific exploration, well behind the Americans in terms of military, and as far as satellite conception is concerned, we've even fallen behind China."
There's been a lot of conversation in recent weeks about Russian cooperation with China and India. "These are political announcements that will never materialize because these countries' goals are not compatible with ours," Lukashevich explains. "Our logical partners remain first and foremost the Europeans, then the Americans."
On the political front, the space issue means a lot for Russia, where everybody still remembers the strength of the USSR. A recent poll showed that 47% of Russians want the space program to be expanded, even as the country is mired in its worst economic crisis in 15 years.
On the other hand, British singer Sarah Brightman, who was supposed to be the next "space tourist" in September, has ceased to believe in Russia's capacities. Probably frightened by the recent wave of failures, she has canceled her plans to board a Soyuz capsule and will perhaps be replaced at the last minute by a Russian billionaire.

© Worldcrunch 2015 All Rights Reserved.
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