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Future of Ukrainian science: What would it look like?

Author : Ksenia Tsyvirko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Opinion polls show that the development of science is most promoted by single individual enthusiasts. 74% of respondents believe that this is the work of the Ministry of Education and Science, 65% - of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and 6% - of educational institutions or individual scientists or inventors
22:24, 30 July 2019

zn.ua

Since the first years of Ukraine’s independence, the state funding of science has been decreasing every year. At the same time, it remains six times below the statutory rate. Ukraine is at the very bottom of all world rankings of scientific and innovative development, although in many respects scientists work hard, despite the outdated infrastructure. According to them, all significant research and development are carried out mainly at the expense of grants from industry-specific Western programs. To build up cooperation, the government has already prepared a "Roadmap for the integration of Ukraine into the European Research Area."

Earlier the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) published a fresh report - The Global Innovation Index for 2019. Ukraine went down by 4 positions - from 43rd to 47th in the list of 126 countries. At the same time, in recent years, the innovative potential of the country has shown a slow growth - rather, due to global economic trends, than due to the development within Ukraine.

In 2017, the “Rating” Sociological Group conducted a survey in 35 scientific institutions, as a result of which 64% of respondents called the current situation of Ukrainian science extremely unfavorable. And the worst estimates were given, as a rule, by “experienced” research workers with more than 20 years of experience in this field. All this is connected with the chronic underfunding of the science and technology industry, which allows it to simply keep afloat, not to mention some significant discoveries. So, according to open data, for one scientist Ukraine allocates $ 90, while in other countries these amounts are ten times higher: in Estonia - $ 1,303, in the USA - $ 1,471, in Israel – $ 1.990. It should be noted that innovations - as the main engine of progress and the economy with high added value - are de jure supported by the state: the law establishes that at least 1.17% of GDP should be allocated annually to the scientific field. But such grace for science was given in the first years of independence, and today the amount of funding is 6 times lower than the norm: in 1991, it was 2.4% of GDP (as in most innovatively developed countries), in 1992 it fell to 1.5% GDP, in 2007 - 0.9% of GDP, and in 2018-2019 accounted for only 0.17% of GDP.

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In such an environment, scientists, in fact, cannot the research, which they have studied at the university. The "budget blockade" led to the fact that many of them went abroad, and someone decided to change the occupation (for example, get involved in the IT-sphere). Thus, according to the State Statistics Service, the number of scientists decreased from 1991 to 2018 from 295,010 to 57,630 people. Now the number of researchers per capita in Ukraine is three times lower than the EU average.

This state of affairs is reflected in the same world rankings: WIPO assesses Ukrainian "human capital and research" lower and lower from year to year. In 2015, Ukraine took the 36th place on this point, and this year it dropped to the 51st.

With such financial and human resources, the efficiency of scientific institutions is very low. According to a study conducted by the Public Audit NGO in 2015, each year National Academy of Science spends an average of UAH 3 billion on its work. At the same time, the income from the scientific activities of two hundred institutions amounts to 70 million UAH, that is, only 2% of the money spent. NAS receives profits not from research activities, but from the rental of premises ...

At the same time, opinion polls of scientists show that the development of science is most promoted by single individual enthusiasts. Although at the same time, 74% of them believe that this is the work of the Ministry of Education and Science, 65% - of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and 6% - of educational institutions or individual scientists or inventors.

Despite the fact that the share of innovative enterprises is growing, in general, the Ukrainian industry is still facing backward technologies. According to a survey by the National Institute for Strategic Studies, "in 2017, at the processing industry enterprises in Ukraine, the share of the average number of employees who used computers was 35.2% of the average number of employees of enterprises. Of these, only 52.4% of employees used computers with Internet access. Only 3 to 9% of the processing industry enterprises as of 2017 used “big data” and cloud computing technologies.”

Although with all this, in some respects the indicators of science and innovation activities of the country are quite high. But this is not due to but in spite of the "efforts" of the state.

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According to the Ministry of Education and Science, Ukraine’s share in the global volume of scientific publications (according to the Scopus magazine database) remains very low - 0.34%. At the same time, the number of publications that account for $ 1 million of research and development funding exceeds the indicators of more developed countries. In 2017, this indicator in Ukraine was 25.78 articles for $ 1 million, and in Sweden, for example, only 2.81 articles.

According to the Global Innovation Index, Ukraine has been ranked first in the number of patented models for several years in terms of GDP. But this is not connected with the phenomenal fecundity of the inventive mind of Ukrainians, but with the low cost of such patents: until July 19, you had to pay Ukrpatent only UAH 67 for this. In addition, for researchers, the publication of a patent application is equivalent to the scientific publications in international journals, which affects the assessment of the effectiveness of their work and the level of wages. According to the indicators of the same rating, Ukraine, oddly enough, has relatively high efficiency of innovation.

Last year, it ranked 75th in the Innovative Resources parameter and was 35th in the Innovative Results parameter. This year, the gap between what innovation activity gets "at the entrance" and "at the exit" is even greater: 82nd and 36th places. Thus, over the year, the conditions for the development of innovations have deteriorated by as many as 7 positions, and the end result suffered only by 1 point.

Related: Innovations in Ukraine since September 2018


With all these limiting circumstances, the government decided last year to switch to grant science support in order to finance primarily strategically important projects. So, the National Research Foundation was founded, which has not yet fully started to operate but has already received UAH 262 million from the state budget to fulfill its authority. In addition, the Ukrainian Startup Support Fund and the Innovation Support Fund began to work. And the state annually funds targeted programs for scientific and technological research and experimental development, in addition to supporting basic science.

“It’s not quite right to work for grants. Now they are trying to say: every scientific cent must be commercialized afterward. They don’t think in the world for so long. They are looking for people who are interested in and explore some kind of environment, phenomena, tasks that, perhaps, do not interest anyone at all. Maybe they are studying the wing of a dragonfly or pollen of a flower, but later it is this interest that can turn a lot in the scientific view of the world. But in order for a scientist to be interested in such things, which are inconspicuous at first glance, he needs to be given appropriate opportunities for this. This applies to both wages and infrastructure resources, and the ability to communicate with the same people in other countries. Ukraine has not created institutions that could engage in free science. And in search of funding, scientists work with international grant programs. But they are not focused on the development of the Ukrainian economy and science, but on creating a competitive economy of the European Union," editor-in-chief of "Intellectual property" magazine Iryna Abdulina says.

For example, Ukraine is a member of the Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovations of the European Union. But its main tasks (about which they write even on the website of the Ministry of Education and Science) come down to the following points: to make Europe an attractive place for first-class scientists; to promote the development of innovativeness and competitiveness of European industry and business; using science to solve the most pressing issues of modern European society.

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On the other hand, Ukraine is already asleep and sees itself as a full member of the European Union ... Several years ago, our country resumed its participation in the EUREKA International European Innovative Science and Technology Program.

"In May 2018, the team of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute "received the right to participate in the cluster project Future eHealth powered by 5G (" Future electronic healthcare sphere based on 5G technology ") with the Celtic-Plus cluster program of the EUREKA program", reports Ministry of Science.

Based on 5G technology! While in the course of health care reform in Ukraine, domestic secondary health care providers have not yet received computers and cannot record patients on the Internet, although family doctors already practice this. According to official data, about 60% of the population use the Internet here ...

In the convulsive attempts to adjust the upward vector of development of science last year, the Ministry of Education and Science approved the "Roadmap for the integration of Ukraine into the European Research Area". One of its priorities is the development of a free labor market for researchers. It is impossible to keep a “brain drain” with more attractive conditions, so the government proposes to create a healthy environment for our scientists to return home. The call of the Motherland is "the formation of a system of additional temporary (so-called Postdoc) positions at universities and scientific institutions for young scientists who have received the Ph.D. in the last 12 years, including in other countries." At the same time, the issue of the salary level, which would correspond to foreign scientific institutions, has not been resolved. In addition, this year the government intends to begin the procedure for the elimination of inefficient scientific institutions.

Those of them which, by results of certification, will occupy the lowest positions, will be offered to reorganize or liquidate. According to the law "On Scientific and Scientific-Technical Activity", in the future, such certification will help to regulate the level of basic funding of scientific institutions.

But all these plans are on paper. While the Ukrainian science is not experiencing tangible pushes on the way to its bright future, the negative tendencies of its development make us prepare for the worst or just wait.

Wait a little more - and granite of science can be used for the tombstone of the economic potential of the country. And no “reserved places” for our scientists who went abroad will be interesting: nobody will bury their talent in this cemetery, even if it is in their homeland.

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