Interview with the Rector of SPbSPU M.P. Fedorov, the newspaper "Izvestia", 03 June 2010

Rector of St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, Mikhail Fedorov: "University science should become professional".

 

 

National research university, that is a status on the results of nationwide tender which was awarded in May of 2010, to one of the most famous universities of St. Petersburg – Polytech. What gives and what requires a new status, told the Rector of St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, Russian Academy of Science Corresponding Member, Professor Mikhail Fedorov to the correspondent of "Izvestia" Oleg Rogozin.

 

Izvestia: Mikhail Petrovich, assigning to the high school the status of a national research university, obviously, poses a team with new challenges. Will this become an additional impetus for the development of the university?

 

Mikhail Fedorov: Of course, this is so. That is what we hoped to, when applied for a competition commission. Today, many universities are losing to academic research organizations that are engaged exclusively in scientific work. This is natural: for the universities the main function is education, and science for us is in a way part-time job. But modern science does not tolerate a peripheral role, science as an independent field of activity, needs special management – for interacting with customers, industry, innovative organizations. Inside the university science and research, too, must have a modern structuring. In short, the university science must become professional, otherwise it can not develop.

The status of the research university will allow us to significantly reform the organization of scientific work. First of all, innovation activities, its main areas that we want to do, were formulated in the application. They are quite voluminous, we call them multisectoral, i.e. the results achieved can be used not in one, but in several industries.

New status – first of all means responsibility

 

Izvestia: The status achieved provides additional budget funding for research. Have you are already planned, how these funds can be used most effectively?

 

Fedorov: Estimated funding is substantially limited by the rules on which the functioning of national research universities is based. Most funds are allocated for the purchase of equipment. And the equipment is not of general use, let's say computers, but unique, designed exclusively for the development of innovative research areas. Only some of the funds may be spent on development of the qualification of stuff and university professors who will use this equipment. But the helper, technical staff, who will be attracted to the maintenance of it, falls out of budget. The University will have to seek its own funds to pay for this staff.

 

Izvestia: Do you pick yourself the equipment necessary for research?

 

Fedorov: The mechanism of its delivery is not planned yet. But, of course, it is important that the customer – the university could affect the selection of necessary research equipment. Otherwise, it can be delivered not complete or do not meet the necessary requirements.

I would like to note another circumstance. The concept of a research university concerns the high school as a whole, but the financing is applied only to those areas which were designated in the application. We must understand that the allocated funds will not be "smeared" as a thin layer on the whole university; they will focus on the implementation of identified objectives.

And, finally, gained status imposes a great responsibility on the university Tight control over the results is established. What was written in the application and received support in the form of budgetary financing must be necessarily executed. Status of the Research University was assigned to Polytech only in May; it is given for 10 years, the first year – 2010-th. And I'm already worried about how and with what we will report the results of the year. We will have to work very actively, the time is short. The research directions are formulated. Our main task now is: to collect applications for the equipment, so we can promptly order, get and install it.

Polytech Diploma will become even weightier

 

Izvestia: How will the new university status influence the learning process? Will the Polytech diploma still be weightier as a result of this work?

 

Fedorov: For sure. Indeed, on several major areas of scientific research, including the research of undergraduate and graduate students will be carried out on unique equipment. A measure of the effectiveness of our work in the educational aspect will be the protection of the master's and doctoral dissertations on this topic, publication of articles in prestigious scientific journals, teaching of Masters on designated research areas.

 

Izvestia: As far as I know, one of the areas of research on these programs will be energy. This is also the topic of your academic work. Is it possible for the rector of such a large institution to find time for research work?

 

Fedorov: Energy, energy saving and environmental protection – these are the cornerstone directions which we have declared. My scientific specialty – hydropower, renewable energy sources. Of course, employment as the rector substantially limits temporary opportunities for teaching and research activities. The volume of teaching has declined slightly, but I try to keep the scientific work at the same scale, and I have plans to participate with the colleagues in the implementation of projects, primarily related to the development of new directions in energy. In particular, bio-energy, i.e. the use of various bio-resources – natural and those that we call man-renewable.

We are talking about recycling of waste, the process that produces electric energy. New technologies are being developed, constantly improving efficiency of plants. Another goal is also achieved: the recycling can reduce the load on the environment. This is extremely important for such cities as St. Petersburg.

Not less urgent is to develop new technologies to use renewable energy resources for the generation of electric power. This, of course, is linked to the future, but not so distant, very soon we will have to replace most of the fossil fuels on a very simple reason – due to the depletion of its reserves.

Projects are there, now the stage of their implementation has come

 

Izvestia: Do you mean the energy of tides, wind, sun rays?

 

Fedorov: First of all, – the hydropower. Current projects are based on a combination in one power unit collaboration of work of hydroelectric power plants with nuclear power (in the European part of Russia) and thermal coal-fired (in Siberia, the Far East). There are calculated loads, frequencies, power flows in power systems. These projects permit to accumulate energy, and in areas prone to major flooding, to reduce the level of threat. Similar schemes are already fairly well developed, has come the stage of their widespread implementation.

You mentioned the energy of tides, it is also an interesting and promising direction. Now the projects of tidal power plants are being developed – and quite powerful, which can be built on the Kola Peninsula, in the Far East.

 

Izvestia: Are these projects already real?

 

Fedorov: Close to real. However, this direction was not included in our application as a national research university, but in future we plan to deal with it.

 

Izvestia: The status assigned to Polytech for 10 years. Will the topics of research be extended with time?

 

Fedorov: Certainly. We will closely follow the scientific process, the changing needs of production, and to the extent of demand for a particular technology, the growth of the relevance of any of the renewable energy, the research program will be adjusted.

The program has its social mission

 

Izvestia: Will the expand of research activity of the University be reflected in its international programs?

 

Fedorov: The Saint Petersburg State Polytechnic University has cooperation agreements with the leading high schools of the USA, Japan, China, but the closest cooperation we have with the colleagues from European universities. Currently, there is the union – Platform of the Eastern European technical universities, the establishment of which has been initiated by three universities: Warsaw Technical University, Berlin Technical and St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. Until recently, the president in this union was the head of the University of Berlin, and this year the chairmanship was handed over to the Rector of the Polytechnic University. The potential, which the international cooperation sets, will be used in realization of programs of the national project. By the way, in the first half of June on the basis of Polytech a session will be held with the participation of our colleagues on the Platform of Eastern European technical universities.

I will note one more aspect of international contacts. In the second half of May Berlin hosted the first congress of our compatriots who have been trained in Russia, but for various reasons, went to work, and research abroad. They are tens of thousands of Russians. At the Congress, by the way, I met a few graduates of Polytech.

And many of them wish to come back to Russia. The priority conditions for their return, they name, first of all, an interesting scientific work and the availability of modern equipment for research. Second – mobility, the ability to combine the work here and abroad, to implement joint projects. In third place, some of them have housing problem, although many have here their families and apartments. It is interesting that the issue of wages was roused very little.

 

Izvestia: They are successful people, and they are sure that they will be able to earn money.

 

Fedorov: There is a well-known rule: give us a fishing rod, and our catch and income we will provide ourselves. This Congress is only the first step and very positive in terms of taking initiative in the return of our compatriots home. Important role in this process belongs to the universities, since for most of the graduates their alma mater is a light way in life. They trust their teachers, due to which their business, academic career was successful. University
programs – national and research, providing them with modern equipment, will meet the aspirations of our compatriots abroad to participate in exciting collaborative research projects. This aspect can be regarded as a social mission in the formation of several Russian universities as national research universities.

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