Scientists try to “pull up grades” of the Cabinet of Ministers

Scientists try to “pull up grades” of the Cabinet of Ministers

Specifically for Innovation House members of the National Council for Science & Technology told what does the Ukrainian science need, and how scientific expertise may affect the quality of draft laws.

It has become possible for the scientific community to affect the decisions, taken by the Cabinet of Ministers. From November 15 onwards all the laws and statutory instruments shall undergo examination, performed by the Scientific Committee of the National Council for Science & Technology, consisting of 24 scientists. The Cabinet of Ministers has already amended its procedures.

Innovation House found out how this mechanism works in real-world terms, and will the scientific expertise affect the quality of documents under the hand of civil servants.

Scientific approach

According to Oleksiy Kolezhuk, member of the Scientific Committee, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, lots of laws and statutory instruments currently contradict one another and thus they lower the efficiency of scientific performance. Therefore, the expertise, conducted by the scientific community, is so needed.

The Scientific Committee gives its recommendations stating what shall be changed in the document

Scientific expertise will cover new laws and statutory instruments that bear relation to the science, inclusive of draft laws that come through the Cabinet of Ministers. The Verkhovna Rada still does not coordinate its preliminary works with the scientists. “Any deputy may verbally propose something during the meeting and this will be adopted without any consultations,” – Oleksiy Kolezhuk said.

Within half a month of its work the Scientific Committee has considered about half a dozen letters with drafts laws from the Cabinet of Ministers. According to Mr. Kolezhuk, most of them were received from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. The Scientific Committee gave its expertise and conclusions in respect of such letters.

It is anybody’s guess whether such conclusions will be ever taken into consideration. After all, it turns out that we still have no requirements as to the execution of decisions of the Scientific Committee, “Our recommendations are not binding. We may provide them, but the authority that has developed the draft law has no obligation to agree with them,” – Oleksiy Kolezhuk said.

In addition to recommendations provision, the Scientific Committee performs yet another important mission: to harmonize the work of the ministries and to assist them in reaching the common standard in some legislative instruments.

“One of the functions of the National Council is to be the platform, where various ministries, various departments may meet. Then their representatives will see the shared problem and will become coordinated somehow,” – Oleksiy Kolezhuk reported.

This excludes the follow-on revision of the draft laws by the ministries on a standalone basis, and provides for the integrated approach to problem solution. Moreover, such approach excludes the rise of situation when one ministry develops the project in conformity with its problems, and the other ministry develops entirely different project.

What does the Scientific Committee work on

The Scientific Committee does not develop laws and statutory instruments. “The only exception, when the Committee has drafted itself the law or statutory instrument, is the development of the document on the National Research Foundation – according to the law it entrusted on the Scientific Committee, and have done this, document is now being considered in the Cabinet of Ministers,” – Oleksiy Kolezhuk said.

Nevertheless, the members of the Scientific Committee are included in the working group under the Ministry of Education and Science. Therefore, they may participate in the development of documents and may share their ideas with the ministry.

Nana Voitenko, Doctor of Biological Sciences and one of the members of the Scientific Committee, told about some of them.

Thus, one of the ideas is to develop the regulation on the expertise of the scientific establishments, which would split them up by rating. Ms. Voitenko said that we already have projects as to this issue.

It is proposed to divide scientific establishments dealing with fundamental and applied researches into three groups as follows:

Group A. The best ones, worthy of receiving increased state funding.

Group B. Scientific establishments that shall aim for being in Group A. They will be funded at the same level as they have it now.

Group C. The lowest group. Funding of such scientific establishments shall be cut, unless they enhance their scientific value.

Nana Voitenko believes that we may create special expert groups that will determine to what group one or another establishment relates. Expert review will consider the number of publications or patents, the level and novelty of researches, other scientometrical indicators. The scientist said that this will allow for the relocation of funds among the state-funded organizations, and that currently existing “ballast” among the scientific establishments, will cease to exist on its own.

At the same time, establishments showing the international level, will get better funding.

Detailed appraisal system may be introduced for higher education establishments, but the mechanism is still being discussed. It is not clear yet what exactly it will be, and how will it differ from the appraisal system of scientific establishments.

“Under current conditions, it is a bit foolish to demand from the universities to reach the level of scientific establishments, since their employees shall also hold classes,” – Nana Voitenko explained.

According to her, Europe and the USA have full-time equivalent (FTE) – employee’s workload within the project. Salary of professor at the research university, located abroad, is based on both time spent for teaching and time spent for scientific work. What we have is the teacher, who shall annually hold a vast number of classes to receive a salary of assistant professor or professor, and he has no time for the science at all.

What we have is the teacher, who shall annually hold a vast number of classes to receive a salary of assistant professor or professor, and he has no time for the science at all

Furthermore, the Scientific Committee, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science, are engaged in categorization of specialized scientific journals – Ukrainian and foreign ones, in which scientists may be published.

Pursuant to the Ukrainian laws, publications in scientific journals are one of the requirements for presentation of Candidate’s or Doctoral thesis. However, on frequent occasions, the level of scientific periodicals, requirements for their editorial boards, and articles published in them are low. Therefore, unfair scientists are being published there, and afterwards their theses are presented based on such publications.

Ms. Voitenko believes that categorization of scientific publications as to their level may help to resolve this problem.

Similar to the scientific establishments, the Scientific Committee offers three classification groups of periodicals as follows:

Group A. Credible periodicals (lots of Ukrainian ones are among them) that are included in the world-class Scopus and Web of Science databases – they have proven themselves as those that check the publications thoroughly.

Group B. Journals that are included in other, less strict international databases. Certain demands shall be placed on the members of editorial boards of such journals, which shall consist of distinguished scientists, both Ukrainian and foreign, who will keep watch over the level of publications.

Group C. These are either journals with very low requirements as to the publications that often have no peer review, or purely commercial projects that print whatever they like on a monetary basis. As time goes by, journals, included in this group, will disappear, since the publication in such periodicals will not considered neither for the appraisal of the establishment, nor for thesis presentation, nor for the scientific degree awarding. Provision is made for the transition period (2 years) to improve the level of publications in such journals and for them to be upgraded to Group B.

“While appraising the scientific organizations, in no small measure the journals, in which their employees are being published, will be taken into account,” – Nana Voitenko said.

Stricter requirements for the theses will be raised shortly thereafter, since their current completion level hardly meets the requirements.

“Unfortunately, over the past few years, their quantity has increased with simultaneous drop in quality,” – Ms. Voitenko stated.

The Scientific Committee is about to come out for the publication of all the works, based on which theses are being presented, in international journals having professional peer review in order to ensure their scientific novelty.

At the same time, Mr. Kolezhuk said that the Scientific Committee does not develop, but only advises. Nowadays we see ongoing attempts to convince the Ministry of Education and Science to adopt the rules stated above. “However, there is no guarantee that we will ever be heard” – warns he.