Kyrgyz science suffers from meager funding, faces limited financial freedom

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Investments in science have decreased six-fold over recent years in Kyrgyzstan, Vice-Speaker of the Parliament Altynai Omurbekova said during discussion of a new Law “On Science”.

Poor financing

According to the Ministry of Education and Science, the State annually allocates around half a billion soms for the development of science, with the lion’s share of which spent for salaries and payment of public utilities bills and only 10 percent spent on research. That money is not enough to purchase new equipment. Academic institutions are now surviving, trying to maintain their existing capacity.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is financed tenfold less than in Tajikistan and 30-fold less than in Kazakhstan, NAS Vice-President Altai Borubaev said. Science in Kyrgyzstan is funded much worse than in Soviet times. “We used to make unique devices but there is no state order,” he said.

The previous Parliament of the fifth convocation tasked the Government to find 550 million soms for the development of the Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences but only 5 million soms have been allocated. Meanwhile the Botanical Garden is not just a park, though it is called “a green oasis of the city,” it is also a scientific center which requires investment, Borubaev added.

Research effectiveness

MP Dastan Bekeshev questioned the effectiveness of the work of local scientists. “Our scientists make discoveries and say that the State does not provide them with funding. Perhaps the problem is not in funding. If their discoveries are worthwhile, investors would be interested in them,” he said.

Bekeshev was also surprised by a large number of scientists in the country – more than 4,800 PhDs.

Deputy Minister of Education Abdimannap Muratov admitted that much of the recent research has been done according to the ‘science for science’s sake’ principle, which scientists call ‘fundamental science’ as opposed to ‘applied science’. More than 85 percent of scientific research conducted in Kyrgyzstan remains unused in practice, he added.

Amendments to the law

The Parliament has approved amendments to the law on science, according to which the National Academy of Sciences receives the status of a legal entity and non-profit organization. The Government is the NAS founder.

The new law has removed the legal norm according to which the NAS had the right to be engaged in entrepreneurial activity and earn money. The new law clarifies that the main objectives of NAS are to implement innovative research and develop priority areas of science, as well as organize scientific, economic, social and environmental programs and innovative projects.
The NAS should also train highly qualified scientific specialists and identify fundamentally new ways of scientific development.

The new law “On Science” says that the State will determine the priorities in science and allocate money to specific objectives.

The question is how the NAS will be able to conduct innovative research with the current limited funding and increased state control.

Optimizing resources

With such meager funding, it is vital to optimize expenses, MPs said. According to Deputy Education Minister Muratov, a working group has been established which includes representatives of the National Academy of Sciences, Education Ministry and other state bodies. They have drafted priority areas, using the experience of Russia and Kazakhstan.

International experience shows that countries that have achieved significant progress in its development during a short period have done so due to large-scale borrowing of Western technologies and management practices and gradually building up their own innovative potential. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore pursued borrowing policies from the 1950s and during 20 years reached the level of developed countries.

A key role in the creation of national innovation systems belongs to the state, which sets the rules for their functioning, and provides the necessary financing.

Developed countries spend about 3% of their GDP on science, while Kyrgyzstan spends as little as 0.1%.

Under such conditions, creation of a national innovation model of industrialized development is impossible in Kyrgyzstan. According to experts, innovative development can now be achieved by gradual introduction of advanced technologies developed in the leading countries. In the future, developing infrastructure will ultimately allow Kyrgyzstan implementing its own scientific research.