Europe

Russian Academics Aim to Punish Colleagues Who Backed Ukraine Invasion

Some voters think the list could make a difference in the elections.

“Most of the scientific community is definitely antiwar,” said Alexander Nozik, a physicist at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology who was not involved in creating the list. “Being in such a list could significantly reduce chances to be elected.”

Some outside observers say that the Russian Academy is not as powerful as it once was.

“It used to be a vast network of research institutes containing the best scientists in the country,” said Loren Graham, a historian who specializes in Russian science, with emeritus positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. “Those institutes have now been stripped away by the Putin government, given to the Ministry of Education, and leaving the academy as an honorific society without genuine heft in science.”

Members of the academy have also been implicated in ethical shortcomings in recent years. In 2020, a commission the body appointed found that Russian academic journals and research publications were riddled with plagiarism, self-plagiarism and gift authorship, where scientists were listed as co-authors of manuscripts without contributing to the work. As a result of the report, Russian journals retracted more than 800 research papers in which the authors were thought to have committed ethical violations.

A separate 2020 exposé by the same commission at the academy found that several rectors and other senior university officials were guilty of publishing papers in questionable journals, listing fake collaborators and plagiarism.

And some say such problems diminish the importance of the academy’s upcoming election.

“A lot of people in Russian science still believe that the academy is the oldest structure that can do something — not because it is good but because others are worse,” said Dr. Nozik.

This is not the first time the Russian Academy of Sciences has found itself pulled into disputes over the invasion of Ukraine. On March 7, it released a statement about the war. Some observers saw it as the closest any official institution in the country came to condemning Russia’s aggression, but critics believed it was not as explicitly antiwar as it should have been.

But the statement did address the repercussions of the war and how the international response to it would affect Russian science, a concern shared by Russian academics.

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