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Sociologists Outlined Institutional Landscape of Russian Physics

Social scientists from National Research University Higher School of Economics (NRU HSE) measured scientific capital of 39 physics institutions of Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). More detailed information about research results can be found in the journal Scientometrics.

There are opposing viewpoints on the scientific institutions functioning. From the one hand, many scientists claim that the big institutions epoch passed: the science development proceeds on micro level, and revolutionary findings in science are made by small laboratories. From the other hand, there is the belief among the managers who makes decisions about research institutions policy that scientific progress is determined by huge structural changes that are impossible without important infrastructural development and big institutional forms creation.

Sociologists from Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge NRU HSE Yuriy Kachanov and Natalia Shmatko and researcher from USA Yulia Markova tried to answer to this question on the basis of RAS physics institutions data. The authors estimated scientific capital of 39 institutions by using sociological data of the survey “The monitoring of the labor market for highly qualified R&D personnel” that was conducted by NRU HSE. Bibliometric information of Web of Science Core Collection (Thomson Reuters) allowed to define information contribution of Russian institutions into global physical science.

The main research result is scientometric space of physics institutions (see the fig.1). This space is considered in statistics as data analysis method and as data presentation method at the same time. The structure of this space is determined by two dimensions. The first dimension is interpreted by authors as information significance of Russian institutions on the world scene. The second dimension that forms institutional space of Russian physics is social recognition of scientific authority of institution.

As can be seen from the figure, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (№22 on the figure), Alikhanov Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics (№1), Lebedev Physical Institute (№29), Ioffe Institute (№20) have the highest information significance on the global science. Ioffe Institute, Lebedev Physical Institute and Joint Institute for Nuclear Research have the highest scientific capital. These institutions can be called as Russian scientific leaders.

Scientometric space defines clustering of physics institutions. The first cluster (the key physics institutions) includes Ioffe Institute, Lebedev Physical Institute, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. They are characterised by high publication activity and scientific impact, many well-known scientists work there.

The second cluster comprises mostly institutions with specialization in high energy physics: Alikhanov Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics, Institute for High Energy Physics, Institute for Nuclear Research, Konstantinov Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics. This cluster involves organisations with high development potential that are deeply integrated into international division of scientific labor.

The third cluster of institutions embraces small organisations that are narrowly specialized and oriented towards applied problems. For instance, Pushkov Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radio Wave Propagation, Institute of Microelectronics Technology and High Purity Materials, Kutateladze Institute of Thermophysics.

«The main research finding is not unexpected, however it contradicts to intuition of some critiсs of Russian scientific politics, – said Natalia Shmatko, the head of Department for Human Capital Research Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge NRU HSE. – On the basis of statistics methods we proved that big institutions had high authority on the global science scene and produced more scientific information that highly evaluated by global physics community». In other words, the size is significant for scientific organizations. Scientists from small Russian institutions have more difficulties in receiving scientific recognition, in withstanding the severe ideas and experiments competition in the global physics.

Figure 1. Two-dimensional presentation of physics institutions space

October 28, 2016