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Vladimir Litvinenko: “Science is an experiment and a real opportunity for economic progress”

Литвиненко
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Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the Mining University, shared the secrets of preparing elite-level scientists.

On Wednesday, February 2, the St. Petersburg Mining University held an awards ceremony for supervisors whose graduate students defended their candidate dissertations last year. Moreover, they did it in time. 31 people from among the faculty of the university received gratitude for conscientious fulfillment of their commitments.

Of course, it was not just about letters of commendation. Every teacher whose student has successfully defended a dissertation at Mining University traditionally receives one hundred thousand rubles. True, there are some conditions to be met: If someone took the patronage of several applicants at once, and one of them for some reason failed to pass the test and get a degree, the amount is reset. Excessive workload is not considered a valid reason in this case.

Financial interest, of course, is not the only incentive that has led to a significant increase in the number of defenses at the university. And their share in comparison to the total number of students in the graduate program exceeded the psychologically important threshold of 50% (this, by the way, is an excellent indicator; because during the last decade, according to the order of the Ministry of Education and Science, it was not necessary to write a qualification paper to graduate). Creating a favorable environment, which often motivates scientists much more than a good salary, is no less important.

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“In 2021, we did a lot to bring our infrastructure to an even higher quality level. The university’s modernized laboratories have become major research centers on a global scale, bringing together all full-time scientists, professors, students, and graduate students who conduct specialized research. The creation of an environment conducive to enhancing scientific activity has increased the number of interdisciplinary studies, as well as the reliability of measurements that are carried out during experiments. This stimulates scientists, and allows them to reveal their potential to the fullest extent,” told the rector of St. Petersburg Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko to the audience.

He noted that now on the base of the oldest technical school in Russia, there are 6 research centers, which work in such spheres as increasing the profitability of mining and processing of raw materials, increasing the energy efficiency of production, decreasing the carbon footprint, recycling, reproduction of mineral resources, among many others.

“Preparation of scientific and pedagogical personnel of elite class, adapted to modern realities, is one of the priority tasks that higher education institutions face. It is the level of competence of the current postgraduate students and young scientists that determines the sustainability of the national economy in the future. Undoubtedly, the most important factor of its further progressive development is the emergence of competitive science-intensive products in all sectors of the country’s economy. It is practically impossible to achieve this result without formation and dissemination of knowledge about modern technologies, without the creation of material base necessary for experiments and environment motivating young people to do science,” Vladimir Litvinenko explained the relevance of the discussed topic.

Пягай
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Пягай
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Пягай
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In order to ensure that talented young people stay at the university after defending their dissertations and not leave to work in business structures, they should understand that they can count on a decent salary here. Today, Mining University has formulated a financial incentive mechanism that allows graduate students to receive from 40 to 80 thousand rubles per month. The exact amount depends on the level of foreign language proficiency, adherence to planned laboratory research schedules, and preparation of reviews of specialized scientific articles that broaden the scholar’s horizons and a priori contribute to the quality of the dissertation.

That’s not all there is to it, though. If a doctoral student publishes an article in a highly ranked journal included in the Scopus or WoS databases no later than 10 months before the defense, he gets the right to a lump sum payment of 200 thousand rubles. And he is entitled to another 300 thousand rubles for getting his degree on time.

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“The management of the university has created all the necessary conditions so that successful postgraduate students could not think about householding or material problems, but instead concentrate on scientific activities, on conducting experiments and achieving results, which are expressed in the publication of scientific articles and defense of a dissertation. We train them for ourselves and we are interested in their remaining at the university as teachers and scientists. The prerequisites are fluency in a foreign language, articles published in first- or second-quartile journals, and international experience in organizing research. Equally important is the quality of research, that is, the absence of simplifications and uncertainties. Unfortunately, those have recently become a pretty common phenomenon, which is especially noticeable in the example of numerous works on climate change. Our task is to obtain the most reliable scientific results, which will contribute to the creation of an environment of trust on a global scale,” said the rector of Mining University.

He also stressed that the faculty should make every effort to shorten the period of adaptation of first-year postgraduate students, especially if they received their degree at another institution of higher education. That’s why the “Basic Competencies of a Young Scientist” research and education course, which was held last fall as an experiment at the university’s renovated training center in the village of Solnechnoye, should become traditional.

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“Every young person, already at the time of entering postgraduate school, should understand the area of research they will be pursuing over the next 3 or 4 years. But to implement their potential, mentors from among the staff should help them adapt to the scientific and educational environment of the university, familiarize them with the basics of publication activity, patenting, intellectual property protection, and opportunities in the field of foreign internships, particularly, the prospects of obtaining the European degree of ‘Doctor of Philosophy,” summed up Vladimir Litvinenko.

The strategy of preparing elite-level scientists developed at Mining University will still be transformed. However, its implementation in life brings results already at the initial stage. For example, the total amount of funding for scientific research conducted at the university increased by more than 300 million rubles in 2021 compared to 2020. The citation rate of the university scientists’ articles for the last two years has increased by 30%. The number of publications with 20 or more citations per year for the last three years has reached 12, and publication activity in journals of the first and second quartile increased by 10%.

As Vladimir Litvinenko noted, “Mining University has no problems with sustainability”. However, “the pace of its development will directly depend on how successfully the staff scientists of the university will solve the scientific tasks assigned to them”.