April 2017 was a milestone for the Russian research — the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) celebrated its 25th anniversary. Here, we take a look back at the RFBR’s contribution to the world of research, landmarks of its development, its partnership with Elsevier, and its vision for the future.
The Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) has entered a new phase of activity with the aim to support Russia in building a powerful, knowledge-based economy. This activity follows on from the Russian Government’s Strategy for Scientific and Technological Development of the Russian Federation, initiated in late 2016.
The strategy aims to ensure the country’s independence and competitiveness by creating an efficient system for building up and using the nation’s intellectual potential. For the RFBR, this means continuing to support breakthrough ideas, giving confidence to young researchers that their skills are appreciated in the country, strengthening international collaboration, and developing science throughout Russia. One of the ways to accomplish this is building on a long-term partnership with Elsevier.
The RFBR has supported the fundamental research in Russian since its establishment in April 1992, when Russian science was experiencing most difficult times. The country's economy was undergoing reforms and research funding fell abruptly; RFBR’s mission was to maintain Russia's scientific and technical potential.
The RFBR was the first organization in Russia to allow scientists to independently determine the subject of their research and receive financial support for the implementation of their ideas.
To select the best projects, the RFBR uses today a multi-stage evaluation system. Initially, applications are evaluated by specialists working in the same field of research. Then they are reviewed at the subject expert council meetings, and the final decision is made at the RFBR bureau meeting. Over the last 25 years, about 5,000 scientists were engaged by the RFBR as experts. In total, the Foundation has provided support to about 150,000 scientific projects and more than 300,000 researchers from 3,000 Russian organizations.
Supporting research productivity
In early 2000s, the RFBR’s electronic library has being developed to support researchers with high-quality information and tools to increase research effectiveness and efficiency. Elsevier became one of the Foundation’s first partners in this project by providing access to its ScienceDirect platform. This collaboration enabled Russian scientists to obtain access to the most authoritative information resources required for their research projects, improve international collaboration and visibility of Russian research.
Over the years, the Elsevier’s full-text content has been the most widely used by researchers: about a quarter of requests to electronic libraries from Russian users relate to the Elsevier’s database. Currently, the RFBR grants access to the high-quality research content for about 200 leading research organizations. Total contribution of RFBR grants recipients into Russian research output is not less than 25 percent, according to Scopus data.
Focus on international collaboration
Improvement of international research collaboration became one of the RFBR’s most important drives. A recognizable structure in the international community, it has been conducting joint research programs with 48 leading science support organizations in 34 countries. Currently, the RFBR conducts more than 30 international competitions, including five on a multilateral basis. It is actively improving cooperation with the German research community, the National Center for Scientific Research (France), the National Science Foundation (USA), the National Institutes of Health (USA), the State Fund for Natural Sciences (PRC), the Swiss and Austrian Scientific Foundations, the National Research Foundation (Republic of Korea), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Europe) and others.
In 2015, Russia initiated a program to support science, technology and innovation in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The RFBR also acted as one of the founders of the Eurasian Association for the Support of Scientific Research, which includes Armenia, Belarus, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.
Supporting young researchers on their journey to success
Recognizing the importance of growing new generations of successful researchers, the Foundation boasts the constantly expanding support program for young scientists, encompassing more than 15,000 young researchers annually at any stage of their career: from a student to PhD candidate and young doctor of science. As a result, the RFBR strategy has been proven effective in developing new research talents: most of the young researchers awarded the Russian State Prize in the fields of science and technology had previously been involved in RFBR’s projects.
Since 2004, the RFBR has also worked with Elsevier on choosing the winners of the Scopus Award Russia, an annual award given to young and renowned Russian researchers for their contributions to the development of science and technology on a national and international level. Their contributions are evaluated using Scopus, Elsevier’s abstract and indexing database, and the award is given to the most prolific and cited researchers in their field.
In addition to considering the number of publications and citations in Scopus, selection criteria also include nominees’ participation in the RFBR projects: grant applications, research team supervision, and the number of articles published under the RFBR projects. Winners of the Scopus Award Russia in past several years have included talented Russian researchers recognized for their contribution to “priority” areas such as “Medicine of the Future,” “Photonics” and “NBICS Sciences.”
While increasing the international visibility of researchers working on the RFBR projects, this collaboration also helps to enhance the prestige of research career, attracts and encourages young talent, gives researcher well deserved recognition for their daily work and promotes the social impact of science in Russia.