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31.03.2011



New Leaders: High Time Things Changed

Early 2011 is turning out quite eventful for the Russian medical informatics community. The two “D”s are on everybody’s lips: Mr. Dubinin and Mr. Dedov. One can’t help but wonder what changes those two will bring about in the state policy sector. Neither has held the position long enough yet. Both claim they will do their best. What does that mean in practical terms?

From March 1, 2011 Ivan Dedov is the new President of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (RAMS). Voted for by 348 Academy members against just 10 in the opposition, the 70-year old Head Endocrinologist of the Ministry of Health succeeds Mikhail Davidov, Director of the Scientific Oncology Center. The new leader stated that the primary accent will be on high technology, fundamental research and capacity building. There was no other contender in this election.

Coupled with the fact that the elections placed the current Minister of Health Tatjana Golikova in the Academy’s Executive Board (pro bono), I would say that the power joust Ministry vs. Academy is finally over. This opposition goes years back. In 2006 Mr. Dedov ran for RAMS President but was voted down. A year later the Ministry tried to inject their officials into RAMS administration but was vehemently opposed by academics. On the other hand, the list of institutions under RAMS is approved by the Ministry itself, and not always to RAMS advantage.

I wish it all boiled down to just politics. RAMS with its 52 scientific centers and universities across the country is funded directly from the State Budget, the bulk of financing goes to scientific research. While this is supposed to be a good thing, the Academy has been criticized for chronic underachievement. Be the judge of it, ELSEVIER-based SCIMAGO rates RAMS 668th amongst the scientific orgs on the planet, in tangible terms it is under 3% of the world’s medical science publications. National Science Foundation of the USA scans the past decade and RAMS emerges with just 20 (!) high citation index articles. That places the Academy 1109th out of 4339. According to the Federal Service of Financial and Budgetary Oversight, in 2009 the inefficiencies in scientific research budget utilization amounted to $16 ml. The list goes on.

Similar dissatisfaction is voiced regarding research carried out under the Ministry itself. Complaints that some-lovely-where else science is funded well don’t cut it anymore – we excel at making any amounts of money disappear, big or small – in 2009 the State spent $200 ml. on 1536 scientific research projects with the staggering outcome of just 2 software products, and even those were not properly patented.

Carrots obviously didn’t work, the sticks then? The country has had enough - several Ministries passed laws that are meant to whip academics into proper action. In the Ministry of Health terms, it is the Federal Laws 738 and 770 from August 2010 that will sort all its medical educational and scientific establishments into three groups – advanced, average, and weak. The main criteria are publication activity (WOS, Scopus and the Russian Scientific Citation Index), innovation potential and creation of intellectual property. Far from a three column write-off, the laws are an algorithm that will snap the weak out of the budget while enhancing support for stronger players. In 2011-2012 a designated Committee plans to shut down the Ministry’s underachievers altogether, about a third of the total scientific capacity. Individual scientists are under the microscope as well.

Another concern is international representation of our scientific press. The SCI counts less than 200 of the Russian journals, 11 of them medical. Out of more than 2000? Russia’s own SCI has good news though: the highest impact factor in all medical press is the journal “Physician and Information Technologies.” Our field. Here’s to that.

Which brings me around to Vadim Dubinin – the new face of the Department of Informatization, the designated IT structure within the Ministry of Health. Appointed January this year, this 48-year old specialist has extensive technical IT background. Originally from Samara region, Mr. Dubinin has worked both in the private and the state education sectors. No food for fodder yet, so far the main concerns he is facing are updates of Russian IT Strategy in Medicine, the document has been found a legion of faults with in its previous renditions. I am staying optimistic – getting feedback from our community is definitely a priority with the newly-appointed Head of the Department. Most recent coverage – his participation in the monthly health IT WGs by RAMN January and February 2011, YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Nak0WWlo2k (courtesy MIATS RAMN, www.mcramn.ru)

Konstantin Chebotaev,
Head of International Department,
Medical Centre for Information and Analysis of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (MIATS RAMN)

 

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