Recent Changes in Incomes and the Structure of Investments in the Social Sciences

Laryssa Kozlova

The 1990s witnessed important transformations in the system of financial support for the Russian social sciences and humanities, changes which have exerted an influence on the material and professional life of the scientific community. The main change is the passage from the budgeted administrative-institutional means of receiving financial means to a system independent of budgetary and institutional constraints. At the beginning of the 90s the major part of the means within the general structure of investments meted out to scholars and educational institutions, as well as in the structure of revenues available to scholars, began to reflect the degree to which they gained success in the market of intellectual services. A new form of budgetary financing came on the scene — the redistribution of finances by state-run scientific research programs supporting promising research projects.

It is widely believed that the socio-economic reforms of the mid-80s-early 90s reduced the sciences to a subsistence level of existence. With the passage of time it has become ever clearer that this was not the case. Abstracting from the chronic underfinancing of the social sciences and the humanities and the vanishingly low level of official revenues, reductions in the number of scholars as well as other evident difficulties, all these sciences have managed to survive and raise rather than lower their intellectual potential. Significant signs in this regard include increased book and article publications, new professional journals, an evident broadening of the thematic repertoire of publications, the application of information technology, increased contacts with non-Russian scholarship, in particular Western scientific research foundations, international research projects, scholarly exchanges and periods of residence abroad. It needs to be said that these things are true first of all of the centers of academic scholarship — Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and to a lesser extent only of the peripheral regions. But even here ‘big science’ has made important inroads.

The miserable state of Russian science became a commonplace both in the popular as well as in the scientific press. Indeed, in 90s science as a financially dependent social institution, tied to a large extent to the military-industrial complex, suffered catastrophic transformations. The causes of the catastrophes were not connected exclusively to ‘inadequate funding’, as the government’s policy for science was deliberately directed toward destroying the administrative-command forms of organized science. The essence of the matter came to preserving the visible forms of budgetary support under conditions in which budgets for scientific institutions were no longer in touch with the market. The organization of science based on status and hierarchy (administration) was kept in place, but lacking budgetary support, it was, from the onset of reforms, de facto cut off from the market. In the academic sector (more than in applied sciences) there arose a positional conflict between institutional norms and unfulfilled state obligations to science.

In 2000 scientific organizations began benefiting from increased financing and reconstruction of the academic community acquired a relatively stable role. The grant system was confirmed as the alternative to administrative distribution, as the ideology of justice and freedom accorded to the ‘individual’ scholar. This system injected new rules of the game into Russian science as well as new ideas about what is right and wrong in regard to scientific research. To be sure, what is it at question are value models informing world views and popular consciousness. Of particular interest in this regard is the ideology of scientific crisis that was widespread in the popular mind. The image of the ‘hungry scholar’ is based on an essential presupposition: he/she should be paid only because he/she is a scholar. Scholars “do not reflect on themselves outside of science.” In this regard the position of the scholar in the conditions of social transformation is fundamentally different from that of, for example, the merchant who is owed nothing by anyone. Those envisaged here are not simply professionals but the intelligentsia, which was estranged from worldly concerns by the communist regime and accepted this ‘ideal’ position as a fact. In this connection the collapse of status-governed institutions of knowledge production bore directly on the ‘brain drain’ and the ‘leak of young scholars into business”, as well as on the ‘death of the intelligentsia’.

All the same in the 90s the market and scholarship came together such that today it is possible to speak about the successful capitalization of science's resources. In the first place, this applies to the redistribution of funds (real estate above all) in the hands of universities and scientific institutes. Leasing real estate contributed to the reconstruction of administrative personnel and, to some degree, the formation of an unnoticed, but influential group of 'scientific brokers' who ensured the integration of science into market supply and demand for intellectual services. In the second place, there has been a capitalization of human resources. In those domains where labor time was a necessary condition of maintaining research process (for instance to service lab equipments) collaborators quickly ceased their activities. In the social sciences, where it was possible simply not to go to work for weeks, indeed months, there was no brain drain to speak of, though it was this domain above all that witnessed the emergence of the transitional phenomenon of diversified sources of revenue – that portion of a wage coming from the main workplace significantly decreased. The older generation of university lecturers and collaborators found itself in the most difficult situation, although certain researchers maintain that the older generation can exploit accumulated symbolic prestige capital. However this may be, by the end of the 90s the academic community acquired stability – expectations a reality leveled out. Polls show that 80-90% of collaborators from the leading academic institutions are resolved to remain in science. In 1999-2000 the pay scale for those in applied sciences (1656 rubles) was higher than the average wage in industry. However, in Moscow where no less than 40% of Russia 's academic collaborators are concentrated, the pay scale is about 60% of the average wage.

In the 90s the structure of investments in the Russian fundamental sciences underwent serious changes, although science itself remained under the patronage of the state budget. The main sources of financing starting in the late 80s had been the following: the state budget, the given enterprise's own resources (including here revenues coming from contractual activities, leasing and renting properties), scientific foundations (which as of the early 90s sustained research initiatives on the part of individuals and groups of researchers according to open competition), Western investments in the form of grant support, and resources arising out of entrepreneurial activities. The portion of these resources in the overall structure of financing varied in proportion to changes in the macro-economic situation in the country. The stabilization that occurred in science was determined not by the growth in budgetary financing, but rather was a result of the emergence of systems mechanisms between the academic community and the market for intellectual services. It became apparent that budgetary financing was decreasing whereas allocation from foundations, run by the state, was increasing – from 1993 to 2001 – threefold, although their part in the overall scheme for financing the social sciences and humanities did not exceed 7%. The upshot is that budgetary resources were in fact redistributed within state scientific research funds. Likewise the size of foreign investments in science grew. Although statistics concerning the structure of revenues and additional incomes of scholars are fragmentary, certain tendencies are evident.

At present the following main sources of revenue of Russian social scientists can be distinguished: state scientific or educational institutions (wages from the state budget according to the single tariff scale or extra-tariff wages); combining jobs or labor according to contracts; labor for private scientific (usually polling or marketing) and educational firms, tutoring; grants from scientific funds. Less common are revenues from collaboration on the part of Russian social scientists and non-Russian scientific and educational institutions connected to joint projects, teaching, publications of scholarly materials. Empirical research carried out in the context of the present project shows that, proportionally, the following four factors occupy the dominant positions: wages in the main workplace (76%), grants from foreign foundations (61%), grants from Russian research foundations (46%), as well as research carried out for private domestic interests (41%). The fact that this listing includes 'research sponsored by foreign agencies' is explained by samplings conducted among the most active professional specialists with developed foreign language skills.

There are roughly 150 foundations in Russia that finance science. The most significant role in this regard is played by the Soros Foundation, the Russian Foundation for Humanities, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, the McArthur’s Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Ford Foundation, The Eurasia Foundation, the National Training Foundation (an organization which distributes the investments of the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development within the Russian educational system). Foreign Foundations play a significant role in supporting Russian science: according to certain sources the average annual overall scope of their investments is between $150 and $200 million.

Grants from Russian foundations make up, as we noted, at best 7% of the investments in science. The budgets of the RFBR for 1999-2001 were the following: 1999 – 698,069.4 Rubles; 2000 – 955,600.0 rubles; 2001 – 1,229,445.8 rubles. In 2000 the overall financing of the RFH amounted to 15,927 rubles. Maximum amounts accorded to individual research projects were 30,000 rubles, to group projects 105,000 rubles; in 2001 the corresponding figures were 50,000 and 150,000 rubles respectively. As a rule, each year some 40-50% of all project applications submitted to the RFH win support.

In most cases foundations apply individual criteria of expertise, though procedures for the evaluation of projects are observed. In this case Robert Merton writes about ambivalences, but in fact the situation is simpler: where there is little possibility of arriving at a well-justified evaluation, based on the contents of the materials available, a particularistic expertise amounts to a form of ad hominem argument. For instance, a highly relevant and respectable particularistic argument may consist in demonstrating that the applicant belongs to a "proven" scientific school. Less evident are objections connected with extra-scientific considerations: sex, age, nationality and similar stratificational factors which are typically of importance to caste and patrimonial regimes. Not infrequently, a grant is perceived as a reward for individual, including inward, personal qualities, a kind of recompense rather than an investment. The 'actuality' of a given theme figures high on the list of particularistic themes. The repertoire of grants accorded by the RFH for 2000-02 shows this clearly: social conflicts, application of syncretics to the analysis of processes of transformation, political processes, poverty, orphans, alcoholism, etc.

In sum, the most important positive consequence of the changes that have occurred in the financial system of the social sciences is the weakening of state-administrative influence, evident in autarchy and particularism, and the move of intellectual services into the market.

One of the proposed models for further development of the state sector for science is connected to question who will be the principal policy makers given the degree to which the state backs away from administrating science. Three variants are imaginable: a wholly state-run policy, pursued by one or more ministries and administrations in the form of established ties to those directly concerned by the policy; collaboration of state organs with voluntary unions of diverse scientific and research organizations, joined by informal agreements, with the methods for exerting influence on the entities concerned being primarily economic and social-psychological in nature. Finally, the third variant envisages substituting for state organs of the administration of science cooperative relations among state and non-state, commercial and non-commercial organizations.

Should the level of budgetary financing of the social sciences and the humanities depend entirely on state policy, then private initiatives are entirely in the hands of scholars and scientists, and the level of financing is then determined by the personal claims, professionalism, and degree of initiative of these specialists. Clearly, revenues of this kind will in the foreseeable future make up the main part of the revenue structure for scholars and scientists.

As to the development of Russian scientific foundations, here too the situation is less than univocally clear. The possible increase in the scope of their financing will lead inevitably to an additional decrease of the budget of existing scientific institutes, since all the resources would then flow from the common pot. The only remaining means with which to sustain fundamental research is to tie intellectual services to the domestic and international market in the form of commercial scientific labor on a wide international scale, in order to attract foreign grant aid. Our investigations show that international competitions not only sustain the income levels of Russian scholars, they contribute to integrating science in Russia in science worldwide.

[Translated from the Russian by Prof. E. M. Swiderski, Fribourg CH]

* International Biography and History of Russian Sociology Projects feature interviews and autobiographical materials collected from scholars who participated in the intellectual movements spurred by the Nikita Khrushchev's liberalization campaign. The materials are posted as they become available, in the language of the original, with the translations planned for the future. Dr. Boris Doktorov ( and Dmitri Shalin ( are editing the projects.