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Research leadership: the role of soft skills and the problem of low salary

27 September 2021

The participants of Ruscatalysis-2021 Congress discussed the questions of research leadership in the round table: why to become a leader, how soft skills influence the career, and how the problem of salary does not help to stop the brain drain from Russia.

The Congress’ participants were surveyed on the subject of research career, and only 10% of those answering said that they would like to head a research project or direction.

According to Aram Bugaev, head of international research laboratory of nanodiagnostics of the Southern Federal University, a scientist does not have to become a leader – satisfaction may come from just research or teaching.

“You should answer the question – why to become a leader? We all have our own idea of happiness – somebody is happy to give lectures to the students, while others write papers, and still others want to head a research group and be a leader”, he noted.

The majority of the respondents answered that the soft skills and communication is the basic factor for successful academic career.

“The scientists understand that to be successful it is necessary to upgrade their competences and competitiveness. It is necessary to interact with other collectives and teams, to go beyond the scope of their organization, to widen the circle of contacts. As the survey showed, the most important qualities for building a career are believed to be the questions of communication”, said Dr. Denis Kozlov, head of Department of unconventional catalytic processes of Boreskov Institute of Catalysis.

Among the factors hindering career the Congress’ participants named low salary. According to Anna Vutolkina, senior researcher of the Chair of petrochemistry and organic catalysis in MSU, the brain drain halved as compared with the 1990s, but it remains an important problem.

“It’s not all that sunny and cheerful, in spite of numerous attempts of the government to channel money for support of the young specialists. Statistically, in the 1990s the drain was about two thousand people every year, now it is about one thousand of scientists. On the one hand, the drain halved, and on the other, more than 90% of those leaving the country do so because of the low salary”, she underlined.

As Aram Bugaev noted, within one organization the salary level can vary significantly.

“It happens that some employees of a university earn several times less than others. Then it’s either you don’t hire people if you don’t need them, and if you do need them, then why do they get so little money? This is obviously not the responsibility of a young scientist, this is the problem of administration who distribute the wages of junior technicians of five thousand rubles”, he said.

According to Lyudmila Stepanova, senior researcher of Center of New Chemical Technologies of Boreskov Institute of Catalysis, sometimes the young scientists lack practical tasks:

“Speaking about problems, both in post-graduate school and even now I lack certain industrial tasks. I remain in the fundamental science, but I would like to solve practical tasks and see the results”.

The participants of the round table noted that the research career is more than just ruling the collective.

“Career in science is a comprehensive realization of a young scientist with many components – social significance, public recognition of the results, acknowledgement in academic community, and in the conditions of market-driven economy it is finances”, said Anna Vutolkina.



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