On 28 March 2007, the General Assembly of the Russian Academy of Sciences almost unanimously approved a new charter, rejecting a model charter proposed by the Russian Federation's Ministry of Education and Science that would have placed the academy under the supervision of a council largely appointed by the Russian president and parliament. Under the rejected model charter, the supervisory council would have also determined how funding for research would be allocated and would have placed some of the Academy's 400 research institutes under the control of Russian government ministries.

The Russian Academy of Sciences was founded by Peter the Great in 1724. The Academy's 1000 senior members are currently self-governed, overseeing a $1.2 billion budget and 200,000 researchers and staff members across Russia. Decisions on the allocation of research funds as well as the election of senior members and the institution's leading officials are determined by secret ballot.

The new charter approved by the Academy does change its status to that of a State Academy, and specifies that future presidents of the Academy of Science be approved by Russia's president. Additionally, the approved charter omits an age census clause, thus allowing the president and vice-presidents of the Academy, directors of its research institutes and the structures they supervise to remain in office beyond the age of 70.

Russian government officials contended that the charter they proposed and the Academy rejected was meant to modernize and increase the efficiency of the Academy. They have criticized the organization for being overly controlled by aging scientists and too slow to seek commercial applications for scientific breakthroughs.

Members of the Academy were concerned that the charter proposed by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science threatened the very nature of science conducted at the Academy and some even speculated that the Kremlin was eyeing valuable real estate properties held by the Academy.

 


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