International Academic Council as a Community of Experts and an “Embassy” of Tomsk State University

The TSU International Academic Council (IAC) was established two years ago in accordance with the strategy of the 5-100 Programme. Its last two sessions were dedicated mostly to the issues of the research and publication policies of Tomsk State University and its internationalization. But the issues of education were also brought up at the second session of the IAC. That is why the third session was partly devoted to the results of the Programme and partly to the education activity of the University and to determining its priorities for the near future.

The first day of the three-day session began with the presentation of the TSU Roadmap for 2016-2017. Then the members of the Council investigated the publication activity of our University, particularly our promoting TSU in the global subject rankings; developing the English language environment; and positioning TSU in the international information space. The latter is closely connected with the work of the TSSW: Siberian Institute of the Future, which was established to achieve both research and image goals.

On the second day, the issues of education were discussed. The Council was introduced to the achievements of the TSU online programmes; interaction between the University and schools to attract talented students; and new Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes. Then the Council got back to discussing what the University has done over the last two years. On the third day, the members were divided into groups to prepare recommendations for us.

Заседание Международного совета 2016 

The main results of the session are the following: the experts recognized the progress TSU has in its competitiveness in the Russian and international academic communities since it entered the Programme. The number of publications increased as well as their quality. Most of them are published in acknowledged international journals. TSU entered the list of 300 world best universities in two subject areas: Physics and Astronomy and Modern Languages. Several new centres of excellence were established: BioClimLand, the International Centre for Research on Human Development, the Centre for Research on New Materials and Technologies, Intellectual Technical Systems, Centre of Excellence in Fundamental and Mathematical Physics. 

Despite the fact that all the centres mentioned above have been established comparatively recently, they have already achieved certain results, which shows their promising outlook. Around the centres of excellence several strategic academic units (StrAUs) were established: the TSSW: Siberian Institute of the Future (SIF); the Institute of Biomedicine (IB); the Institute of the Human of the Digital Era (IHDE); the Institute of Smart Materials and Technology (SMTI); and the School of Innovation, Economics and Management (SIEM). We found some partners among international universities and research centres, as well as among some large international and Russian companies. TSU became a member of several international structures, such as ATLAS, based at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (Switzerland). TSU became one of the university-members of the International Organizations Research Institute (IORI).

Taking into consideration all the achievements of our University, the members of the International Council mentioned several downsides we still have to work on: the level of development of the English language environment and the not very high number of education programmes in English; lack of personal responsibility for carrying out each particular project; and lack of possibility to present an index of effectiveness for each project.  This view from the outside is very important for us. 

The session proved once again: we are very lucky to have such a Council. All its members are leading worldclass experts in different spheres of science and education. Most of them know our University very well. They are either already involved in our projects or are about to be involved. They are very busy acting researchers who work in international projects. Nevertheless, they found a whole week in their schedules to come to Tomsk. They spent three days at sessions and then another three days at faculties, meeting people and grtting acquainted with the infrastructures.  Two years ago, we called the members our ambassadors in the international academic community. And now, at the meeting of the Academic Council on April 27, we could present the results of their collaboration with our University.      

Каллаган Т.

Here are some examples. Let me start with Professor Terry Callaghan, Co-Chairman of the International Council, and Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In large part because of his efforts, two important units were established: the BioClimLand centre of excellence and the TSSW: Siberian Institute of the Future. He created for us an open online course on the changing Arctic and helped to include three TSU research stations  (Kaybasovo, Khanimey, and Aktru) in INTERACT–2, an international project that is a renovated network of field research and monitoring in the Arctic, established in 2010 and funded by the European Union. The main objective of the projects is “to build capacity for identifying, understanding, predicting and responding to diverse environmental changes throughout the wide environmental and land-use envelopes of the Arctic”. Being involved in this project, TSU researchers have open access to the equipment and data. They also receive money to go and work at the stations. Professor Callaghan helps to attract his colleagues, acclaimed researchers, to work with TSU.

Абрикосов И.

Igor Abrikosov is a Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Head of the Department of Theory and Modelling at the Institute of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology at Linköping University (Sweden).  He is also our tie with National University of Science and Technology (MISiS) where he conducts research at the laboratory of modelling and development of new materials. This laboratory is the core of an interdisciplinary cluster of laboratories that was established to develop and promote methods of modern solid state physics and material engineering. These methods are based on using supercomputers for theoretical property prediction and development of new materials. TSU is presented in the cluster with the interdisciplinary laboratory of computer modelling and analysis of condensed matters. This laboratory was established in 2014.  TSU and MISiS laboratories complement each other, carrying out research in different dimensional scales. An important factor that allows our universities to work in collaboration is that both have supercomputers. Inventing innovative materials with prescribed properties requires serious software and represents one of the most current areas of material engineering. Recently, Igor Abrikosov has been invited to the board of editors of a new journal Computational Materials, which will be published by the international publishing company   Nature Publishing Group (NPG). It also publishes, among the rest, Nature journal. Professor Abrikosov hopes that one of the first issues of the journal will contain a publication written in collaboration with the TSU colleagues.

 Функ Д. 

Dmitry Funk, Professor, Doctor of History, Head of the Department of Northern Regions and Siberia at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Science. He is in charge of the megagrant "A human in a changing world. Issues of identity and social integration in history and the present" won by TSU in 2013. He has established a laboratory that became famous in Russia and all over the world. He participated in establishing a TSU journal Siberian Research in History, which entered the list of the Scopus publications. If the research area curated by Professor Funk develops as quickly as it has been up until now, we will have a good chance of entering the top-100 list in anthropology in the next 4 years.

Ковас Ю.

Yulia Kovas, Professor at the Faculty of Psychology at Goldsmith College (Great Britain). She is in charge of one of five TSU megagrants. She is a Director of the TSU International Centre for Research on Human Development. Researchers from different areas are involved in the work of the Centre. They investigate language, children’s development, cognitive abilities of humans, and so on. The biggest project was developing the Russian School Twin Register that works in collaboration with the Twins Early Development Study project. Professor Kovas has been working with our University for over five years. In this time, one laboratory has turned into a centre with several laboratories. In the fall of 2016 the Centre will launch a new Master’s degree programme Human Development: Genetics, Neuroscience and Psychology. Its goal will be to prepare unique specialists in cognitive science and neurotechnologies, scientific communication, and development and evaluation of education programmes.  Among the partners, will be Goldsmith College, University of London, University of Sussex, Laval University, and other international research and education organizations. 

I have given only a few examples of how the members of the TSU International Academic Council help our University to obtain leading positions. Now it is the right time to look for new partners – leading researchers, capable of heading large research projects. I want to address everybody who is reading these lines: if you know such researchers, invite them to collaborate! When we invite such people as Terry Callaghan, Igor Abrikosov, Dmitry Funk, and Yulia Kovas, we achieve meaningful goals in 2-5 years. Otherwise, we would have needed more time. In other words, every time that we have a new member of the Council, we create a new story of success of our University! We are very proud of our partners – ambassadors of Tomsk State University in the international academic community!