“Points of Presence”: January of 2021
31.01.2021

This is just the beginning of the year but there have been many happy and sad events I would like to share with you.

We have lost several outstanding people: Professor Felix Tarasenko, Honored Scientist and Technician, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, a member of the American Mathematical Society, a recognized expert in the field of mathematical statistics; Alexander Serykh, Associate Professor of the Department of System Analysis and Mathematical Modeling of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Candidate of Technical Sciences, and senior researcher; Professor Vladimir Dombrovsky, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Head of the Department of Information Technologies and Business Analytics, Professor of the Department of Applied Mathematics; Professor Genrikh Zalevsky, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Education, who was one of the founders of the Tomsk psychological school. When people like this pass away one after another, there are not enough words to describe the bitterness we all need to get over.

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On January 11, the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation issued an order on the approval of the organizing committee to celebrate the Year of Science and Technology in Russia. The organizing committee included about 70 people. These are the heads of several regions, large state corporations, and universities. Since the Tomsk region has long been one of the most "scientific and educational" territories, the honorable right to represent it in this organizing committee has been entrusted to Governor Sergei Zhvachkin and me, as the Rector of Tomsk State University. The fact that 2021 has been announced as the Year of Science and Technology proves that Russian science is capable of making an important contribution to solving the most pressing problems of mankind. Among them are: fighting the pandemic; ensuring security in all spheres of life; the need for sustainable economic development; and much more. This year, the world will see not only new scientific discoveries and technological solutions, but also heated discussions on how deeply technology has entered our everyday life. The latter is no longer a metaphor. More than 30 years ago, Jacques Attali, the French sociologist, and globalist, wrote that in the future various mini-devices that improve the lives of people would become part of the human body, including the brain. And we are living in that future. But does everyone need such devices and what consequences can this lead to? This is one of the many questions that scientists need to discuss before certain technologies are recommended for mass use. In short, 2021 will be a year of particularly intense scientific debates and the search for solutions that do not go beyond the humane.

In the Year of Science, we must make maximum efforts for a scientific and technological breakthrough to prevent lagging behind at the stage of transition of the country's economy to a new technological order. This is what is expected of us. There are not many territories in Russia that can provide such a breakthrough. In addition, our presence in the organizing committee is also an additional opportunity to promote the positive image of the Tomsk region, the Big University, and TSU in the communicative space.

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During my Moscow business trip from 12 to 16 January, I participated in several important events, including a working meeting on the Big Campus with the Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin. The meeting was attended by representatives of all key organizations involved in the Big Campus project such as the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Construction, and the potential private investor. I was impressed by the technical awareness of the Deputy Prime Minister. His questions and recommendations let us know how deeply he understood the topic under discussion. I really hope that those specific instructions that Marat Khusnullin gave during the meeting will allow the intensifying of the process. Of course, we were moving forward before, but not as fast as we want to. The main difficulty is that there have not been examples of public-private partnerships in Russia. Nevertheless, at this time, geodetic surveys are being carried out on the territory of the future campus, although the main issue of the size of the main construction grant and the terms of the concession has not yet been fully resolved. The meeting gave me confidence that the project will be launched this year. One must understand that in the current economic conditions there are no chances that many campuses of such scale will appear in Russia in the near future. That is why the competition for such projects is incredibly high. It is clear that the Russian government must be a hundred percent sure that Tomsk is the right place for this and that the Big Campus project has the potential to accelerate the development of our region.

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On January 12-13, I participated in a number of working meetings held at the Russian Academy of Education with its President, Doctor of Psychology, Professor Yury Zinchenko, and Vice-President, Doctor of Psychology, Professor Igor Gaidamashko. Today the Russian Academy of Education is the leading expert platform in the field of national education. At the meetings, we discussed several important issues such as introducing state educational standards into the general education system; organizing psychological support services for students in a pandemic situation; and creating an infrastructure for large-scale longitudinal research.

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On January 13-14, I attended several meetings at the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Labor of the Russian Federation on launching a large program for vocational retraining and additional education for citizens who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. This program will be implemented as part of the federal project "Promotion of Employment" of the national project "Demography". Worldskills has traditionally been involved in such programs, but as of this year universities will also be involved in this important public matter. We tried to define the scope of their involvement and the formats of possible educational programs for adults. The task is not only to retrain but also to promote the effective employment of a certain percentage of unemployed people for the real needs of employers. Tomsk State University is ready to participate in this large project, which implies the readjustment of a number of our educational programs and the establishment of closer contacts with the labor market. Perhaps we will be able to develop a more efficient mechanism for the employment of our graduates. 

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On January 14-15, the “Gaidar Forum-202” took place in Moscow. This year, its theme was "Russia and the world after the pandemic". Tomsk Governor Sergey Zhvachkin and I, as the rector of TSU, were invited to discuss the issue of how a university can become a growth point for a region. The main idea, which was supported by all the speakers of our panel, was as follows: universities used to be "ivory towers" - they existed on their own, often staying away from the problems urgent for the region. Recently, they have become equal stakeholders, along with government and business, responsible for the development of the places of their location. Of course, this thesis should not be projected onto absolutely all regions with universities. It applies, first of all, to those places where universities were originally founded as the main outposts of enlightenment, education, and culture. These are universities "with history" and serious scientific schools. And if there are also younger universities, as well as scientific academic institutions, all together engaged in fundamental science, training personnel, and developing new technologies, then, of course, such scientific and educational complexes should become drivers of the development of their regions. And it is the universities that must become key experts and communication platforms where the authorities, society, and business will talk on equal terms about the development of their territories. Thus, universities occupy a special place in this cooperation.

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At the last TSU Administration meeting, it was announced that we had only 9 employees and 7 students with COVID-19 at that moment. All January tests showed negative, which was very good news. It proved that we had been taking the right measures. Let us hope that the number of coronavirus cases will decrease and tend toward the absolute minimum.

Rector Eduard Galazhinskiy

Translated by Snezhana Nosova