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Chapter 1, adjustments in the S&T infrastructure will present challenges in minimizing social costs and countering the potential for corruption and waste, but these changes are nevertheless urgently needed.

In 2002, the Government of Armenia issued a resolution on Science and Technology Development Priorities in the Republic of Armenia (see Appendix K for full text). These priorities are as follows:

  • Armenian studies

  • Basic research promoting applied research of vital importance

  • Special-purpose research

  • Information technologies

  • Advanced technologies (biotechnology, nanotechnology)

  • New energy sources

  • Risk factors and human health

  • New materials

These areas are somewhat general, but they provide an indication of the Armenian government’s research priorities. However, given the high staff-to-budget ratio within the Academy and at other institutions, it is likely that most of the available funding will simply cover salaries of current staff members, with little discretionary funding to initiate new programs even in priority areas. As to the quality of proposed research to address the priority areas, the committee found no evidence of mechanisms for external peer review of research activities funded by the Armenian government at NAS-RA institutes or other institutions. Such reviews could be helpful in ensuring that Armenian researchers are up to date on international efforts in their fields and in linking them with counterparts with similar interests in other countries.

In 2003, the NAS-RA presented to the government its proposals for future directions for S&T in Armenia and recommended the following research priorities: Armenian studies, information technology, laser physics and technology, nanotechnology and semiconductor nanoelectronics, biotechnology, new materials, and environmental risk factors and human health (see Appendix L for an abridged translation). Most of these topics were included in the Armenian government’s October 2002 resolution.

The NAS-RA proposals included some very practical elements, such as the following:

  • Improving the water quality of Lake Sevan;

  • Developing hydroponic production of high-value plants that are usable in medicines, perfumes, and flavors;

  • Developing new materials such as high-temperature superconductors;

  • Protecting the Arpa-Sevan tunnel from deterioration;

  • Using biological means to separate copper and gold from ores;

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