Science and Technology in KAZAKHSTAN
Current Status and Future Prospects
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. FRGV-7631 between the National Academy of Sciences and the government of Kazakhstan. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN KAZAKHSTAN
Alvin W. Trivelpiece (Chair), Director (retired),
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Clifford Gaddy, Senior Fellow,
Global Economy and Development Program, The Brookings Institution
Norman P. Neureiter, Director,
Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Marilyn L. Pifer, Senior Program Manager and Senior Technical Advisor,
U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation
John D. Baldeschwieler, J. Stanley Johnson Professor (emeritus),
California Institute of Technology
Lawrence Goldberg, Senior Engineering Advisor,
National Science Foundation
Brenda Pierce, Program Coordinator,
Energy Resources Program, U.S. Geological Survey
Joseph Silva, Jr., Dean (emeritus),
University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
Henry J. Vaux, Jr., Professor (emeritus),
University of California, Berkeley
Glenn Schweitzer, Director,
Office for Central Europe and Eurasia
Amy Moore, Senior Program Assistant,
Office for Central Europe and Eurasia
In June 2006 the National Research Council (NRC) entered into a contract with the National Center for Scientific and Technical Information (NCSTI) of the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) of the government of Kazakhstan to carry out a study of the current status and the potential for future development of the science and technology (S&T) base of the country. Of particular interest to both parties were the S&T human resources of the country, the organizational and institutional structures of the public and private sectors that have S&T dimensions, the capabilities of research and education institutions, the linkages among these and other organizations that have a role in the innovation process, and the sectors of economic and social development that deserve priority for investments of government funds to support research and development (R&D) activities. This report presents the results of the study carried out by a committee of specialists selected by the NRC.
S&T-related policies, priorities, and activities are changing in Kazakhstan as the government attempts to upgrade the S&T infrastructure as rapidly as possible and as the private sector steadily increases its investments in the expanding economy. This report is based on conditions in the country as of September 2006. Many of the conclusions and recommendations in this report should be relevant for several years, though, since the technology-oriented commitment of the country’s leadership to rapid economic and scientific development probably will remain until the next major political election in 2012.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The Statement of Task in the contract specified that the following topics would be addressed:
Existing institutional capabilities of Kazakhstan’s R&D institutions, state research centers,and other institutions of the S&T community.
Higher education capacity and trends, with particular attention to (1) research activities and (2) the significance of national S&T policy in influencing higher education and research.
Current and potential domestic and international customers for R&D results and S&T products.
Funding sources for S&T.
Shortcomings in Kazakhstan’s policies that affect S&T and the principal mechanisms for implementing relevant policies.
Factors hindering the development of Kazakhstan’s S&T.
Specific measures for maintaining and facilitating research activity that can lead to breakthroughs.
Opportunities for regional S&T collaboration.
In addition, NCSTI asked the NRC to provide observations to the extent possible on other aspects of the S&T base that are being addressed in the governmen’s program for the evaluation of scientific institutions, recognizing that there were time,resource,and information constraints for providing such observations.Of particular interest were the proposed Terms of Reference for the government’s evaluation.These proposed Terms of Reference are set forth in Appendix A.
In subsequent discussions NCSTI officials indicated that the following topics would be of special interest:
The legal basis for activities in the field of S&T.
The material and technical base for scientific activities.
Public-and private-sector funding of research activities.
Establishment of priorities in the field of S&T.
Relationships between public-and private-sector research and education activity.
Commercial demand and potential domestic and international customers for the products of research.
Taken together, the overlapping interests set forth above cover almost every aspect of S&T activities in the country. Since this study was to be completed within six months in order to be most helpful within the government’s planning and budget timeline, the committee members and consultants engaged to assist
in this effort were not able to spend sufficient time in Kazakhstan to examine all aspects of the S&T infrastructure.
At the same time, a number of other foreign organizations were developing recommendations concerning S&T activities in the country. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) was supporting studies by international experts of industrial technology activities, with an emphasis on the role of the private sector. Further, the World Bank had completed in early 2006 the development of an analytical framework for providing support to selected research groups of excellence in the country and for promoting technology transfer activities. Also, as of September 2006 the Science Foundation of Ireland was carrying out a limited study of S&T aspects of higher education, and specialists from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, the World Bank, and MES were initiating a more detailed study of the same topic.
Well aware of these constraints and overlapping activities, the NRC committee and NCSTI agreed that it would be most helpful to MES if this report had the following characteristics:
The study would identify fields of S&T that should be considered for increased and sustained government R&D funding and/or political support. At the time of initiation of the study, the government was considering designation of five fields of priority importance for focusing R&D efforts: space science and information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, nuclear and renewable energy, and hydrocarbon and mineral resources. The study was to examine these fields along with additional fields that the NRC committee thought warranted consideration for special emphasis.
Given time and logistics constraints, the committee and NCSTI agreed that it was not feasible to examine activities in space science and the social sciences other than economics, recognizing that each of these topics deserved serious assessments through other mechanisms.
The current and future activities of key public-sector educational and research institutions under the purview of MES would be primary focal points for the study. A limited number of institutions of MIT, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources would be considered as well. Organizations subordinate to the Ministries of Transportation, Communication, Environmental Protection, and Defense—while involved in S&T-related activities—would not be included in the study. A few private-sector institutions, including selected universities, small innovative firms, and large companies that are particularly active in S&T endeavors would be included to ensure a broad overview of S&T-related capabilities.
The study would give special attention to the government’s proposed draft of the program plan for development of science from 2007 to 2012 and provide comments on the program as appropriate. The main idea of the plan, as explained by NCSTI, is to create and develop the necessary conditions and envi-
ronment for carrying out research; for increasing the quality of research; for developing the base for cooperation between research centers, education institutions, and the private industrial sector; and for motivating young scientists to work in Kazakhstan.
The crucial importance of development and retention of the nation’s S&T human resource base would be a major consideration throughout all aspects of the study.
The study would consider research, development, and education within the broader context of the entire innovation process—from basic research to successful use of the products of research.
AUDIENCES FOR THIS REPORT
The principal audience for this report is the government of Kazakhstan, particularly MES. President Nazarbayev, his advisers, the parliament, and other government officials and organizations should be interested in the analyses and conclusions since the report addresses some of the highest priority issues that have been debated within the government in recent years.
A second important audience is the large array of Kazakhstani organizations involved in activities that have important S&T components. Some are designers or implementers of research programs. Others are potential users of the products of research. Others train managers and specialists to carry out S&T-related activities. Still others are affected financially by decisions to allocate resources to S&T. Many more are affected in the long run by scientific endeavors that lead to changes in the technological capabilities of the country. In the words of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, “Every business participates in technological change as an originator, user, or victim of technological invention and innovation.”1
A third audience includes many international organizations, governments of neighboring states, providers of foreign assistance, local and foreign investors in the economy of the country, the international scientific community, and international and homegrown nongovernmental organizations that are involved in shaping the future of the country. Some members of this audience are familiar with many of the developments cited in the report, but others are not. Therefore, appropriate references are provided to assist in clarifying for a broad audience the recent developments discussed in the report.
THE CHALLENGE OF KAZAKHSTAN2
Kazakhstan has a population of 15.2 million people spread over a vast territory. The workforce is about 8.8 million people, with 30 percent engaged in industrial activities, 20 percent in agricultural activities, and 50 percent in service activities. About 56 percent of the population lives in urban centers, and the average life expectancy is 63.4 years.3
Kazakhstan has a 3,500-kilometer border with Russia and also extensive borders with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China. Long stretches of the border are open, and control of people or goods crossing the frontier is very difficult. Much of the terrain is uninhabitable due to harsh climate, lack of water, and difficult environmental conditions for sustaining life. In some regions, mountain ranges bring cold weather to the country in the winter in sharp contrast to the high temperatures in other regions in the summer. Adding to the difficult living conditions, some regions in the south of the country are subjected to earthquakes that may cause considerable damage in urban areas. In the west the level of the Caspian Sea abutting Kazakhstan has risen and fallen up to 3 meters in 25- to 30-year cycles. Of course, the environmental and economic consequences of the contraction of the size of the Aral Sea are well known throughout the world.
Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency. The prime minister, appointed by the president, serves as the head of government. There is a bicameral parliament. The country is divided into 14 regions (oblasts) and two municipal districts, namely Astana and Almaty. The capital was transferred from Almaty to Astana in 1998, and the transition process is still under way.
Exports are key to Kazakhstan’s current economic success, with oil, gas, and minerals leading the way. These areas have attracted most of the almost $19 billion in foreign investment since 1993. Kazakhstan has significant deposits of coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, uranium, and gold as well as the large quantities of oil and gas. As to other commodities, Kazakhstan is the world’s sixth-largest producer of grain, including wheat, barley, and rice. Wheat is a particularly important export product.
In 2002 the U.S. Department of Commerce deemed Kazakhstan to have become a market economy. This step recognized substantive reforms in the areas of currency convertibility, wage rate determination, openness to foreign investment, and government control over the means of production and allocation of resources.
This section draws on “Background Notes,” U.S. Department of State, 2006, and on committee discussions in Kazakhstan.
Human Development Indicators Country Fact Sheet: Kazakhstan, United National Development Programme, 2006, available at http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/statistics/countries/country_fact_sheets/cty_fs_KAZ.html, accessed September 2006.
During the Soviet era, Kazakhstan was the site of a number of major high-technology facilities. The principal testing ground for Soviet nuclear weapons was located at Semipalatinsk. Testing ceased at the site after the breakup of the USSR in the early 1990s, but several facilities near the site and elsewhere continue to support research on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The world’s first breeder nuclear reactor, which provided the energy to support an associated desalination facility, operated in Kazakhstan for many years beginning in the 1970s. It ceased operation in 1998. The Baykonur space center is located in Kazakhstan, with the Russian government currently operating the facilities under a rental agreement. Also during the Soviet era, Kazakhstan became a center for investigating the use of dangerous pathogens in biological weapons, and a number of Kazakhstani scientists became quite skilled in dealing with pathogens that have implications for human and animal health as well as for bioterrorism.
In short, for decades groups of Soviet scientists worked on the territory of Kazakhstan with unique advanced technologies, primarily related to military and space interests of the government of the USSR. During the past 15 years, many military-oriented facilities have lost some of their technological prowess as they changed their profiles to peaceful endeavors and as many key Russian specialists associated with the facilities returned to Russia. Nevertheless, a formidable array of advanced technological capabilities remains and provides the cornerstones in the government’s efforts to build a broad technological base in the country.
In sharp contrast to the advanced technology dimensions of Kazakhstan, however, are the realities of impoverishment in many towns and villages. With an overall annual per capita income on the order of $2,000, conditions in many poor regions of the country contrast markedly with the relatively prosperous conditions in Almaty, Astana, and other well-developed cities. Large segments of the population do not have access to telephones and adequate medical care, and in some areas the safety of drinking water is in question. Unemployment is 8.2 percent, and 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
An important Soviet legacy in the country is a well-educated population, with a literacy rate of almost 99 percent. However, since the early 1990s, educational standards at both the secondary and university levels have declined, particularly in the natural sciences and engineering. Many talented educators have left the country, whereas others have entered private business, given the low academic salaries. At the same time, general interest among young people in scientific careers has diminished, since well-paying jobs in research and in scientific services have been scarce and since the prestige of being a scientist that developed during Soviet times has steadily declined. As discussed in Chapter 3, the government is optimistic that the internal brain drain from science is slowly turning around. This is to be accomplished by providing increasing levels of resources to upgrade educational opportunities, by increasing the salaries for scientific workers in the public sector, and by encouraging greater technology-oriented investments by the private sector.
In short, the Kazakhstani government is in an increasingly favorable financial position to strengthen its S&T base, although there are many parties seeking access to the national income from the expanding oil production. Reportedly, much of this income has been set aside as a “rainy day” fund to cope with emergencies. This report is intended to assist the government in deciding how it can most effectively invest its financial resources during the next decade to revitalize a long tradition of scientific excellence that has been on the decline.
THE APPROACH IN PREPARING THIS REPORT
For a number of years, NCSTI and other Kazakhstani organizations have carried out many studies concerning the development of the nation’s S&T potential. Some studies have drawn on the results of questionnaires distributed to Kazakhstani organizations. Others have been based on roundtables and other forms of direct discussions among specialists from many governmental organizations and S&T facilities. Some have drawn on the expertise of foreign specialists. The NRC committee had access to a number of these studies.4
A significant recent development has been the preparation of an annual report prepared by leaders of the Kazakhstani scientific community and issued by the country’s National Academy of Sciences on the state of science within the country in selected fields. Observations by Kazakhstani scientists on these reports and related recommendations to the government on steps to strengthen the scientific base of the country helped inform the committee on the perspectives of important scientific leaders.
Also of importance in preparing this report have been many reports prepared by American and other foreign organizations concerning S&T developments in Kazakhstan. Hundreds of S&T-related projects have been supported by external funders, and many of these projects have resulted in reports. Due to time and resource constraints, only a few of these reports were reviewed by the committee, but an examination of the titles and the international and domestic participants provided pointers to the organizations in Kazakhstan that deserved particular attention.
Against this background, committee members, along with a number of unpaid consultants with expertise in fields of interest to the committee, visited a large number of Kazakhstani organizations and facilities during July and September 2006 to gain firsthand insights into capabilities, strategies, and activities
and to learn about the impacts of externally funded projects. (The organizations that were visited are identified in Appendix B.) The NRC and NCSTI staffs worked together in preparing questionnaires that were sent to the organizations in advance of the visits, thereby leading to rich discussions. Also in preparation for the visits, NCSTI prepared considerable statistical data at the request of the committee concerning trends in the development of human resources, financial expenditures for S&T-related activities, and related activities. These datasets, together with statistical reports routinely prepared by NCSTI, provided the basis for NCSTI briefings of the committee that were quite helpful.
In summary, this report presents the conclusions drawn from reviews of important official and unofficial Kazakhstani documents; reports of other observers of developments in the country; observations and discussions involving committee members, staff, and consultants during visits to Kazakhstani institutions; and consultations with specialists from other countries who are knowledgeable about developments in Kazakhstan.
Alvin W. Trivelpiece
Chair, Committee on Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects
Glenn E. Schweitzer
Director, Office for Central Europe and Eurasia
The committee is very appreciative of the efforts of hundreds of colleagues in Kazakhstan in assisting committee members gain an appreciation of important aspects of the S&T infrastructure of the country. This study was a unique experience for the committee members, and they gained valuable insights applicable to other countries as well, including the United States.
Analyses by NCSTI staff were invaluable in enabling the committee to focus on key issues critical in setting the course for S&T development that should undergird future development of the country. NCSTI spared no effort to ensure that the committee had all information that was requested and that the logistical aspects of the visits were worked out without difficulty. Without this strong support, preparation of this report would not have been possible.
The consultants who contributed to this report are identified on page v. Their insights were invaluable in ensuring that the report is based on realistic assessments of developments in the country.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.
The committee thanks the following individuals for their review of this report: Phillip Griffiths, Princeton University; John Hay, University at Buffalo;
Eugene Krentsel, Binghamton University; John Lambert, Argonne National Laboratory; Mary Leech, San Francisco State University; and Evelyn Putnam, U.S. Embassy, Tashkent.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by R. Stephen Berry. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.