Over the last few years, some globally known people have been accused of plagiarism. A few notable plagiarism cases have been also registered in Russia, which has led to doubts in validity of PhD theses and degrees issued to famous politicians, university leaders, and heads of scientific institutions. Today, when readers from all over the world – Russian ones included – become increasingly interested in the projects revealing numerous cases of plagiarism in scientific research, new questions arise: what can be done to prevent questioning the quality of awarded degrees and what should Russian universities and research institutes do to handle the issue and facilitate introduction of new scientific developments into production?
As of now, four scientific organisations and nineteen universities in Russia are allowed to award scientific degrees independently. These institutions – Saint-Petersburg Mining University is among them – can also establish their own thesis boards and endow them with powers.
The decision to grant this right to scientific and educational organisations was made in 2017 when it became clear that the old framework was no longer working. The committees that oversee awarding of advanced academic degrees in Russia are being increasingly reduced, most of the professors are soon to enter the retirement phase of their lives and they can no longer meet the requirements in publication activities. As an outcome, in different regions of the country Dissertation Councils of the Higher Attestation Commission ended up getting closed.
To discuss the new legal and regulatory framework of certifying scientific workers, university leaders and heads of research institutes gathered at the Mining University. Vladimir Litvinenko, the Rector of the University, put forward a proposal for establishing professional communities, which would examine PhD and doctoral theses. These communities would only consist of the experts who are professionals in the area researched in a particular thesis.
As Prof. Litvinenko explains, ”In most of the developed world, universities now unite in professional communities – medical, economic, pedagogical and others. In Russia, there are 20 to 25 communities in the higher education system at the most.We also have to switch to the system that has been already applied in the Western countries, when experts gather in a temporary council for the particular thesis defence. It is not essential to fill up councils with narrowly focused specialists, not for each university at least. Two or three research fields is more than enough for one university, but there should be some really experienced researchers. Having done so, the issue of filling up dissertation councils with specialists will be solved and structural quality will be ensured”.
Once professional communities are in charge of granting scientific degrees, the overall quality of thesis papers will increase and it will eventually help building the trust in the framework. In the mineral resources sector, a possible solution would be to authorise the International Competence Centre for Mining-Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO to conduct attestation of experts for the councils.
The Mining University is also the first higher educational institution in Russia to have implemented the Presidential Decree that requires reshaping the mission of postgraduate studies and developing an efficient motivation system aimed at training and retention of young scientists. While being trained, new researchers are obliged to complete an international internship in order to learn more about the European Higher Education System and existing scientific schools. Post-graduates are also given an opportunity to work with the biggest companies in the industry. Therefore, within the framework of the thesis, they do not make solutions for obsolete or non-existent issues, but solve real industrial tasks.