Conducting research in modern conditions
I wrote this article while working in a state-owned enterprise of a scientific-production nature. This article is aimed at summarizing the current state and structure of research in the Russian Federation, to indicate weaknesses and suggest solutions for optimizing the organization of the development of science across the State.
1 Current status of the question
1.1 the implementation of research work today
Scientific research is a source of technologies, materials and mechanisms by which it becomes possible to create products of better quality, lower cost, to create methods of treating diseases, to deal with natural disasters, etc.
However, it is a great luxury to engage in science, since the probability of obtaining a practical result from research results is very small, and the cost of research can reach enormous amounts due to the need for experimental equipment and raw materials. Thus, only a few commercial companies can afford to maintain their own research unit.
The vast majority of scientific research is funded by the State through various funds (RFBR, Fund of the Ministry of Education, etc.) and targeted industry programs (Space program, defense industry development program, etc.).
1.2 What is a scientific work
Over the entire existence of disputes over whether mathematics is a science, whether literature, history or art is a science, many different definitions of the term Science have been formulated. From the point of view of the authors of this article, the most logical is the definition of K. Popper , according to which a thought is scientific if it goes through three stages:
1) the formulation of the question;
2) Formulation of the theory;
3) Carrying out an experiment confirming or refuting the theory.
This definition is functional from the point of view of the state, which is the main source of funding for scientific work and requires maximum efficiency of the funds spent.. If the work has passed the three indicated stages, then the report on the work allows you to:
- visually see what - the research work is aimed at solving which problem (under the item "Formulation of the question");
- use a theory or analytical model that has been confirmed during a verification experiment (points “Formulation of the theory” and “Conducting an experiment”) in other works and surveys, while saving money on local experiments;
- exclude the theory and model, disproved in the course of confirmatory experiments, in the analysis of risks;
- use information about the results of the experiment (point “Conducting the experiment”) when testing other theories and hypotheses, saving money on duplicate experiments.
In practice, in our time, research is being funded by research projects (R&D), in which they may not be talking about nominating, and even more so, testing some theories. Such research can be aimed at systematizing knowledge, developing research methods, studying the properties of materials and technology features. Such research can have a fundamentally different nature of the results. Let's try to classify the results that can be carried out by research:
- reference result. When as a result of research work data were obtained on specific procedures or materials. For example, a reference result is the values of the physicomechanical characteristics of a material or the quality characteristics of a part obtained with certain technological parameters;
- scientific result. When as a result of a research work some theory was confirmed or refuted. The theory can be in the form of the obtained formula or mathematical models that allow obtaining analytical results with a high degree of convergence with a real experiment;
- methodological result. When, as a result of research, optimal methods of research, experimentation, and performance of work were derived. Best practices can be developed as a secondary product in the development of rational methods for confirming the theory;
1.3 Features of research today
Duplication of research results. Due to the fact that the formation of topics and direction in different funds and agencies is carried out independently from each other, duplication of work often occurs. What does it mean both duplication of work performed and duplication of research results. There may also be duplication of work performed with work performed during the period of the USSR, when a large number of scientific works were performed.
Inaccessibility of research results.The research results are made out by technical reports, acts and other reporting documentation, which, as a rule, is stored in hard copy on paper in the archives of the customer and the contractor. To receive a particular report, it is necessary to conduct a long correspondence with the executor or customer of the report, but, more importantly, information that a particular report exists in most cases is almost impossible to find. Scientific publications on the results of studies in specialized journals are not always issued, and the accumulated number of studies and a wide range of different publications makes the search for data not published on the Internet incredibly difficult.
Lack of regular funding for performing search experiments.To create a prototype of innovative technology or develop a new technology (including in the framework of OCD), the contractor must have the results of studies confirming the possibility of realizing a new effect. However, for research, funding is necessary, which must be justified and supported by preliminary experiments. However, scientific departments of universities, research institutes and research enterprises do not have regular funding for preliminary and search experiments, as a result of which topics for the nomination of new works have to be drawn from the literature, including foreign. Therefore, the work initiated in this way will always be behind similar foreign developments.
Low interaction between scientific enterprises.The low interaction between universities and research enterprises is due to the fact that organizations perceive each other not only as competitors, but also as potential customers - consumers of scientific products. The latter is due to the fact that scientific organizations so far, in the vast majority, earn money not on the results of scientific activity, but on its implementation.
Use in the creation of new technologies and solutions of various branches of knowledge and sciences.The technologies and knowledge that could be obtained by working in only one direction are already known and developed, which can be said with great confidence. Today, new technologies are obtained at the junction of various methods and sciences, which requires the interaction of scientists from various fields, while active labor interaction between institutions is not observed.
2 Conditions for increasing the efficiency of scientific work
The system of conducting and organizing scientific work that exists in our time in the Russian Federation was borrowed from the USSR and has not undergone any special changes since the formation of the Russian Federation. Today, there are the following aspects of the modernization of the system of scientific work:
- The widespread use of personal computers and the Internet, for access to reference information;
- A large number of accumulated scientific reports that exist in print;
- Using the achievements of various industries to create innovative technology;
- A developed market of materials and services that allows you to implement almost any search experiment with low costs, until the opening of a full-scale research.
3 Research system optimization
Based on p. 2, the following measures can be taken to increase the effectiveness of scientific work:
1) Create a single form “Results of a scientific research”, with obligatory publication on the Internet on a special portal after research.
2) In the terms of reference (TOR) for the implementation of research describe the result that must be obtained in the course of work.
3) Introduce an optimized structure for the organization of research enterprises, based on the functioning of three units: units for posing problems and questions, units for putting forward scientific theories / hypotheses, and units for implementing experiments (technical units).
4) Periodic allocation of funds to scientific organizations for the implementation of search experiments.
Below we describe in more detail about each measure.
3.1 the creation of a single form of research results
In the presence of a large number of scientific reports accumulated during the Soviet and post-Soviet period, the disunity of funds and research organizations, and the widespread use of the Internet, it is rational to create a single portal of scientific research results for convenient and quick search of reports on completed work, which would be accessible as scientific staff and research organizations, and officials who verify the relevance of a particular work.
As indicated in Section 1.2, it is more rational to compile the form of the result of a scientific research on three points:
1) What problem was the research aimed at solving;
2) What hypothesis was put forward;
3) How was the hypothesis tested.
For each tested hypothesis, an individual form (separate file) must be compiled, which, at the same time, is supplemented by information about the authors of the study and the organization that the authors represent, with keywords for quick and convenient search. Moreover, the system will allow you to leave feedback from other scientists about the reliability of a particular study and evaluate the rating of authors and organizations. It is worth repeating that the forms of unsubstantiated theories will also be of great importance, allowing other researchers not to go the wrong way.
The reference study form, in which not some hypothesis was tested, but “what we will get” (properties, effect) for given parameters (properties, modes, etc.), should have a distinctive form, reflecting either quantitative or qualitative characteristics were received.
When creating this system, an important role will be played by the stimulation of the replenishment of the database with reports that have already been completed and are still in print. Moreover, formulas and models that are not confirmed by experimental research are not of interest to the system.
The addition of such a base to the studies of the classics of physics and mechanics will be of great educational importance.
3.2 Regulation of the results of research in TK
The result of research, as a rule, is a final report on research work, which, in this case, has a rather arbitrary form, and can include from 20 to 500 or more pages, which makes the analysis of such a report by other scientists and practitioners difficult.
If a unified system for generating R&D results is described, described in clause 3.1., Then it is advisable to present requirements for R&D in the ToR in accordance with the system standard in the form of:
- Reference result in the form of characteristics, parameters, properties of a given object or process determined during operation ;
- A scientific result in the form of results of verification of a set of theories stipulated in the ToR or put forward by the contractor during the work on the problem (question) formulated in the ToR.
At the same time, research methods and the organization of work are not correctly set as the ultimate goal of research. Methods and programs should be the result of the development of specialists qualified in this area within the framework of organizational work or work on standardization and systematization, or be a by-product of research work when a scientific or reference result is achieved.
Also in the ToR for state-funded research, describe the mandatory publication of research results in a single database.
3.3 Optimized structure of a research enterprise
Based on the rationality of compiling scientific thought from the three components of the question-theory-verification, we can propose a structure for the organization of a research organization, consisting of three main divisions: the units for searching for urgent problems, the units for setting theories, and the units for experimental verification.
3.3.1 Subdivision of the search for urgent tasks
This unit should be entrusted with the work of reviewing and constantly monitoring current tasks in a given industry or field of activity.
The unit will have to perform both analytical work, which consists in studying specialized literature, statistical studies, applications from enterprises for performing some kind of development, and creative work, which consists in independently searching for problems, the solution of which can bring commercial profit and benefit to society.
The unit should include people with an analytical mindset with experience in various fields.
3.3.2 Division of statement of theories
This unit is responsible for developing solutions and theories that should provide answers to the questions posed or propose solutions to the voiced difficulties.
The unit should include people with a broad outlook on various technologies, as well as great theoretical knowledge. Unit employees must constantly study scientific publications and articles.
The two main types of work that this unit should carry out are the generation of new theories or solutions, and the analysis and verification of the proposed solutions for duplication with those already verified or for contradictions with already confirmed theories.
3.3.3 Pilot Test Unit
This unit is responsible for checking: confirmation or refutation of incoming theories. The unit should include laboratory assistants qualified to work with existing laboratory equipment, as well as masters of model production and metal processing, capable of manufacturing the necessary experimental equipment or equipment.
The unification of research organizations according to the above principle will contribute to their greater cooperation and interaction. Verification of the scientific theory formulated at one enterprise can be carried out in the experimental verification division of another organization that has the necessary laboratory equipment, according to a unified application.
3.4 Funding search experiments
A small but regular funding of scientific organizations under the article “Performing search experiments”, allocated from the enterprise’s own funds or by the state, will create the necessary ground for the implementation of experimental ideas and preliminary testing of hypotheses.
In the course of low-cost search experiments, erroneous hypotheses are eliminated, which can be incorporated into the application for funding under a contract or grant; As a result of the experience gained, new and original solutions are born that are used to create innovative technology.
To increase the efficiency of the costs of carrying out research work, it is recommended:
- creation of a single database with research results reduced to one form, which includes three sections: the question, in the direction of which a theory, theory or solution was proposed, which was proposed and the result of a theory check ;
- regulation of the result of research in the TOR in terms of determining what type of result should be obtained: reference or scientific;
- lead the organization of scientific enterprises to a structure that includes three departments: a unit for the search for urgent problems, a unit for setting theories and a unit for experimental verification;
- make regular funding of search experiments.