The science about the science: how and why the history of science id studied in Russia


The science about the science: how and why the history of science id studied in Russia

At the end of 2023, the country's first science center opened at RSUH. Such platforms will allow the audience to get acquainted with the history of Russian science and evaluate how Soviet achievements influenced the modern industry.

We talked about with the director of the Center for the History of Russian Science and Academic and Technological Development of RSUH, Professor Evgenia Dolgova.

— How and why was the Science Center created? What will its visitors see?

—The Center was established as a pilot project at the suggestion of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Although the Center was created as a research center, its work is also aimed at teaching and popularizing the history of science. Students and young scholars participate in the work of the Center; the vector of popularization unites those interested in the history of Russian science. In April, the fifth School of Young Scientists “One day in the life of a scientist: everyday life, communications, meanings” will take place, and in the fall the school “Science in History: the evolution of academic thought, ideas and authors” will take place.

— What research is being carried out at the Center?

— We study how the Soviet academic industry was formed, the academic community changed, large-scale projects developed, and how the work of research teams was organized.  Finally, we are faced with the fact that the history of Soviet science, especially in its final period of 1980–1990, contains an emotional layer of information that is open to subjective assessments. It is important to preserve its expression while simultaneously separating emotionality from facts.

— How has the image of a scientist changed, in your opinion? What is the difference between a modern and a Soviet researcher?

— During the Soviet period, public interest in academic discoveries was quite high. The figure of the scientist was of a a slightly absent-minded man in glasses and a shabby jacket, not interested in material wealth, recognition and fame. Now the scientist has become younger and more energetic, intellectual and ironic, open to technological innovations.

— How much easier is it for a scientist to develop in his field today?

— Of course, now there are more opportunities. At a minimum, we can talk about the openness of the academic space and the rapid movement of information.

Now access to the text of any published article can be obtained by subscription. The information field has expanded, work in libraries and archives has changed.

However, there is a downside. In Soviet science there was a special culture of collective academic work. In the post-Soviet period, the view of scientists as “people of the world”, realizing their individual and competitive academic trajectories, has been established. In this regard, individualism in science can lead to a refusal of responsibility (including for those who trusted you - students and graduate students). This, in my opinion, is destructive to the ethics of the profession.

— How is the history of science being studied now?

— In modern historical research we see two different approaches. The scale of Soviet science focuses attention on the study of long trends in organizational academic policy: we can explore how institutions were built and the Soviet academic and technological map unfolded.

— What research do you find most interesting?

— The field “History of Science and Technology” is surprisingly underestimated. This is a discipline at the intersection of the humanities, natural and technical sciences. The topic was very popular in the USSR, it was updated abroad within the interdisciplinary areas of Science and Technology Studies and History and Philosophy of Science. However, since the 1990s, the discipline has been undeservedly forgotten and pushed out of the curriculum.

— What skills does a future historian need to have?

— A historian must be able to work with different types of sources, evaluate their reliability and relevance for his/her research. The second important skill is the ability to analyze, evaluate and critically approach information, which is necessary in the modern information society. Finally, the third skill is the ability to analyze and interpret historical data: not to describe facts, but to build logical connections and understand the essence of the processes that took place in a broad historical context.