27 May 2020
Addressing inertia and isolation in teaching and studying global environmental change in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine
Shkaruba, Anton, Ruben Zondervan, Olga Likhacheva, and Anna Skryhan. 2020. Addressing inertia and isolation in teaching and studying global environmental change in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Issue 1, Vol. 41: 102-114. https://doi.org/10.37490/S221979310008539-5
It is typical for the region of the former USSR that universities and research centres have decent expertise in mono-disciplinary research while multi- and transdisciplinary studies are not yet well developed, even if adopting research agendas across a broader range of disciplines appears to be a clear way for higher policy relevance or a gainful publication strategy. This observation is the main rational behind this overview taking stock of the problem. It is based on an extensive evidence collected by authors, who through the recent decades gained extensive experience of stock-taking studies, coordination of international capacity-building projects for higher education, directed over a dozen of summer schools and coordinated a research training network addressing multidisciplinary aspects of environmental sciences in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The objective of this paper is to identify drivers and root-causes of the problem, and to outline directions for possible solutions.
Our findings demonstrate that poor performance of research communities in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine often has to do with structural issues, such as resilient institutional legacies of the past either from the USSR epoch or the shocking socio-economic transition of the 1990s. These legacies are enhanced by low financial allocation to research and higher education, as well as top-down and paperwork-intensive management of the academia by the state. There are no simple solutions to this situation, as something needs to be done beyond the scope of a national higher education or research reform. The Bologna process potentially provides solutions to some problems, e.g. it provides for university autonomy, calls for internationally recognizable qualification frameworks (or at least for one compatible with established practices in the European Higher Education Area) and supports academic mobility. However, its implementation in the region, especially in Belarus and Russia, is problematic. EU capacity building and academic mobility support plays an important role, and at the moment represent the most serious attempt to alleviate the situation.