MOSCOW--Opting to stay the course--no matter how desperate it may look--the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) at its annual meeting here on October 29 reelected its current president, Yuri Osipov, to a second 4-year term. In choosing the incumbent, the Academy's old guard shunned a candidate who had promised, if elected, to overhaul the ailing research giant.
Osipov prevailed, in part, thanks to a pep rally of sorts before the vote. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin delivered a speech in which he reiterated a promise from President Boris Yeltsin to pay all the government's debts to the RAS by the end of the year. Chernomyrdin also revealed that he had just cut a deal with a consortium of German banks for a $46 million loan to purchase research equipment for the RAS. According to academicians interviewed after the vote, Chernomyrdin's presence--and promised largesse--demonstrated the cozy relationship between Osipov and the Russian government.
Osipov's main rival for the post--the Academys vice president Evgeny Velikhov--had run on a platform of massive change, such as limiting RAS funds to a small fraction of its scientists. Few people bought into his ideas. "If [his] program is fulfilled, it would ruin the Academy," Gennady Mesyats, head of the RAS Urals Branch, said at the meeting. A third candidate dropped out shortly before the vote. Of 1025 academicians and representatives of RAS institutes at the meeting, 76% voted for Osipov.