A number one funding source for Russian basic science

Alexander Khlunov, Director of the Russian Science Foundation (RSF) gives an overview of how the Foundation supports research throughout the country

The Russian Science Foundation (RSF) was launched in November 2013; its operation is governed by a special federal law. Incorporated as a foundation, RSF proves a more flexible and effective funding tool in comparison with other institutions that finance science in Russia.

RSF’s mission is to identify the most promising scientific projects and highly efficient and result driven scientists, as well as to actively engage the country’s young researchers in science.

Its support of research relies on the principle of competition and RSF organises a variety of funding competitions to appeal to the following research areas:

  • Basic and applied research projects initiated by scientific departments, organisations and universities. Here, the Foundation reviews projects carried out by small teams set up for that purpose.
  • Support to research institutions and universities. In this area of operation, RSF seeks out programmes led by research institutions and geared towards ground-breaking research. Each programme must include a number of large-scale projects with a significant scientific, economic and social impact.
  • Establishment of up-to-date laboratories and departments in research institutions and universities. To make this happen, the Foundation reviews projects submitted by long-established or newly-created labs.
  • Promotion of international scientific and technological collaboration. RSF invites projects carried out by international teams working together to solve a particular problem.

RSF provides funding opportunities to projects across 9 branches of knowledge: mathematics, computer and systems sciences; physics and space science; chemistry and materials science; biology and life sciences; basic medical research; agricultural sciences; Earth sciences; humanities and social sciences; engineering sciences. In 2014, over a third of all projects supported by RSF involved basic and applied research in the socially relevant field of life sciences.

RSF is Russia’s largest foundation engaged in funding of basic and applied research. Its annual budget dynamics is shown in the chart below.

The Foundation is supervised by the supervisory board, chaired by the Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation Andrei Fursenko. The Board has 15 members, counting among themselves high-ranking scientists, members of the Academy of Science and officials, including the Minister of Science and Education and the Parliament Members.

Over 3000 Russian and 1000 foreign scientists sit on the Foundation’s various review boards.

The project evaluation process is shown in figure 2 and spans several review stages, including individual evaluations and discussions at sectional review boards. RSF keenly assesses the professional expertise of the project leaders. In order to submit a funding proposal, the team leader should provide a list of publications by the team members over a 5-year period preceding the application, and be able to confirm his or her relevant experience in research project execution and educational activities.

Following just 1 year of operation the Foundation’s achievements are already impressive:

  • RSF processed 110,000 funding applications from researchers in Russia and abroad.
  • 1120 projects and programmes, 383 research institutions and universities from 51 regions in Russia were awarded funds by RSF
  • 161 established labs engaged in the world-class research were supported by RSF.
  • 38 new labs tackling the highly relevant problems with a societal and economic impact were established with RSF’s financial support.
  • 16 development programmes of research institutions and universities received funds from RSF in order to boost their research staff’s career potential and conduct research and development according to the internationally recognised standards
  • 16 000 scientists from Russia and abroad are engaged in the RSF-funded projects, most of whom are aged 39 or younger.

RSF is open to collaborations and works to extend its international cooperation. The Foundation engages over 200 foreign scientists, with more than 1000 experts from 46 counties participating in proposal reviews. In June, 2015 the Foundation oversaw the launch of the first joint competition together with DFG, the German Research Foundation.


Alexander Khlunov


Russian Science Foundation



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