Proposals on Priority Areas for Science and Technology Development in the Republic of Armenia
This document briefly presents and explains the proposals of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia (NAS-RA) regarding priority areas for science and technology development in the Republic of Armenia. It is based on Resolution No. 1302 of the government of the Republic of Armenia dated August 15, 2002, entitled “On Science and Technology Development Priorities in the Republic of Armenia.” Taking into account the NAS-RA proposals on top-priority scientific and technical areas and programs for implementation in 2002-2006, this document presents fundamental principles regarding the improvement of scientific and technical endeavors as well as plans for targeted programs aimed at developing these priority fields.
LIST OF PROPOSED TARGETED PROGRAMS
History of the Armenian people from ancient times to the present day
The Republic of Armenia as a factor in the Transcaucasus-Middle East geopolitical region
History of Armenian literature
History of Armenian artistic culture
History of Armenian philosophy
Problems of shaping and managing the economy of the Republic of Armenia and its energy infrastructure
Creation of an information system for the state agencies of the Republic of Armenia
Creation of a state scientific computing system
Laser Physics, Instrumentation, and Technologies
Basic research aimed at stimulating development of the most important fields of applied research
Nanotechnology and semiconductor nanoelectronics
Risk Factors and Human Health
New biochemical preparations for treating a number of immunodeficiency and infectious diseases
Identification and prevention of the impact of dangerous factors on the environment and human health
Preservation of natural resources and improvement of water quality in Lake Sevan
Application of bioleaching for extracting copper and gold from Armenian ore deposits
Development of hydroponic, biotechnologically valuable, rare, and endangered plants (medicinal and aromatic plants, spices, etc.) and initiation of their soil-free cultivation
Efforts to ensure the long-term operation of the Arpa-Sevan tunnel
Compounds and materials with special properties based on Armenian natural raw materials
FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES REGARDING THE IMPROVEMENT OF SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL ENDEAVORS
The scientific infrastructure in Armenia was created in its present form in the 1930s and 1940s. This structure and the state policy of stable support for science
gave Armenian scientists the opportunity to develop research activities effectively. A number of results obtained by Armenian scientists over the past 60 years would do honor to a major scientific center in any developed country. During all of these years, the NAS-RA has justly been counted among the ranks of the leading academies.
Science in Armenia has traditionally enjoyed high prestige, and today one of the most important objectives of state and national security lies in preserving and developing the country’s scientific potential and ensuring its competitiveness in the world arena.
The first task is to maintain the positions achieved by Armenian scientists in the basic sciences, inasmuch as it is more difficult to establish and develop scientific schools in these fields. They are formed and consolidated over many years. World experience has shown that in many countries, even material prosperity is insufficient to ensure the accelerated development of basic science.
The following concept expressed by Armenian president Robert Kocharyan is of indisputable importance: “We have set forth the idea of creating a consolidated state. Armenia must have science-intensive industry and must become a center of intellectual thought for the region.”
The question of preserving and developing scientific potential in basic science is fundamentally important. While attaching great significance to applied scientific and technical research, it is nevertheless impossible to ignore the fact that applied research as a rule depends on basic science. The loss of accumulated potential in basic science would be an unforgivable and irreparable error. It is fundamental achievements in basic research that ensure stable scientific-technical progress. Basic research is also extremely necessary in university-based science and education; without it, the universities cannot train qualified personnel even for the applied spheres, the need for which will again be evident both for the development of domestic technologies and for the introduction of technologies developed by other countries.
This document presents basic principles for improving scientific and technical endeavors, as well as related proposals, the implementation of which could provide the appropriate foundation for preserving and further developing the current level of science and technology in Armenia.
In the aim of maintaining this level and ensuring the appropriate foundation for the development of basic science, it is essential to implement a science policy based on the following principles.
1. Unconditional implementation of principles included in laws, administrative acts, and regulatory documents of the Republic of Armenia regarding science and scientific-technical activities. Establishment of controls over the ongoing process by the appropriate agencies.
A fundamental achievement of recent years was the passage of the Law on Science and Scientific-Technical Policy, which defined the role and place of the NAS-RA in the country’s scientific system. However, in violation of this law, the government of the Republic of Armenia has largely assigned the “management of science” to the Ministry of Education and Science. Cautious steps have been taken recently to increase the functional role of the Academy in this regard. This is undoubtedly insufficient. Strict observance of the law must be ensured.
The law emphasizes the primary role of the Academy system in the scientific life of the republic. In accordance with the law, the Academy is the highest scientific center of the Republic of Armenia, and it organizes and carries out basic and applied research on scientific problems and coordinates basic research conducted in scientific organizations and higher educational institutions.
The law clearly notes that the Academy is accorded special status in the areas of science policy development and implementation as well as science management in the Republic of Armenia, and in its relations with the state the Academy is to be in direct contact with the republic’s Prime Minister.
The NAS-RA is the official scientific adviser of the government, and its proposals are required to be discussed by government agencies and state administrative units. Core and program-targeted financing for the activities of the Academy is included as a separate line item in the state budget.
The above-mentioned principles are still not being implemented, and neither is the important provision by which “beginning in 2002 the state allocates funds totaling at least three percent of the annual expenditure portion of the state budget to finance science and scientific-technical activities.” This circumstance is having a strongly negative impact on the development of scientific activities.
Understandably, the republic’s budget deficits for 2001 and 2002 (and evidently for 2003 as well) made it impossible to accomplish this objective, but with the proper attitude toward science, special mention could have been made of this point during adoption of the budget so as not to evoke scientists’ mistrust of the laws. It is essential to maintain respect for the law. It is essential simply to indicate when it will be implemented. It is also essential
First of all, to observe the norms stipulated by the law;
To clarify the meaning of “management of science” and specify the responsibilities and rights of the Ministry of Education and Science and the NAS-RA in matters of developing and implementing science policy; and
To submit for discussion by the government of the Republic of Armenia the question of recognizing the NAS-RA as the authorized agency of the Armenian government in the field of science, taking into account the fact that the Academy president is granted the rights, privileges, and authorities of a minister.
All of this is clearly indicated in the law, and there is no need now to pursue devious ways of making changes, especially unreasonable changes. The govern-
ment of the Republic of Armenia must simply bring the authorities of the NAS-RA in the science sphere into accordance with the law.
2. Improvement of the management system. Optimization of the systems network.
The NAS-RA has on many occasions noted the urgent need to energize the work of the Scientific and Technical Policy Council, which in actuality must become the highest entity involved in forming and implementing science policy in the Republic of Armenia. Given the existing diversity of organizations operating in the science sphere in Armenia and the insufficient utilization of resources, facilitating the work of the Council is a pressing task.
The Council should consist of the republic’s leading scientists and representatives of industry. The head of the Council, the President of the Republic of Armenia, must be the guarantor for implementation of scientific and technical policy in accordance with the country’s interests and needs. Following the example of the Russian Federation, the responsibilities of deputy chair of the Council will be held by the president of the NAS-RA, which ensures the expert nature of the Council’s activities based on the appropriate scientific units and institutes of the Academy and utilizing the capabilities of its various problem-oriented councils. These bodies include the leading scientists of the relevant branches of science in the republic, and they are assigned these responsibilities in accordance with the charter of the NAS-RA.
It is difficult to explain the fact that over the course of several years the Russian Federation, following our example, organized an analogous Council under the auspices of the Russian President, while we in fact consigned our own Council to inactivity. Why? Numerous attempts have been made to revive the work of the Council, but without result.
We are certain that the President of the Republic will succeed in taking care of this situation.
The Council’s fundamental objectives must be to guide state scientific and technical programs in the republic, establish priorities for the development of scientific and technical progress, and determine necessary funding levels and mechanisms. The Council must ensure the following:
Adoption of the appropriate decisions on the status of science and especially on certain high technologies as well as the effectiveness of the use of state budget allocations
Creation of productive linkages between scientific research, technological developments, and industry
Discussion of proposals and ratification of decisions on the signing of interstate contracts on scientific and technical development, scientific and technical progress in general, the organization of efforts to sign protocols and agreements,
mechanisms for protecting intellectual property rights, and the development of programs for the education and training of particularly gifted young people abroad.
At the present stage, while in the process of negotiating the difficult path of preserving science, the NAS-RA in turn is implementing new approaches for the structural improvement of its own system, including the following:
Eliminating unnecessary or ineffective departments from its administrative structure
Reviewing the structures of institutes and conducting a recertification of personnel
Consolidating research themes and unifying the efforts of groups engaged in the study of related problems
Discussing and resolving issues concerning the more efficient economic utilization of buildings and equipment of Academy institutes and devoting the savings to the development of science
Considering a program of creating international centers for which the necessary preconditions already exist, given the importance of regional tasks and international cooperation in the aim of involving Armenian scientific society in the productive collaborative process in the international arena.
3. Increased funding for science. Efficient use of limited resources. Improved mechanisms for acquiring funds besides those provided by the state budget.
At present, scientific activity is largely funded according to the principle of thematic financing and through international grants. Furthermore, the scientific organizations of the NAS-RA, higher educational institutions, and institutes under the auspices of government departments and ministries receive financing from the state budget. These latter non-Academy institutes were previously established with the aim of developing various industrial and agricultural sectors and introducing new, more efficient technologies in them. It should be noted that the unprecedented economic development of Soviet Armenia was facilitated thanks to the patriotic work of many of these institutes. However, in contrast to Academy research organizations, which focus mainly on basic research, the results obtained in the non-Academy institutes must find direct application in a particular branch of industry. Therefore, it is natural that these applied institutes were financed by the corresponding production associations (which included these expenses in the production costs of their products).
Both local and foreign sponsors can also contribute to the financing of science (especially to the preservation of jobs, as well as the publication of works in the field of Armenian studies), if such activity is encouraged by the state.
During a meeting with scientists at the NAS-RA, President Kocharyan noted that the government’s caring approach to the field of Armenian studies is
explained not only by the importance of research in our history and culture but also by the fact that this field of science, lacking international interest as it does, likewise lacks broad possibilities for attracting grants. For effective comparison of the above-mentioned forms of financing for science, the following measures must be taken:
The continued growth of state budget financing for preserving and developing science must be ensured, and its volume must be reviewed each year with an eye to the capacities of the state budget and of other sources not prohibited by law.
Institutes of the NAS-RA system must be funded primarily according to the base financing principle.
University-based science must be funded according to the thematic financing principle.
Industrial enterprises in the relevant sectors should be attracted to fund non-Academy applied research institutes as well as applied research projects of the NAS-RA.
In preparing and approving the budget for science, the proportion of funding provided by international scientific programs must be considered, which will also promote the growth of the science budget overall.
Tax incentives should be provided for local entrepreneurs who make contributions to support basic science research.
4. Reform of training for scientific and technical personnel. Development and implementation of effective mechanisms for improving the skills of specialists.
Cuts in state funding for fellowships at the master’s and doctoral levels and the long-standing lack of attention to state support for basic, cutting-edge, and promising fields of science in the sphere of postgraduate specialized education do not promote the building of linkages between science and education.
Training solely within the framework of local scientific schools does not ensure the appropriate level of preparation for scientific personnel and in some cases leads to the stagnation of the scientific field itself.
Tendencies toward obsolescence are being observed in the system for training scientific personnel, along with a certain randomness in the selection of scientific fields and a lack of correlation between current demands and top-priority areas. To correct this situation, the following measures are proposed:
The demand for scientific personnel in the Republic of Armenia in the fields of management, industry, agriculture, engineering, technology, and basic science (including Armenian studies) must be clarified by specialty, regardless of the actual possibilities for their training in the republic.
Based on an analysis of objective data collected over many years, a deter-
mination must be made of the fields in which it is possible for local scientific schools to train specialists who meet contemporary demands, taking into account the effectiveness of guidance by leading specialists working in the given field and the availability of the necessary material-technical infrastructure.
If the necessary conditions are lacking for training the specialists that the republic needs, the appropriate training must be provided in foreign centers by concluding international agreements regarding graduate school placements for the training of personnel in specific fields in the leading scientific centers abroad. (This method is also efficient because it consequently provides Armenian scientists working abroad with informal colleagues in a given field.)
To facilitate the further professional growth of young scientists (Ph.D.s), opportunities must be found for sending them on visits to the leading international scientific centers to improve their qualifications.
5. Provision of favorable working and social conditions for scientific personnel.
Science requires an appropriate professional environment and a continual influx of young personnel. At present, the average age of scientists is rather high, while the number of young specialists choosing science is unfortunately far from satisfactory. After receiving their Ph.D.s, the majority of young people either leave science and work in other fields or else find work in their specialties in foreign science centers. The basic reasons for this situation lie in unfavorable working and social conditions. To attract talented young people to basic science, the following measures are necessary:
Working conditions for scientists must be improved to bring them as close as possible to modern standards (materials, equipment, professional travel, scientific literature, etc.).
The matter of supplemental salary payments for advanced degrees and titles as stipulated in the law must be resolved in order to encourage professional growth among scientists and accelerate the process of generational turnover.
6. More effective utilization of the material-technical infrastructure of scientific organizations and units.
Over time, the instruments, equipment, and experimental base acquired by the NAS-RA or designed and built within its system have become physically worn and technologically obsolete, while the modern equipment acquired in recent years using funds from various grants is insufficient for carrying out broad-scale research. The following actions are necessary to remedy this deficiency:
An inventory should be taken of all equipment of more or less value within the institutes of the NAS-RA system.
Equipment unsuitable for further use or duplicate equipment should be written off, with the funds freed up to be put toward the acquisition of new equipment.
For related institutes or laboratories, an experimental and material-technical infrastructure featuring unique equipment should be created for joint use, which in turn will stimulate further optimization of the system of institutes and their structure.
LIST OF TARGETED PROGRAMS PROPOSED BY THE NAS-RA
History of the Armenian People from Ancient Times to the Present Day
The NAS-RA Institute of History has done a great deal of work in recent years to study fundamental questions of the history of the Armenian people. This work has resulted in the publication of dozens of scientific reports, monographs, collections of articles, school textbooks, and teaching aids on the history of the Armenian people. A multitude of declassified archival documents and materials has been put into circulation, making it possible to take a new and objective look at the history of the Armenian people in recent times as well as in the Soviet period. It is no secret that many questions regarding these periods of history either have been covered in a one-sided manner, from the positions of Communist ideology, or have not been covered at all. The scientific potential of the Institute of History makes it feasible to prepare a multivolume work for publication in a short time. The final result of this project will be the publication of a multivolume comprehensive history of the Armenian people in Armenian, Russian, and English, a work that will have great significance not only scientifically but also politically. It will allow members of the Armenian diaspora, as well as foreign specialists, to obtain reliable and objective information on the history of the Armenian people. The publication of this new multivolume work will also represent a rebuff to those circles of foreign pseudospecialists who are engaged in falsifying the history of the Armenian people. (Cost: 47,260,500 drams over four years)
The Republic of Armenia as a Factor in the Transcaucasus-Middle East Geopolitical Region
The NAS-RA Institute of Oriental Studies carries out studies of the politics of the republic’s immediate neighbors (Turkey, Iran, Georgia, and Azerbaijan), the balance of forces within the Transcaucasus-Middle East space, and the revela-
tion of Armenia’s place in the system of global and regional structures. A key point lies in a factor facing all states without exception, including Armenia, namely Armenia’s international weight and the role it plays and is capable of playing in modern international relations. This problem should be viewed in the framework of the Transcaucasus-Middle East political system, which is shaped by two circumstances. First, the Transcaucasus and the Middle East are the vital political-geographical space of Armenia. Second, they occupy an important place in modern international relations and lie at the center of the political and military interests of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Consequently, shedding light on the Armenian factor in a Middle East-Transcaucasus context takes on not only regional but also international significance. This project entails the organization of scientific conferences and roundtables, the preparation and publication of monographs and scientific articles, and the presentation of analytical guidance to the Armenian government. (Cost: 9.8 million drams over three years)
The History of Armenian Literature
An enormous amount of material on the history of Armenian literature has been accumulated in recent decades. This material must be considered in light of the new demands of literary science. On the other hand, the scientific community and readers need publications that embrace the entire history of Armenian literature and present the process of Armenian literary development from new view-points and on a high theoretical level. A three-volume collective monograph will be published based on the results of this research, with an abridged one-volume version in English. Overall, the work could be used as a monograph and a teaching aid for schools and universities. The materials could be computer coded and disseminated over the Internet, which would allow the publication to become an important means of publicizing and gaining international recognition for Armenian literature. (Cost: 8.8 million drams over three years)
The History of Armenian Artistic Culture
The basic goal of this project is to create the first-ever integrated history of Armenian artistic culture, including all forms of national art—architecture; the fine, decorative, and applied arts; music; theater; and film. The NAS-RA Institute of Arts has rich experience in creating scholarly monographs devoted to outstanding Armenian artistic figures as well as particular stages of Armenian artistic development. However, to this day, we still have no scientifically considered and generalized research on Armenian artistic culture as a whole. There is even a lack of fully developed research meeting modern standards with regard to certain types of national art. The proposed program—an urgent, completely new, and innovative scientific research project—will substantially fill this gap. It proposes
the creation of a two-volume history in Armenian and single-volume editions in Russian and English. The research will be presented chronologically. The first volume will be devoted to the ancient and middle periods in the development of Armenian artistic culture up to the eighteenth century. The second volume will cover the history of Armenian artistic culture in the later period—the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This publication will have not only scholarly but also cultural-anthropological, educational, and sociopolitical significance. The scientific results and analysis of this research could be used in monographs and textbooks for schools and universities and could be posted on the Internet, thus becoming an important means of publicizing national culture and winning broad international recognition for it. (Cost: 15,262,400 drams over four years)
The History of Armenian Philosophy
The scientific research group on the history of Armenian philosophy at the NAS-RA Institute of Philosophy and Law has done a great deal of work on methodological problems of the history of Armenian philosophy as well as research on the historical-philosophical process in Armenia. This group collaborates with the republic’s leading specialists in this field. The proposed project involves the creation of a factological research base and clarification of methodological principles and research reference points. The results of this research will be published in a four-volume history of Armenian philosophy, which could have not only scholarly but also educational and cultural significance. It will substantially facilitate both the integration of national spiritual and intellectual values and the formation of philosophical consciousness and thought. (Cost: 13,706,800 drams over four years)
Problems of Shaping and Managing the Economy of the Republic of Armenia and Its Energy Infrastructure
The NAS-RA, the Institute of Energy closed stock company, the Armenian Ministry of Energy, the State Engineering University, and a number of research and other organizations carry out work in which the most important objective centers on creating a base option for the development of the Armenian economy and its energy infrastructure. The NAS-RA Institute of Economics, the Institute of Energy, and the State Engineering University have done much work on the formation and management of the Armenian economy and its energy base. The elements of this proposed project include a modified program for forecasting the level of energy demand depending on various scenarios for the development of the Armenian economy, an imitation model for deployment of energy facilities in relation to economic development, a program for defining the level of development of the Armenian energy sector, and a program for predicting likely levels of energy conservation in Armenia. Overall, this project is aimed at establishing
fundamental results for the formation of sectors to develop the Armenian economy and its energy base and creating reliable preconditions for evaluation of financing levels and sources as well as systems for managing the Armenian economy and its energy sector. (Cost: 18 million drams over three years)
Creation of an Information System for State Agencies of the Republic of Armenia
State agencies are carrying out information technology programs for their own needs using loans, grants, and budget resources. These programs do not take into account the possibility of fully utilizing the information space existing between various state structures. The Yerevan Scientific Research Institute of Mathematical Machines, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Social Support, the State Healthcare Agency, the State Pension Fund, and the Ministry of Justice, developed a number of information systems and worked with databases for a number of ministries and agencies (Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, etc.). These projects were carried out with grants from USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development), the World Bank, Tacis, and others. The proposed program involves the creation of a conceptual model for a unified information field for the state agencies of the Republic of Armenia as well as development and implementation of such a system. This would enable the agencies to exchange necessary information and have a unified information space without any duplication of systems. Strategic planning and analysis will be facilitated along with appropriate development of the information resources of state agencies. (Cost: 16 million drams plus outside grants and loans over three years and eight months)
Creation of a State Scientific Computing System
The NAS-RA, Yerevan State University, the Armenian State Engineering University, and a number of Armenian scientific, technical, and educational organizations conduct research aimed at creating a computer information network environment that would make it possible to carry out high-productivity calculations, create large-volume databases, and ensure reliable data transmission. The NAS-RA Institute of Problems of Informatics and Automation (IPIA) has done a great deal of work on creating network infrastructure. In 2002, IPIA, in cooperation with seven other scientific organizations, received a grant from the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) to create a computer cluster in Armenia. The basic objectives of the proposed project include creating an infrastructure to support high-productivity calculation, developing applied programs and databases using this infrastructure, providing Armenian-language computer
support materials, and carrying out theoretical research. A state scientific computing system will provide the modern hardware and software that enable research institutes and state organizations of Armenia to enjoy highly productive computing resources that meet the needs of the republic and the region in the near future. (Cost: 18 million drams plus outside grants and loans over three years and six months)
Laser Physics, Instrumentation, and Technologies
The NAS-RA, Yerevan State University, the State Pedagogical University, the closed stock company LT-PYRKAL, and a number of other organizations are working to develop basic and applied science in the field of laser physics and technology; to create new science-intensive, high-tech-oriented, economically profitable technologies and laser equipment for broad use; and to train highly skilled specialists in this field. The proposed program involves creation of the necessary infrastructure, as well as actual conduct of scientific research. Completion of this comprehensive program will substantially promote the development of laser physics, instrumentation, and technology and, on the basis of modern scientific-technical developments, make it possible to create a new branch of science-intensive technology in the Armenian economy. Lasers and devices will be created for application in microelectronics, nanotechnology, medicine, industrial production, and scientific research. They will meet the demands of the republic and the region in the future and provide trained specialists for the utilization of existing equipment. (Cost: 330 million drams over five years)
Nanotechnology and Semiconductor Nanoelectronics
The first precondition for this program is development of the electronics, optoelectronics, computer, and related industries in the twenty-first century thanks to the new generation of semiconductors and nanoscale solid-state devices. Beginning in the 1970s, the Institute of Radiophysics and Electronics, the Institute of Physics, Yerevan State University, the Armenian State Engineering University, the Yerevan Physics Institute, and a number of other research and production organizations in the electronics sphere developed scientific schools studying the physics of semiconductor micro- and nanostructures and related devices. The largely preserved infrastructure and scientific-technical personnel in numerous Armenian electronics industry organizations (Pozistor, Elektron, Atom, Sin-Kristall, Astro, Mikroelektronika, Razdanmash) also represent a resource. Armenian scientists cooperate broadly with counterparts from Russia and a number of Western countries within the framework of three ISTC grants and several grants from the International Association for the Promotion of Cooperation with Scientists from
the Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (INTAS). The basic objectives of work under the proposed project involve carrying out targeted theoretical and experimental research, creating a republic Nanoelectronics Center and outfitting it with the appropriate technological and metrological equipment, training young specialists in nanoelectronics, and organizing republic seminars and conferences on current problems in nanotechnology and nanoelectronics. Expected results include new scientific findings, the development and creation of new nanoelectronic and optoelectronic devices, creation of the above-mentioned center, and organization of the production of experimental models of nanoelectronic devices. (Cost: 1.5 billion drams over four years and eight months)
Risk Factors and Human Health
New Biochemical Preparations for the Treatment of a Number of Immunodeficiency and Infectious Diseases
The NAS-RA Institute of Biochemistry has discovered new neurohormones and brain cytokines. Physicochemical and immunochemical methods were subsequently worked out for the collective determination and identification of proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs) in brain microstructures, immunocompetent cells, and visceral organs. It has been established that one of these PRPs has antimicrobial and antiviral activity and is a powerful regulator of lymphopoiesis and myelopoiesis, which opens up real possibilities for creating new types of medicinal preparations to treat a number of immunodeficiency and infectious diseases. This project will involve the development of a method for the chemical synthesis of PRPs as well as methods for neurohormone purification, study of the influence of PRPs on the immune system along with their antitumor properties in vitro and in vivo in animal models, and study of the regulatory role of PRPs in lymphopoiesis, hematopoiesis, and myelopoiesis. The project will involve the joint efforts of the NAS-RA Institutes of Biochemistry, Physiology, Molecular Biology, and Fine Organic Chemistry; Yerevan State Medical University; the Russian Academy of Sciences Bakh Institute of Biochemistry; and the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences Institute of Human Morphology. (Cost: 60 million drams over three years)
Identification and Prevention of the Impact of Dangerous Factors on the Environment and Human Health
Biogeochemical research conducted in the NAS-RA Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies in conjunction with the Ministries of Agriculture and Health provides vital data on the content of heavy metals, radioactive elements, and isotopes in soil as well as the mechanisms of migration of these substances from soil into plants. Under conditions of severe environmental pollution, a negative
impact has been noted in a number of human health indicators. For example, an increase in child mortality has been observed, along with increases in cardiovascular, oncological, neuropsychological, and allergic diseases. Joint research regarding environmental pollution and medical-biological indicators is of important scientific and practical significance and facilitates development and implementation of the necessary protective measures. This project will involve data collection, monitoring of heavy metal and radionuclide contamination, and development of appropriate countermeasures. The results expected are as follows: (1) ranking of territories by degree of pollution and determination of risk groups among the population; (2) development of soil decontamination technologies and creation of antifiltration barriers to protect underground water; and (3) ecotoxicological assessment of agricultural output from polluted areas. The results obtained will make it possible to develop measures and approaches oriented to reducing the risk to human health posed by heavy-metal pollution of the environment, which causes great harm to the country’s economy in addition to its damage to the population’s quality of life. For example, calculations made in cooperation with experts from the World Bank showed that lead pollution costs Armenia on the order of $34 million to $42 million annually. (Cost: 65 million drams over three years)
Preservation of Natural Resources and Improvement of Water Quality in Lake Sevan
The first phase of this project will entail an assessment of the impact of the surrounding watershed on Lake Sevan in order to determine ways of reducing risks presented by water inflows as a factor in the degradation of the limnosystem. In the second phase, the biogeochemical exchange of substances and the structural-functional characteristics of Lake Sevan will be studied with an eye to reducing the degree of risk regarding water quality deterioration. In the final phase, a database will be created using the results of hydroecological monitoring studies, and mathematical models will be made of the basic interrelated processes that shape the quantity and quality of the natural resources of Lake Sevan and its watershed. Completion of this program will help to determine the basic factors and mechanisms of eutrophication in Lake Sevan and of maintenance of its trophicity by reducing risk factors for worsening of the quality of the lake’s natural resources. Analysis of the data obtained will make it possible to evaluate the impact of specific industries in the watershed on processes affecting the Lake Sevan limnosystem and to develop measures to counter their negative effects. A cohort analysis of fish stocks in the lake will make it possible to manage the commercial fishing industry. Creation of a mathematical model will form the basis for forecasting and managing the eutrophication process in the limnosystem. (Cost: 77 million drams over three years)
Application of Bioleaching for the Extraction of Copper and Gold from Armenian Ore Deposits
Bacterial leaching (bioleaching) is widely used for obtaining copper, arsenic, uranium, gold, and other metals from sulfide ores. The process is used to extract metals from unconditioned ores, and this technology is also environmentally friendly. It is widely employed in many countries; however, this technology is not used in Armenia despite its great prospects in this regard. As a result of many years of work, the Republic Microbial Depository of the NAS-RA has demonstrated the possibility of applying this process in the extraction of copper and other metals from unconditioned ores and wastes, which have accumulated in huge quantities in Armenia. The main factor limiting broad introduction of this method is lack of an experimental setup for working out the technology for the process relative to specific ore deposits. This project will involve development and creation of a pilot plant for assessing the effectiveness of bacterial leaching of copper from unconditioned ores and wastes, as well as development of a technology for efficient extraction of copper from abandoned mines and waste dumps in Armenia. Effective technologies for utilizing the bioleaching of gold from ores with high arsenic and antimony content will also be studied and developed. In the final phase of the project, initial data for the broad introduction of bioleaching for copper and gold extraction in Armenia will be developed and disseminated in cooperation with the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. Widespread implementation of bioleaching in Armenia will allow the state to effectively meet its objective of utilizing the republic’s natural resources and organizing the large-volume, high-efficiency production of copper, gold, and other valuable metals while ensuring that the environment is protected. (Cost: 250 million drams over three years)
Development of Hydroponic, Biotechnologically Valuable, Rare, and Endangered Plants (Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Spices, etc.) and Initiation of Their Soil-Free Cultivation
The swift growth of the world’s population has posed a difficult task for farmers—achieving a stable increase in the productivity of agricultural plants. It will be easier to meet this objective if new industrial methods of intensive plant production are discovered. One way of increasing plant productivity many times over is the development of biotechnology for soil-free (hydroponic) industrial production of agricultural plants under managed-culture conditions in an artificial environment. The NAS-RA Institute of Hydroponics Problems has already developed and prepared for introduction biotechnologies for the soil-free production of a number of valuable small-volume crops (about 40) and has comprehensively studied the physical-biochemical and agrochemical foundations for
improving the productivity of certain plants useful for the extraction of medicinal compounds, essential oils, and dyes. The first stage of the project entails optimization of the conditions for hydroponic cultivation of plants, preparation of the growth medium, breeding of medicinal plants with adaptogenic properties using conjugate hydroponics, and in vitro culturing for accelerated growth. In stage two, biotechnologies for soil-free cultivation will be developed, and in stage three the technologies will be implemented and production organized. The scientific findings and biotechnologies for hydroponic production of a number of valuable, rare, and endangered plants will lay the foundation for industrial production of ecologically pure, high-quality plant raw material and will ensure the preservation of certain medicinal plants, including some listed in the Red Book of endangered species in Armenia. Soil-free production will make it possible to utilize land currently unsuitable for agricultural use, including salty, sandy, and rocky areas. (Cost: 155 million drams over five years)
Organization of Production of Feed, Food, and Biologically Active Preparations Based on the Microalgae Spirulina
Microalgae of the spirulina variety are widely used in many countries for the production of feed and food products and biologically active substances. The biomass yield and nutritional value of these microalgae are tens of times higher than those of traditional agricultural crops. The great prospects for the widespread introduction of spirulina in Armenia have been established in many studies conducted at the Republic Microbial Depository; however, due to the lack of the necessary funding there has been no practical implementation. The first stage of this project would involve the development and creation of an experimental production facility for cultivation of spirulina based on the mineral source in the village of Malishka. Next, effective technologies and technical documentation would be developed for the production of spirulina biomass using mineral and ground waters from Armenia’s soda-containing salt marshes. Various preparations would be developed from spirulina biomass, and basic data and proposals would be created regarding the establishment of large-scale production in Armenia of spirulina biomass for food and feed purposes, particularly in salt marsh areas. The wide-scale production of spirulina biomass in ground waters from saline soils could be the most effective approach to bringing Armenia’s soda-containing salt marshes under agricultural cultivation. The republic possesses significant resources in the form of carbonated mineral waters, which could be used highly economically for cultivating spirulina. Creation of the planned experimental production facility is a necessary and important condition for the successful resolution of Armenia’s feed and food problems. (Cost: 12 million drams over two years and six months)
Development and Production of New, Highly Effective Bacterial Fertilizers
As a result of many years of research, the Institute of Microbiology has produced new, highly effective cultures for nitrogen-fixing bacteria that have been successfully used and tested as fertilizers. The institute has also established important conditions for their effectiveness with various agricultural crops. Resolutions have been adopted regarding the wide introduction of these research findings into practice, but they have not been realized due to the lack of funds for organizing a test facility for these preparations. Fundamental attention will be paid to developing and organizing production of the highly effective preparation Nitragin for bean crops. The Institute of Microbiology has laid the necessary foundations in this field of research and possesses a large store of well-studied microorganism cultures as well as the necessary personnel to handle this problem. In phase one of the project, the institute will identify, test, and select highly effective cultures of rhizobial bacteria for the production of the fertilizers Nitragin and Azotobakterin for various types of crops. Effective forms of Nitragin will be developed and produced based on local resources and then field-tested on different crops in various ecological zones of Armenia. Finally, a pilot plant will be established for the production of Nitragin and Azotobakterin. The development of new bacterial fertilizers ensuring a significant increase in crop yields is a necessary condition for successful implementation of the republic’s food program. Given the limited resources that Armenia possesses in terms of arable lands, creation of a capability for producing such fertilizers is an essential condition for the development of Armenian agriculture. Establishment of the planned pilot plant and organization of experimental production will make it possible to ensure the successful development and widespread practical use of other microbiological preparations as well. (Cost: 13 million drams over three years)
High-Temperature Superconductivity (HTSC)
Research in the area of HTSC by targeted program participants (Institute of Physics Research, International Science and Education Center, Institute of Radiophysics and Electronics, Yerevan Physics Institute, Yerevan State University, etc.) has been and continues to be conducted as part of more than 30 different research themes in the republic, and more than 20 international grants have been received to support these efforts. Financing is awaited on two projects under the ISTC program (A-936 and A-939). Thanks to the efforts of our scientists, a unique methodology for studying superconductivity has been created, and in combination with classical methods it makes possible with a high degree of resolution the discovery of fine characteristics of superconductivity shifts not possible with other methods.
This proposed targeted program in HTSC calls for a wide range of work including the creation of HTSC materials as well as basic research on HTSC properties aimed at discovering the nature of superconductivity in these substances and their application in new fields of science and engineering. The basic subprograms include (1) development of scientific foundations for synthesizing HTSC materials with specific properties and creation of thin-film structures for use in scientific instrument building; (2) creation of new non-disturbing methods of studying the fine properties of superconductivity and HTSC materials in the presence of various external physical factors; and (3) study of the characteristics of the superconductivity shift in HTSC materials at the start of the formation of this condition and development of theoretical aspects of superconductivity in direct proximity to the shift, with the aim of discovering the mechanism of HTSC. Funding support requirements include money for the organizational stage and infrastructure creation, establishment of a republic center for HTSC and provision of the necessary equipment for it, and ongoing operations.
Expected practical results include the development of several classes of new electronic and superconducting instruments capable of making visible the superconducting properties of thin-film HTSC materials at 1 μm resolution. Hybrid equipment based on the method created as well as on SQUID [Superconducting Quantum Interference Device] technology will be capable of discovering small displacements (<1Å) and weak magnetic fields (<1 rT), for use in medicine, geology, geophysics, military hardware, research, communications, and navigation, that will facilitate qualitative changes in many types of metrological instrumentation. We also expect to produce submillimeter and terahertz receivers for monitoring atmospheric gas content; high-resolution seismic detectors for early detection, registration, and study of weak fluctuations in the earth’s crust; a deep-earth metal detector for use in civil construction work; and a new type of sensitive microphone with an expanded frequency range. (Cost: Approximately 710 million drams over five years)
Facilitation of the Long-Term Operation of the Arpa-Sevan Tunnel
One of the most important problems facing the republic is that of ensuring the reliable operation of the Arpa-Sevan tunnel, the use of which is constantly characterized by processes involving the destruction and restoration of its concrete facing. These phenomena are caused by complex geological, hydrogeological, and hydrochemical processes and, very importantly, by improper selection of the concrete composition (in 1963-1964). Resolving the problem of ensuring the stability of the concrete facing against the effects of aggressive natural waters is possible with correct selection of the concrete composition by taking into account the chemical and physical-chemical properties of its components. Many highly qualified specialists with many years of experience working in these and nearby areas are carrying out research projects under various international programs. In
particular, these researchers have selected special concrete compositions (1984-1985) for structures intended for use in seawater (the Far East). The project currently proposed involves the participation of specialists from the NAS-RA Institute of Geological Sciences and the Scientific Research Institute of Seismic-Resistant Construction and Structural Protection. The first stage of the project includes field work and testing of soil, water, and concrete samples in the area of the Arpa-Sevan tunnel. Next, collected samples will be comprehensively studied along with experimental-theoretical foundations for the selection of sulfate-resistant concrete compositions and their behavior in aggressive environments. Finally, technical documentation will be prepared and the developed concrete compositions will be put into practical use. This project will make it possible to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the Arpa-Sevan tunnel, the use of the data obtained in other hydrotechnical structures, and the resolution of similar problems in other regions of the world. (Cost: 360 million drams over three years and six months)
Compounds and Materials with Special Properties Based on Armenian Natural Raw Materials
This project calls for the creation of new materials and compounds based on new scientific principles and methods such as heterophase processes for the chemical transformation of solid-state inorganic materials and compounds under the influence of gas-phase chain reactions and the combustion synthesis of inorganic compounds and materials. Completion of this program will help consolidate Armenia’s scientific potential (the NAS-RA Institutes of Chemical Physics, General and Inorganic Chemistry, and Physics Research, as well as the State Engineering University). The broad participation of young specialists and graduate students is also envisioned. The first phase of the program involves development of the methodology, theoretical analysis of the material, and initiation of experimental research. Next, processes will be developed to process natural raw materials into new materials, further work will be done on defining the scientific foundations for these technologies, and the new materials themselves will be synthesized. This project will facilitate utilization of the republic’s local mineral resources—quartzites, perlites, and zeolites—to obtain concentrated raw material for the production of high-quality glasses of various types, crystals, and various inorganic materials with specific properties—catalytic, electrophysical, electromagnetic, and so forth. Another expected result is the synthesis of refractory compounds—disilicides, carbides, nitrides, and borides of various metals, metal hybrids with especially high hydrogen content, amorphous materials, nanoscale and composite materials, and laser crystals. Overall, these objectives have important significance for the economic development of Armenia. (Cost: 90 million drams over three years)