The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) was founded in Saint Petersburg on the order of Peter the Great and by Decree of the Senate of January 28 (February 8 - by Julian calendar), 1774. The Academy immediately responded to the demands of the times through its scientific research and publications, and quite soon achieved scientific results that were at par with those of other European institutions. The traditions and scientific schools established and further developed by the Academy, as well as its world excellence of research in basic and applied science naturally merited the status of the top scientific institution of the country. Between 1925 and 1991 the Academy bore the name that incorporated the name of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. It was reconstituted as the Russian Academy of Sciences on November 21, 1991 by a decree of the President of the Russian Federation that also confirmed its status as the highest scientific institution in Russia.
To a considerable extent the Academy's history is also the history of Russian science and the formation of a national scientific community. It is a chronicle of the major discoveries and inventions in all fields of knowledge. It envelops the creation of the national system of education, the mastering and development of the productive forces of Russia, the strengthening of the defense potential and national security of the country, and finally, it shows a sizable contribution made by the Academy to the national material, spiritual and intellectual culture of Russia and to world science as well. Nowadays within the Russian Federation, the Russian Academy of Sciences maintains and develops cooperation in science and technology with industrial scientific institutions, large manufacturing establishments and corporations, higher education institutions and universities, as well as with other Academies of the Russian Federation (the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Russian Academy of Education, the Russian Academy of Architecture and Building Sciences, and the Russian Academy of Arts).
The Academy also maintains permanent relations with State and Government authorities – the legislative and the executive branches of power in the Russian Federation. RAS contributes significantly to the elaboration of the acts of legislation at the Federal level. The Law "On Science and the State Scientific and Technical Policy" and the 4th Part of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, the latter incorporating inter alia the intellectual property rights, are just good examples for the illustration of this important part of the Academy's activity. RAS participates on a permanent basis on the Council for Science, Technology and Education under the Chairmanship of the President of Russia with the President of the Academy being Vice-Chair of the Council. Very often the Russian Academy of Sciences is made responsible for preparation of expert materials for the meetings of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Indeed, according to the Paragraph 8 of the Statutes of RAS, every year before July 1 the Russian Academy of Sciences presents to the President and to the Government of the Russian Federation the following documents: a) Reports on the state of basic and applied science in the Russian Federation and on the most important research achievements made by the Russian scientists; b) Reports on scientific and organizational activity and on finances and administrative activity of RAS; and c) Proposals for priorities along the basic and the applied branches of science and for research of a pioneering nature as well.
The primary objective of the Academy is to organize and conduct basic research, to get new knowledge about the laws of nature, society and man, which would facilitate the technological, economic, social and spiritual development of Russia. In its current activity the Academy is guided by the following main aims: a) to provide all possible assistance to the development of science in Russia; b) to strengthen the ties between science and education; and c) to enhance the prestige of knowledge and science, and the status and social protection of scientists. The Statutes of RAS is the principal document that regulates the activity of the Academy. The latest version of the Statutes was approved by the Government of the Russian Federation on November 19, 2007. There are several other important documents of RAS, like the Regulations for the elections to Academy members; the Regulations for the Departments of RAS; and the Guiding Principles for the organization and the activity of a research Institute Ðf RAS.
The Membership of RAS is formed by its Members (Academicians), the Corresponding Members, and Foreign Members. All research institutes, higher educational institutions, state and public organizations have the right to nominate their candidates for the forthcoming elections to academic membership. The names of all candidates for election are published in the press. All categories of members are elected by the General Assembly of RAS out of the candidates elected at the General Meetings of the Departments held prior to the GA of RAS, which convenes every three years. All Academy members are elected for life, and there are no membership dues, on the contrary; both, Members and Corresponding Members of RAS receive a monthly fee out of the funds of the Academy for life. As of June 1, 2008 the total membership of the Russian Academy of Sciences numbers 1600: 522 Members (Academicians); 822 Corresponding Members; and 256 Foreign Members.
The Russian Academy of Sciences plays one of the leading roles in Russia in the sphere of integration of academic science within the higher education process. RAS maintains permanent relations with state universities. The Academy has in operation a wide network of Teaching and Scientific Centers (NSC) and Doctoral Studies Departments (DSD) at its Institutes that have been organized jointly with the universities and other higher institutions of Russia, and have become a source of recruitment of talented students and young people to science. The Academy participates practically in all Federal Programs for the integration of science and higher education and for the support of young scientists. Besides, in 2002 the Presidium of RAS launched its own purpose-oriented "Program for the Support of Young Scientists" with an annual financing of 60 million rubles at the start and reaching about 95 million rubles in 2007 that were allocated to 195 institutes of RAS for the support of young researchers. To promote the creative initiative of young scientists and students of higher education establishments in carrying out scientific research, the Russian Academy of Sciences awards annually 12 medals of RAS with bonus for the best scientific works on the natural and technical sciences and the humanities in the main directions of research. Because of demands imposed to the Russian Academy of Sciences throughout its evolution for the progress of science and the development of Russian society, the structure of the Academy was built on two principles: scientific specialization and territorial factors. Thus, RAS incorporates 9 specialized Scientific Departments, each dealing with research in a particular branch of science, 3 Regional Divisions and 14 Regional Centers, which encompass research institutions on a given territory of Russia. A research Institute is the main structural element within the Academy of Sciences. At present 410 scientific institutions are integrated within the RAS. The academic institutes and other scientific establishments employ about 99 500 scientific workers, including 800 Academicians, more than 10 000 Doctors of Science, about 24 400 Candidates of Sciences and about 14 500 scientific workers without a scientific degree. All branches and disciplines of modern science are represented in the Russian Academy of Sciences, like physical and mathematical sciences (mathematics, physics, including nuclear physics, astronomy); engineering sciences (informatics, computer engineering, automation, physical and technical problems of power engineering, mechanical engineering, mechanics and control processes); chemical sciences, life sciences (biology, physiology), earth sciences (geology, geophysics, geochemistry, mining sciences, oceanology, physics of the atmosphere, geography), social sciences and humanities (history, philosophy, psychology, law, economics, international relations, literature and linguistics), etc.
The Russian Academy of Sciences is one of the largest publishers of scientific literature in the Russian Federation. Under the Statutes of RAS, the Presidium of RAS guides the publishing activity of the Academy through a Scientific Publishing Council. In the period of 2001-2007 the total publishing output of RAS amounted to 60.000 book and journal titles. "NAUKA" Publishing House is the most important publishing organization of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The Federal budget of the Russian Federation is the main source of funds for RAS that provides for about 60% of total funding. Besides, the Academy has other sources of financial support, like grants from foundations for the support of national science, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, and other sources, mainly related to contracts with industry for the conduct of purpose-oriented research.
The Academy of Sciences rewards scientists for outstanding works, discoveries and inventions of major scientific and practical value with medals and prizes named after prominent scientists. The highest award of the Academy is the Large Gold Medal of RAS named after Michael Lomonosov, annually awarded to a Russian and a foreign scientist since 1959.
Scientists and researchers of the Academy participate in international scientific cooperation and take part in various international fora around the world, some being organized by the United Nations, UNESCO, UNEP, IAEA, WHO, WMO. Academy members and researchers from its Institutes are in demand as top scientific experts by the industry and the business community. At present the Russian Academy of Sciences enjoys full membership relations with about 50 international non-governmental organizations: well-known science Unions, Associations and Programmes (including ICSU family, IIASA, IAP, ALLEA, IGBP, etc.), which embrace practically the whole spectrum of modern basic and applied science, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, as well as the branches of science dealing with the environment.