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Russian Science and Education Ministry defends controversial changes in attestation commission as prominent academics protest
This week, a new roster was announced for Russia’s Higher Attestation Commission (VAK), which is charged with forming dissertation committees and reviewing defended dissertations. The roster triggered a heated controversy among many of the country’s leading academics. On May 31, for example, an influential group of Russian Academy of Sciences scholars called the July 1 Club expressed frustration at the fact that the new VAK member list includes many individuals who have already served two terms, which is the limit designated in the commission’s charter. The scholars called for the Russian Academy of Sciences to take control of the VAK and “completely reorganize its work.”
Later in the day, Russia’s Science and Education Ministry responded to the scholars’ complaints. A ministry representative said that “all processes related to the formation of the VAK are legitimate and open” and chided the July 1 Club. The representative argued that the scholars’ disagreement with the new roster “should take the form of a professional discussion, not a media attack on the entire scholarly attestation system.”
The controversy surrounding the VAK has been fueled by the fact that several members who voted to annul Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky’s doctoral degree were excluded from the new roster. Scholars had demonstrated that Medinsky’s dissertation contained flaws ranging from basic factual errors to incorrect analyses, but his degree was ultimately upheld.
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