Primus inter pares

Feeling the urge to join the First MSMU staff faculty? Just become a PhD!

As soon as Sechenov First MSMU has plunged into 5-100, the significance of internationally certified faculty and research staff grows dramatically. The Associate Professor of Pathophysiology Chair Ivan Budnik ranked not only as Russian candidate of medical sciences, but also as PhD (Philosophiæ Doctor) is one of FMSMU employees having international academic experience. To facilitate entering the academic excellence Top 100 FMSMU has started international recruitment. It is planned, in particular, to draw foreign professors, lecturers and researchers, including also the Russian citizens having a PhD rank like Ivan Budnik. 
Ivan, is the international PhD congruent to the domestic Doctor of Medicine?
There is no definite matching between Russian and foreign academic degrees, because our researchers training system differs from that in other countries. For example, overseas, if a graduate of the Faculty of Medicine would like to go in for science to acquire the postgraduate degree, it is necessary to enrol in the doctorate to defend the thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). This scheme is usual for many European countries, the USA, Israel and others. The degree of PhD in these countries is the highest academic qualification allowing to apply for university professor. Russia is different in this respect: the “science-craving” university graduates have to enter the graduate school and defend the thesis for the degree of Candidate of Sciences, which enables getting in future the rank of assistant professor.
Pursuing the Doctor of Science, a Candidate does another research to defend corresponding thesis for the higher degree, which gives the opportunity to claim for professor. It turns out that in Russia Doctor of Science has the academic level similar to that of PhD abroad. Meanwhile, the practice proves that in Russia, the Doctor of Science degree is appreciated higher than the PhD. For example, when considering applications for recognition of foreign PhD degree certificates, the Ministry of Education and Science supposes this title to be corresponding to Russian degree of Candidate, not the Doctor of Sciences.
And what about the degree procedures in your personal case?
Being the third year student at Saratov State Medical University, I met an extraordinary man, a talented scientist, an excellent teacher, who later on became my teacher, Pathophysiology Professor Grigory Yefimovich Brill. Under his leadership I started studying the impact of low-intensity laser radiation on platelet function. On graduation I reported at the International Congress on Thrombosis and Haemostasis in Israel. Prof. Naftali Savyon of Tel Aviv University took an interest in our papers (so far, for many years he has studied the platelet function). We met, talked the subj over and exchanged contacts. After graduating with honors from the University, defending the Candidate's thesis, I addressed him asking to let me join his studies as an assistant pursuing PhD degree. In response, he invited me to his laboratory as a volunteer, to assess the very probability of my future apprenticeship. That was the right time to choose the right research direction, to learn new techniques, to try living abroad... Toward the end of my probing I passed several HR interviews in Tel Aviv University to be finally admitted to the Doctorate. After 4.5 years of ceaseless hard working, I defended a thesis for PhD on mechanisms of regulation and interaction between platelet receptors and cytoskeleton.
Do you consider your English, mastered at the university, sufficient for foreign Doctorate training?
I’m lucky to be an English secondary school graduate and, enrolling for the doctorate, I had already been a fluent speaker capable not just of keeping in touch with the Israeli scientists, but also of passing successfully all stages of full-time training, including the exam in English, which is mandatory for all students from non-English speaking countries. Of course, the English language skills are the key condition for studying abroad. Wherever a scientist works, the English is required permanently, because it is the language of international communication, …at all major international scientific congresses, conferences and workshops, in particular. Almost all and every worthy scientific paper is published in English. My thesis is also written in English.
What’s the value of your “doctorate period” in terms of becoming a real scientist?
The doctorate is, above all, the school giving the greatest opportunity to grow professionally and to become independent. I mastered the latest relevant research methodologies, I learned how to plan and carry out experiments of diverse complexity, to summarize the results of research work and to do the error analysis, I acquired the skill of prompt data mining and retrieving appropriate info, as well as to represent the research results in English following the international publication standards, that is my obvious competitive advantage within the current scientific community.
Can we consider the PhD as the way of propping personal social status?
Of course. In many countries PhD is the highest academic degree that facilitates promotion to postdoc positions, let alone starting up own lab at the university and becoming a professor. In Russia, as far as I'm concerned, the PhD does not guarantee any special preferences, if compared with the Candidate degree. And at the same time, notwithstanding the opportunities the PhD opens for me abroad, I would like to apply my expertise and skills at homeland. The staff position at First MSMU gives me a chance of self-realization not only as a scholar, but also as a tutor. While teaching, I’m free to apply diverse approaches, techniques and standards, which I have mastered during training at Tel Aviv University. This also concerns to the way of teaching the subject, as well as team-building challenges to face, while constituting respectful, partnering relations with students, implying freedom of choice in terms of training paths and ongoing tutor’s support.
How great is your current Hirsch index?
3 points, according to Scopus. The Hirsch index is influenced by two indicators – the number of articles published and number of citations of these. It is important to note that the index is being determined using different databases indexing different lists of periodicals. That’s why it is quite probable that some entry on the database is indexed, whilst some other is not. As a result, the h-index calculated this way may vary dramatically. For example, often Russian scientists, published mainly in Russian journals, may have very high h-index according to RISC, while their “indexed prominence” according to Scopus and Web of Science may be much lower. The reverse situation we observe, when Russian scientist is published mostly in international journals. This is partly due to delayed indexing or even omitting some major foreign scientific journals by the RISC robots. In this regard, in order to eliminate the ambiguity, specifying the Hirsch index it is strongly recommended to note which of databases it labels.
In connection with First MSMU joining the Project 5-100, special attention was given to publication diligence of our research staff. Flashing in international English language journals indexed by Scopus and Web of Science have already become much desirable. Thus, the Hirsch index calculated under algorithms of these databases, is so far one of the key performance indicators of a scientist, whose aspiration is being strongly propelled with establishing of Publication Diligence Center at our university, together with relevant workshops, conferences etc.
Now the staff researchers of our university have extra motivation to submitting for publishing abroad, mean, huge financial incentives...
Publication diligence is one of the most important factors affecting the university rankings. If we want to get into the global academic Top 100 universities, we need to reinforce it. Since 2014 our university has started offering really titbit bonuses (up to 500 thousand rubles) for English publications in foreign journals with high impact-factor. Such solid material rewards, of course, add much enthusiasm. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that the article cannot emerge out of nowhere and of itself. Article is the essence of scientific research, the result of hard individual or team work. In my opinion, to induce the hi-ping of publication diligence, in addition to competitive salaries, the University should observe three important conditions. The first point, appropriate funding of research projects. It happens so, that the vast majority of researches in medicine, biology and other natural science areas are much costly, because of expensive equipment, reagents, staff payroll etc. The second thing, doing research takes time. I believe that promoting substantial increase of publication diligence it is crucial to let the scientists to spend most of their working time on exactly scientific activities, rather than teaching. The working hours of professors at top global universities, we’re trying to emulate, is distributed right this way. I am absolutely convinced that this reorientation will increase both the scientific output and the tutorship performance, because only the residence on the cutting edge of science empowers the teacher to be confident that the knowledge and the skills he is trying to convey to students is accurate and up to date. And the third value is the academic environment. Comfortable and productive work absolutely presupposes a scientist to be in the thick of scientific things and community, as it gives him the opportunity to exchange research ideas, tips, and to get prompt feedback from colleagues, who are in position to appreciate the results of intellectual work.
If I’m not mistaken, you are going to write a thesis for the degree of Russian Doctor of Science…
Yes, currently I’m scrutinizing a new study, which will soon come to fruition as a thesis for the Doctor of Science degree.