One of Russia’s largest scientific benefactors has cancelled millions of dollars in funding after the government branded his foundation a “foreign agent”, a label used to target organisations seen as hostile to the state.
The move to alienate 82-year-old Dmitry Zimin has stirred Russia’s scientific community, which has watched with despair as mismanagement, dwindling budgets and a “brain drain” have eroded their capabilities.
The move follows a dismal month for scientists, as dozens of universities and institutes lost access to online journals after the government failed to pay nearly $1m in overdue subscription fees, and a botched satellite launch became the country’s 16th failed lift-off in six years.
While the Russian government has ordered deep cuts in its space and hi-tech programmes, Zimin’s Dynasty Foundation had just raised its annual budget to $8.6m to be allocated to research stipends, publishing, and outreach.
“The main thing Dynasty did for science was provide grants for young scientists,” says Boris Shtern, the head of research at the Institute for Nuclear Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences. “I personally know two people who came back to Russia, who didn’t remain in the west, purely thanks to this programme.”