Last year specialists from St Petersburg University prepared 350 expert opinions

St Petersburg University receives requests for expertise in cross-field matters ranging from intellectual property protection and risk management to psycho-linguistic expertise and clinical trials of medicines. In 2021, the University prepared a total of 349 expert opinions.

The most common assignment is linguistic expertise, which accounts for almost 60% of the total number of requests. The second popular request (21%) is complex interdisciplinary research that combines the humanities, natural sciences and social studies. The University has a pool of experts in more than 100 scientific fields, which means that it can advise on a wide range of issues. More than a third of such expert opinions last year concerned psychological and linguistic research. There have also been individual evaluations in the fields of medical, historical, environmental, cultural, psychological and legal expertise.

The majority of the research in 2021, a total of 290 expert opinions, was conducted as part of the state assignment.

They were commissioned by the federal judicial, executive and legislative authorities, and the executive authorities of the two federal constituent entities: St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. As part of the legal review, experts from St Petersburg University examined nine drafts of federal and three drafts of regional legislative and regulatory acts. The environmental impact assessment included a study of the natural ecosystem of the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve in the Leningrad Region. The medical expertise concerned cases of medical errors and involved specialists in psychology and sociology.

The expert examination conducted by specialists from St Petersburg University makes it possible to work out a solution to complex issues that require serious assessment. For example, the University has been approached by the Committee on Natural Resources of the Leningrad Region with a request to determine whether it is possible to exclude several parts of the coastal zone from the boundaries of the planned specially protected natural area "Morie" in order to build residential houses. In the course of the study, experts established that the shallow waters of the projected nature reserve are an important element of the single system of seasonal staging areas for birds migrating along the White Sea-Baltic flyway.

In addition to the two species of swans, there are at least 47 species of waterfowl and semiaquatic birds, 15 of which have been included in the Red Data Book of the Leningrad Region. Areas of undisturbed shallow water, beaches and adjacent natural ecosystems are fundamentally important to them during their seasonal migrations. Scientists of St Petersburg University have determined that development of the coastline of the Morie Bay would be in violation of the Law on Wildlife, prohibiting activities that course damage to the habitats of species listed in the Red Data Book (Article 24 № 52-FZ "On wildlife"). On the initiative of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, the University experts also reviewed mechanisms to improve the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures and submitted proposals for relevant amendments to Russian legislation.

Requests for assistance in resolving a particular situation are also submitted through the Virtual Reception of St Petersburg University. Citizens apply for advice in cases of violation of copyright or urban planning legislation. They also enquire about the correct pronunciation of words, the use of rare word forms, street names, and other topics.

A significant part of the expert evaluations conducted by St Petersburg University as part of the state assignment involved evaluations of information materials for extremist content. In 2021, at the request of law enforcement and supervisory authorities, the University conducted 207 expert reviews on issues regarding the signs of extremist activity in the information space.

Illegal manifestations were detected in 155 submitted information materials (75% of cases).

Such enquiries have most often concerned controversial texts that allegedly contained signs of incitement to hatred and hostility on the grounds of racial, national or social affiliation or signs that advocated exclusivity, superiority or inferiority on the grounds of a particular social, racial, national, religious or language community. The law enforcement authorities have initiated and investigated criminal cases and administrative proceedings based on reviews prepared by experts from St Petersburg University. Based on the opinions of specialists from the University, access to electronic information resources containing extremist content has been restricted. Some expert opinions have led to the suspension of prosecution or administrative proceedings.

During the first quarter of 2022, St Petersburg University conducted 54 expert evaluations for government authorities as part of a state assignment.

Two of them were carried out upon the request of federal executive authorities. Upon the request of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, legal experts developed proposals, supplementary notes and comments to the draft model law on public-private partnership. The second expertise was commissioned by the St Petersburg Office of the Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation. Upon their request, the experts of St Petersburg University in the field of chemistry and medical technology have conducted an analysis of the product group ’light-curing composite filling materials’. The specialists of the University also prepared an expert opinion on the provisions of St Petersburg Government Order № 232 "On measures to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in St Petersburg" dated 13 March 2020. The evaluation was requested by the Commissioner for the Protection of Entrepreneurs Rights in St Petersburg.

The 51 expert evaluations (including 14 forensic examinations) conducted by St Petersburg University from January to March 2022 were commissioned by the federal and territorial bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation.

The University conducted 30 expert evaluations on request of law enforcement and supervisory authorities, which focused on the examination of controversial texts for signs of extremism. University experts — linguists, psychologists, historians, culturologists, religious scholars and philologists — took part in this work. The examinations showed that in 20 cases, the media texts submitted for evaluation contained extremist content.

Linguistic experts examined public statements that could contain offensive statements about honour and dignity or threats of violence. Six out of nine such examinations yielded affirmative answers to the questions posed by clients. The subject matter of one of the expert examinations, conducted by the University linguists and psychologists, concerned statements where the author had induced the interlocutor to bribery. Museum experts studied the compliance of the museum subscription to the provisions of the state programme on the basis of which it had been developed, while linguists from St Petersburg University carried out a linguistic analysis of the texts and translated them into a foreign language upon the request of law enforcement officials.

Transparency is one of the essential principles in the expertise of St Petersburg University as a leading expert institution. The results of the research, including the research carried out as part of the state assignment, are available to a general audience. All expert opinions, subject to the restrictions imposed by the current legislation, are published on the website of St Petersburg University. The University ensures maximum transparency and publicity of the results of expert studies conducted upon the request of the state authorities.