Experts from St Petersburg University have been keynote speakers at the Russian-German Youth Forum ‘Economic and Social Recovery after COVID-19’.

To learn more about such a phenomenon as citizen science you can read Anna Volkova’s paper ‘Potential of “civil science” in social and political development’.

Anna Volkova, Doctor of Political Science, Professor in the Department of Political Governance at St Petersburg University, presented her paper ‘The COVID-19 pandemic and “forced digitalisation” in Russia and Germany: challenges for science and education’. In her presentation, Dr Volkova noted that the COVID-19 crisis ran a stress test on Russia, giving impetus to digitalisation in the social and scientific fields.

During the spread of coronavirus disease, public services for citizens underwent digital modernisation. According to Dr Volkova, this is to enhance the efficiency of public administration. Some federal states in Germany opted for their own digital practices and methods of public sector accounting, whereas in Russia the system is unified across the country. Furthermore, the Russian Federation is to provide all public services for citizens in electronic form by 2024 through the Public Services Portal ‘Gosuslugi’.

With regard to digitalisation of science, Dr Volkova gave attention to the phenomenon of citizen science. It is one of the approaches that seem to have great potential to draw ordinary people to global scientific projects. Gadgets and online technologies allow for interaction of people with science; consequently, citizen science is gaining popularity. ‘For public space and science in Russia, citizen science is a novel approach,’ explains Dr Volkova. ‘First attempts to comprehend and analyse this approach have just commenced in our country.’

For St Petersburg University, the topic of citizen science is also new. Our university could develop and launch a multidisciplinary citizen science project. However, it should be driven by a scientific initiative and researchers’ needs. Besides, it requires additional efforts to obtain and analyse large amounts of data.

Anna Volkova, Doctor of Political Science, Professor in the Department of Political Governance, St Petersburg University

‘Any citizen science project requires serious commitments, as well as organisational and technical prep work to involve volunteers,’ stressed Dr Volkova, Professor in the Department of Political Governance at St Petersburg University.

Dr Volkova also talked about digitalisation in education, in particular, the updating of online courses on the Open Education and Coursera platforms, and the developing of skills necessary for remote interaction among students and teachers. According to Dr Volkova, it is impossible to completely replace in-person interactions at school and university with online interactions. Nonetheless, communication skills for online learning are in greater demand than ever. Digitalisation has also affected intercollegiate interaction, since there is no need for visas and flights, all negotiations and agreements are finalised much faster in the online format.

Dr Volkova pointed out that in both Russia and Germany, digitalisation processes were quite slow, being held back by endless planning, technical challenges, and a lack of trust on the part of general population. These issues became even more relevant due to the coronavirus-related restrictions.

Anna Volkova took an interest in digital transformation in Russia and Germany long before the pandemic. In 2019, together with her colleagues, she became involved in implementing a research project funded by the Russian Science Foundation – ‘Political ontology of digitalisation: study of institutional bases for digital forms of governability’’. Dr Volkova's papers on the implementation of digital government strategies in European countries and on the ethical issues of digitalisation in Germany and Estonia have been published in the scholarly journals of St Petersburg University.

Another keynote speaker was Mariia Vetrova, Candidate of Economics, Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at St Petersburg University. She presented her paper ‘Formation of a circular economy in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to achieve sustainable development goals’. The paper was written as part of her work on the grant of the President of the Russian Federation for state support of young Russian scientists. Mariia Vetrova was awarded the grant together with her colleague Dinara Ivanova, Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at St Petersburg University.

A circular economy is an economic system that aims at recycling, reuse and recovery of resources to create a closed-loop system as an alternative to the policies for end-of-life products.

Mariia Vetrova took up the issue of circular economy in 2015, as a doctoral  student at St Petersburg University. At that time, the attitude towards this topic and even the term ‘circular economy’ was not unambiguous. Together with Kurt Knut Richter, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Head of the Department of Economics of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at St Petersburg University, and Nadezhda Pakhomova, Doctor of Economics, Professor in the Department of Economic Theory at St Petersburg University, Mariia Vetrova published a series of papers, discussing this economic model. Besides, she wrote and defended a PhD dissertation ‘Foundations of strategic and operational decisions of enterprises under the conditions of transition to a circular economy.’ making in the context of Speaking at the forum, Mariia Vetrova emphasised that at present the world’s largest companies, public organisations and governments are actively introducing this economic model as a response to the pandemic crisis.

The current crisis did not downplay the relevance of the circular economy at all, but, in fact, it provided preconditions for its formation.

Mariia Vetrova, Candidate of Economics, Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at St Petersburg University

As Mariia Vetrova pointed out, the circular economy may allow for neutralising threats that have been created due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such an economic model aims to: contribute to the fight against global environmental problems, hunger and unemployment; create new jobs; ensure sustainable economic growth; reduce polarisation between developed and developing countries; and promote developing of smart, circular cities and sustainable agro-industrial complexes.

According to Mariia Vetrova, Russia has potential for the development of a circular economic system in certain spheres: in industrial production; oil and gas industries; agroindustrial complexes; and in the consumer sector.

In her paper, Mariia Vetrova developed an index for assessing the readiness of the Russia’s federal constituent entities to transition to a circular economic system. At present, only five regions are above average. Among them are: St Petersburg; Moscow; Tyumen region; Murmansk region; and the Republic of Tatarstan. Indeed, the implementation of this system will require both active assistance from the government and a change in mindset and priorities throughout the general population in favour of environmentally friendly and sustainable consumption.