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The Top 10 Scientific Achievements of HSE – St Petersburg

HSE University's St Petersburg campus is committed to developing research and science. It has 18 scientific departments and centres, including seven international laboratories led by world-renowned scientists whose studies are dedicated to solving challenges at the national and global levels. In this article, we present the Editor's Choice of the top 10 scientific achievements of the campus for the year.

The Top 10 Scientific Achievements of HSE – St Petersburg

HSE – St. Petersburg

The studies are arranged by keyword in alphabetical order.

B — Bullying

Laboratory of Sociology in Education and Science

The Laboratory of Sociology in Education and Science (SELS) conducted a study into the phenomenon of asymmetric (non-reciprocal) aggression—bullying—in Russian schools. The results of the study were published in the article 'Age and Gender Differences and the Contribution of School Size and Type in the Prevalence of Bullying' in Educational Studies Moscow issue 2021 No. 4.

The authors of the work are Valeria Ivanyushina, Daria Khodorenko, and Daniil Alexandrov.

Individual- and school-level characteristics of bullying are described based on the results of a large-scale representative survey of school students (201 schools, 18,433 students) in Kaluga Oblast (Russia). The findings show that 15.3% of all students in grades six through nine are victims of bullying during the school year. In the age cohort analysed, the prevalence of bullying is highest (19.4%) among sixth-graders, while the lowest (11.1%) is among ninth-graders. Girls and boys are bullied at approximately the same frequency, but boys are exposed more to physical abuse, while girls are more likely to be victimised verbally and socially. The prevalence of bullying varies dramatically across schools, with between 0% and 40% of students in a school being exposed to bullying during the school year. At the same time, the prevalence of bullying is unrelated to schools’ structural characteristics (type, urban/rural, size, socioeconomic status). 

The article also describes the relationship between bullying and school climate, adult behaviour and the general level of aggression in a particular locality. The researchers claim that it is impossible to completely eliminate bullying due to the very nature of children's behaviour. As an alternative, the researchers analyse and suggest various options to help reduce the prevalance of bullying, including the possibility of engaging in productive mediation at the school level.


C — Climate

International Laboratory of Game Theory and Decision Making

An international team of researchers, including Artem Baklanov, Research Fellow of the International Laboratory of Game Theory and Decision Making (HSE University) has proposed treating greenhouse gas emissions as a financial debt in a new research article titled 'Operationalizing the net-negative carbon economy' published in Nature 2021. No. 596.

The study is highly relevant in light of the Paris Agreement, which aims to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. Some countries have already begun taxing greenhouse gas emissions, with more nations expected to follow in the future. Although this tax incentivizes efforts to reduce emissions, special economic policy instruments are needed to guarantee net carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and ensure the viability of ambitious climate targets.

The authors of the research suggest a mechanism for controlling greenhouse gas emissions inspired by the financial market. The researchers suggest treating greenhouse gas generation as a financial debt. Any company that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere incurs a carbon debt and must commit to removing its emissions. This commitment is called a ‘Carbon Removal Obligation (CRO)’, and carbon debtors must pay interest until their debts are cleared. The money raised could cover the default risks of the CROs and the potential environmental damage caused by such ‘borrowing’. 

The researchers demonstrate that due to the rapidly depleting global carbon budget, their proposed financial approach to carbon debt is essential to any reliable system for mitigating climate change. It allows widespread decarbonization solutions to be implemented faster and more smoothly at a time when climate-related disasters could occur earlier than anticipated.

D — Digital Transformation

International Laboratory of Intangible-driven Economy (St Petersburg)

The team of the International Laboratory of Intangible-driven Economy (St. Petersburg) conducted a study into changes in the labour market and technological shifts arising from the process of digital transformation—a process intensified by the turbulence of the pandemic over the past two years. The researchers analysed large arrays of unstructured textual information from the internet and the largest job boards in Russia and found signs of clear and obvious structural changes in recent years. This demonstrates how the process of digital transformation has been somewhat inefficient for companies that chose the wrong time to implement such innovations or failed to follow the logic of introducing interconnected investments. This problem was accentuated by the unpreparedness of the labour market, which could not quickly find a balance between supply and demand for highly sought-after digital skills. The cost of such skills has grown significantly due to a shortage of digital skills in 2019 and 2020.

However, positive trends have emerged in companies in the Russian labour market. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a process of price smoothing between Russian regions and industries. This is especially evident in the high-skilled segment. This trend could lead to a more equitable distribution of human resources in the long run and ensure sustainable economic growth across all regions and major industries. In addition, the growth of inclusiveness in the labour market is clear (as seen in the emergence of alternative modes of work such as remote working). Such a significant transformation could not only have a positive impact on socially significant areas of life in Russia—providing jobs for people with disabilities, allowing women with children to enter the labour market early—but also increase competition, which is a very important factor in current transformation processes.

Research results have been published in the following articles:

— Daviy A., Shakina E. 'Excess momentum or excess inertia: Do companies adopt technologies at the right time?' // European Research on Management and Business Economics. 2021 Vol. 27. No. 3. Article 100174.
— Shakina E., Parshakov P., Alsufiev A. 'Rethinking the corporate digital divide: The complementarity of technologies and the demand for digital skills' // Technological Forecasting and Social Change. 2021 Vol. 162. Article 120405.
— Article by Shakina E., Naidenova I. N., Barajas A. 'Shadow prices for intangible resources' // Journal of Intellectual Capital. 2021 doi (in press)
— Paklina S., Shakina E. 'Which professional skills value more under digital transformation?' // Journal of Economic Studies. 2021. P. 1-13. doi (in press)


E — Environmental and Technological History

Laboratory for Environmental and Technological History

The Laboratory of Ecological and Technological History was involved in preparing the collective monograph Place and Nature: Essays in Russian Environmental History / Eds. by David Moon, Nicholas Breyfogle, Alexandra Bekasova (2021). The book was published in English by the British publishing house White Horse.

The team of authors includes Alexandra Bekasova, Julia Laius, Alexei Kraikovsky, Elena Kochetkova, Ekaterina Kalemeneva.

The book offers new perspectives on the environmental history of various Russian and Soviet regions by focusing on concepts of ‘place’ and ‘nature’ at the intersection of humans and the environments that surround them. Through case studies of specific places in northwestern Russia (including the Solovetskie Islands, the Urals, Siberia, Lake Baikal, and the Russian Far East), the book highlights the importance of local environments and the specificities of individual places and spaces in understanding the human-nature nexus. This focus is accentuated the authors' considerable first-hand experience of the places they write about, which complements and supplements their research in textual sources.

The English-language publication of detailed historical narratives on the history of hotel regions and places in Russia contributes a Russian perspective to global environmental history, and also provides material for writing future works on comparative history.

H — Health

International Centre for Health Economics, Management, and Policy

The International Centre for Health Economics, Management, and Policy conducted a series of studies to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of Russian people. An interdisciplinary international study of health behaviour during the COVID-19 epidemic (17,650 respondents from 18 countries) assessed the extent to which the population of different countries followed health recommendations during lockdowns.

The cross-national survey revealed that the majority of respondents followed health recommendations and were concerned about contracting the virus. Nearly all of them engaged in at least some preventive behaviours, particularly handwashing, mask wearing, and avoiding social events. Almost half of the respondents reported feeling more anxious since the start of the pandemic. It was noted that people who coped with the pandemic better than others spent more time watching TV and checking the news, but also slept more hours.

Based on a study of the factors determining confidence in vaccinations among Russians, the researchers outlined three groups of people: those who agree to be vaccinated (22%), those who are uncertain (41%), and those who refuse to be vaccinated (37%). The results indicate that the decisions of the latter two groups are influenced by the available information on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, as well as the level of danger of the disease. Negative attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine are not determined exclusively by attitudes towards vaccination overall; respondents who said they would not get vaccinated did not deny the risks associated with COVID-19.

The article also studies the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the population and identifies vulnerable groups that may need targeted support. The main contributing factors to mental health deterioration at the individual level are experience of COVID-19 infection, loss of work during the pandemic, denial or delay in access to medical services.

G — Governance

Centre for Comparative Governance Studies

The Centre for Comparative Governance Studies explored a wide variety of responses from multilevel governance systems to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the results of the study was the article 'Coronavirus pandemic and Federal Relations in Russia', published in Russian Politics.

The authors of the article are Irina Busygina and Mikhail Filippov.

The team also prepared a number of analytical materials in Russian and English that provide a description of the current situation, an overview of trends, and an assessment of prospects for developing managerial decisions in response to such a global shock.

In addition, a new student project titled 'Management during the Global Pandemic Period' was implemented to analyse and compare policies aimed at combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects at the cross-regional and international levels.

The main result of the project is a database created using open sources that includes digital tools and other quarantine measures taken in Russian regions in response to the pandemic.

The results obtained can be used to analyse the best practices for combatting COVID-19 infection, evaluate the effectiveness of the measures taken, and improve the management system at the regional and federal levels.

M — Microlasers

International Laboratory of Quantum Optoelectronics

A team of researchers from the International Laboratory of Quantum Optoelectronics, the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Alferov University has achieved significant success in the development of microlasers and presented in-depth studies of their integration with silicon. The results of the research were published in a series of scientific articles, including the article 'Quantum-dot microlasers based on whispering gallery mode resonators' in Light: Science & Applications (IF 17.782).

The team of authors includes Alexey Zhukov, Natalya Kryzhanovskaya, Mikhail Maksimov, and Eduard Moiseev.

Microlasers are miniature semiconductor lasers whose dimensions can be as small as micrometres in scale. In recent years, they have become one of the most actively developing areas in physics and the technology of semiconductor devices. Such small dimensions make it possible to reduce energy consumption and place a larger number of functional elements per unit area. One of the most anticipated applications of microlasers is their use as radiation sources in integrated circuits, in which optical data transmission is used to increase the processing speed of large amounts of information and reduce the accompanying heat generation. Silicon is the main material used in microelectronics, but its electronic structure results in an extremely low efficiency of light emission. Scientists must not only reduce the size of semiconductor lasers—a difficult task in itself—but also combine microlasers with silicon and silicon electronics.

The researchers developed a method of transferring arrays of microdisk lasers to a silicon board, which not only solves the problem of hybrid integration of light-emitting devices with a foreign substrate, but also makes it possible to increase characteristics such as the laser's power and speed thanks to improved heat removal. The microlasers demonstrated by the team use InGaAs quantum dots as an active region, which have a radiation wavelength transparent to silicon and low sensitivity to the defects that inevitably arise during the formation of a microlaser.

T — Transformation of Museums

Laboratory of Cultural Economics

The Laboratory of Cultural Economics has implemented a research project called 'Systematic approach to transformation of the digital museum space'.

The members of the research team are Valery Gordin, Irina Sizova, Anastasia Polomarchuk, Anastasia Korman, and Ksenia Kuzmina.

The aim of the study is to identify and systematise promising areas of museum activity in light of the accelerated transformation of the digital environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and post-quarantine restrictions. This will help to solve cultural, social and economic problems in museum development.

The study resulted in the creation of a dynamic model of museum digital transformation and a set of conclusions about the transition from a 'hybrid' model to a 'digital' model.

The transition to a digital model means that museums, which previously implemented digital products mostly for advertising and exhibition purposes, are now considering implementing state-of-the-art technologies based on big data analysis, artificial intelligence and UX design. 

Their development is carried out while maintaining tried and tested traditional formats. The researchers believe that this will allow museums to not only attract and retain new consumers, but also to fundamentally change the quality of museum management.

Y — Youth

The Centre for Youth Studies 

The Centre for Youth Studies (CMI) prepared the collective monograph 'Youth in Putin's Russia' (2021), ed. by Omelchenko E. Palgrave Macmillan. The book was published in English by the British publishing house Palgrave MacMillan, and edited by Professor Elena Omelchenko, Director of the Centre for International Studies.

The team of authors includes Elena Omelchenko, Olga Elkina, Svyatoslav Polyakov, Alina Maiboroda, Nadezhda Nartova, Natalia Goncharova, Iskender Yasaveev, Evgenia Lukyanova, Guzel Sabirova, Alena Kravtsova, Dmitry Omelchenko, Yana Krupets, Anastasia Sablina, and Anna Vygovskaya.

The edited volume sheds light on the lives of young people in various central and peripheral regions of Russia, including those belonging to different ethnic and religious groups and with differing views on contemporary politics. While literature regarding the inclusion of youth in global contexts continues to grow, the specific cultural, political, and economic circumstances of young Russians makes their case unique. The authors focus on four key aspects that characterise the youth experience in contemporary Russia: cultural practices and value affiliations, citizenship and patriotism, ethnic and religious diversity, and the labour market. The empirical material interpreted in the book was collected as part of several projects in various cities and regions of the Russian Federation: Kazan, Makhachkala, St. Petersburg, Ulan-Ude, Ulyanovsk, Elista, Khabarovsk, Yekaterinburg, and Stavropol. The data was collected through surveys, ethnographic case studies, interviews, and the filming of sociological films.

The collection will appeal to readers interested in contemporary life in Russia, those looking for the latest empirical information on youth identities and cultures, and those who want to learn about the critical viewpoint of local academics regarding the processes currently underway in contemporary Russian society.