About work of International Cooperation Department during self-isolation period

Interview, 26 May 2020

In the new reality caused by the introduction of restrictions on movement, it is necessary to restructure the work of numerous JINR departments. The International Cooperation Department is characterized by the variety of its activities and interaction with an enormous amount of organizations and institutions. Although there are fewer concerns due to the cancellation of some events, new problems arise every now and then. At the request of the editorial board, Head of the International Cooperation Department Dmitry Vladimirovich Kamanin told about how they are resolved.

How does the Department operate in this challenging time?

A considerable part of the staff of the International Cooperation Department has been shifted to the remote working regime. Our everyday work mainly concerns planning and coordination of interaction of all the participants of the international scientific cooperation implemented in the frames of JINR: between the Member States, the Associate Members, national organizations and scientists from other countries, as well as international organizations. We use lots of various tools for this purpose, such as the organization of meetings and conferences, support of mobility.

We faced new conditions of work in March, and it became clear that some restrictions of mobility would be inevitable and it would be reasonable to postpone a part of international events. We rescheduled some of them for the autumn. For example, the XXIV International Scientific Conference of Young Scientists and Specialists AYSS-2020. We postponed the others to the next year immediately, in particular, we were supposed to hold a traditional international symposium on exotic nuclei EXON in St. Petersburg. We planned to host a large-scale international conference on cluster physics CLUSTERS’20 in Dubna in June. Due to the uncertainty of the situation, even autumn events have been already postponed: it was decided to reschedule the XXV International Baldin Seminar on problems of high energy physics “Relativistic Nuclear Physics and Quantum Chromodynamics” for 2021. Unfortunately, we had to cancel all summer student programmes.

Thus, we fully depend on the situation in the JINR location country and in the world in terms of the ICD activities on mobility organization. At the same time, we actively support communication with our partners who increase their activity level after the general period of uncertainty. We are mastering new communication formats. The current situation has not had too much impact on the protocol sector.

You often use the word “protocol” in your activities. Tell us what exactly this concept includes at JINR.

The protocol is one of the directions of the ICD activities. As you know, in the field of international cooperation, the protocol is generally accepted rules, traditions and formalities followed by all participants of international relations when communicating, as well as rules and requirements that regulate and control the order of holding official ceremonies and events. Protocol is not a new job for us, although this activity has increased in recent years. The only thing the protocol is not engaged in now due to obvious reasons is organization of visits of official delegations to JINR. Work in other areas, albeit in a slightly smaller volume, is actively continuing.

Protocol work in the country of JINR location is carried out in close cooperation with the MFA of the Russian Federation. It deals with the issues of registration of our non-Russian colleagues in the country of residence via the MFA State Protocol Department. Together with Russians, they go through this difficult period in Dubna. Few people have left. The ICD joined work of the Institute’s anti-coronavirus headquarters and is in constant contact with the Association of Fellow-Countrymen.

Moreover, we faced yet another concern: to help JINR employees who are citizens of the JINR Member States return to Dubna. Some employees who had gone on business trips before the quarantine was announced had to stay in places of their trips for an indefinite period. In the situation when time and conditions of their return to Dubna were unclear, and it became necessary to use export flights. The staff of the Protocol Office of the ICD took over responsibilities to coordinate interaction with RF consular services: corresponding notes have been sent, letter and phone call exchange has been carried out, monitoring of information is carried out via the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of Russia. In this regard, returning of JINR staff members from the USA was especially dramatic taking into account the epidemiological situation as well. Moreover, contacts with representatives of Rospotrebnadzor at Sheremetyevo airport were established so that our staff could return to Dubna using the Institute’s cars thus feeling home a little earlier and avoiding additional risks. Everyone got necessary explanations about the observance of the self-isolation regime even before coming back and upon arrival. Nowadays, the ICD Protocol Office supports contacts with employees whose long-term business trips are ending due to the schedule and who may need our assistance.

The Protocol Office has a constant obligatory but at the same time pleasant job: to prepare congratulatory letters to top officials of states and extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassadors of the JINR community on the occasions of national holidays, as well as to partner organizations and honorary scientists on the occasion of their jubilees. To be more specific, since 16 March, congratulations on national holidays have been prepared to the RSA, Poland, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Italy and some others. The congratulatory work also hides regular monitoring of changes, checking the relevance of data with top officials, heads of diplomatic missions in Russia and foreign diplomatic missions of the country of location in the Institute’s partner countries. The Protocol Office also prepares letters to official authorities on various issues of the Institute’s life regulated by the ICD. Unfortunately, there are sometimes sad occasions as well.

This is only one aspect of the ICD activities. The strategic direction of our work includes the support of an extensive system of relations with national authorities in the JINR Member States, Associate Members, Partner countries. And we actively use for it such a tool as two-party coordination committees on cooperation. Our Department takes part in the organization of meetings of the committees with all the Associate Members of the Institute and with several Member States as well. Of course, operation of the committees has shifted to an online format in the current conditions, but it is going on well. We are now coordinating organizational issues with the RSA and Egypt. The introduction of the quarantine coincided with a new page of contacts with the government of Hungary. I would like also to note that the committee of JINR with the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the videoconference format is scheduled for 1 July.

It seems like this committee has not gathered for a long time. Could you please share more details about its work and plans if possible?

This is true. The last meeting of the committee took place in February 2015 in Berlin but regular work did not stop despite the previously not favourable formal circumstances not relating to the essence of our cooperation. The previous Cooperation Agreement of 15 July 1990 as amended in 2015 expired at the end of 2017, and it was challenging to prolong it. At the end of 2019, we managed to sign a new agreement jointly with colleagues from the BMBF with a two-year validity period. We also managed to get partial funding to support mobility.

This year, interaction with Germany in the frames of the new Agreement has entered a working mode, and the contribution to the budget for 2020 has been already received. Nowadays, an active discussion of some kind of a “reset” in relations between JINR and Germany is underway in the frames of the Agreement mentioned above: before the holidays in May, a videoconference on planning further actions was held jointly with German colleagues. Three videoconferences are planned for the upcoming month: on the creation of a platform for attracting young scientists, on expanding cooperation in the fields of neutron physics, and on exploring opportunities for joint activities in the frames of the “Baikal-GVD” project.

We can say that we are at a new stage of the development of relations with Germany that supports the idea to formalize its associate membership at JINR and works on the opportunity to conclude a new document with JINR, i.e. the Agreement on associate membership.

We always say that we have six Associate Members at the Institute. What are we talking about then?

We call six countries our associate members, including Germany. For almost a quarter of a century, this term has been used to refer to work with a country specified by the JINR Charter on the basis of a government-level agreement. This work includes a bilateral cooperation plan, contribution corresponding to the scale of cooperation and regular checking of the course in the frames of bilateral coordination committees. The last session of the Committee of Plenipotentiary Representatives instructed the Institute’s Directorate jointly with the working group of representatives of some Member States to draft Regulation on associate membership that would regulate the order and procedures for joining corresponding countries to our Institute. A meaningful phase of the discussion of this project took place just during the quarantine, and the ICD takes an active part in it ensuring work of the drafting group. Of course, the ICD supports interaction with relevant advisors of the Institute’s Directorate, active employees of the laboratories and the Association of Fellow-Countrymen in such a significant work.

Furthermore, the drafting group responsible for the second part of the Strategic Plan of the Institute’s Development containing a chapter on international cooperation has started active work observing self-isolation regime. Work of the international working group responsible for this chapter is also coordinated by the ICD. Last Friday, the discussion of administrative sections was held jointly with the Directorate for the first time. New tasks were formulated, we are working with interest.

Thank you for your informative answer. In conclusion, could you tell us about further plans?

Of course, there is no way we can plan much now. In any case, we are going to announce the easing of the quarantine, we will try to make the most of this special time. Albeit with a slight time shift, we are going to hold a videoconference of the JINR Visit Centre at the beginning of June. The highlight of the programme will be an interesting and popular topic, namely the implementation of the “MC2 Club” project, an informal reference source for specialists coming to JINR. On 28 December 2019, this project was launched at a special seminar with the participation of the JINR Directorate. An enthusiastic, active group of young people works on it. We invite everyone to see the result.

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