Head of the Russian Geographical Society Media Council Dmitry Peskov, Chairman of the Society’s Expert Council Nikolay Kasimov and Advisor to the Society’s President for Media Policy Anastasia Chernobrovina talked about the Grant Competition of 2015.
- The Russian Geographical Society began its grant activity in 2009, when Vladimir Putin agreed to become the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and at the Congress of the Russian Geographical Society announced that 15 grants were allocated - said First Vice President of the Society Nikolai Kasimov. - Then the Expert Council was created, which I was assigned to run. At first it consisted of 15 people, mostly scientists and geographers. Then representatives of the Expert Council headed by Dmitry Peskov and experts in new areas, such as underwater exploration, joined it.
Then we announced the categories corresponded to the strategic orientation of the Russian Geographical Society. They were approved by the Congress. Among them are expeditions and travels, geographical research, preservation of cultural and natural heritage of Russia, geographical education, media grants, publishing.
From that time we started receiving applications. In the first stage of the competition, we selected, if I am not mistaken, about 200 applications... This way we were working for the next two or three years. But last year a special system was created - we gradually came to this! - the system efficient enough for consideration of applications, as the number of documents submitted for the competition has increased significantly. In the last two years we received more than 1000 grant applications.
Now applications go through almost automatic examination: at the first stage the documents are reviewed by regional experts (over 500 people lead by chairmen of regional branches), then all of them are transferred to the Expert Council of the Society with remarks of regional branches. The Expert Council consider them; usually every member of the Expert Council gets a certain category. Then applications get expert grades from 1 to 10. We do not always agree with the grade of he regional expertise. The Expert Council has the power and the right to raise the grade of a certain application, but should explain why it does so. However, in most cases, our opinions coincide with the opinions of regional experts.
Then the Expert Council conducts its own examination and presents the results to the President for a preview. This year we changed the procedure of the next stage. Materials used to be sent to the Governing Council, which made the decision on the allocation of grants. Now the Board of Trustees takes such a decision - as a body that is responsible for the finance of the Society.
Certainly, there are plenty of problems when summing up the contest, and they are very different. Technical errors of applicants - if the documents are not filled out in a proper way they are automatically rejected - the system has a special filter. It always happens, in different funds. I therefore recommend to be responsible while filling out the form. The second problem - people often come and ask why they were not given a grant. Actually, there is a rule in grant societies and funds according to which the experts do not answer such questions. This is absolutely fair - we can not engage in controversy with all applicants. But we consider some questions if there are valid claims. Usually we suggest to participate in the grant competition next year. But if for four consecutive years you do not get the support maybe it is worth thinking that your topic does not seem important and relevant to the experts?
I will not talk now about the criteria for all positions, it will take a lot of time, but I will give you one example. When it comes to research, you must fully disclose the topic in the application, the possibility of its implementation. In addition, the theme of your research must be meaningful, have a public response.
In just five years, the Society has allocated more than a billion rubles to support grants and projects.
In addition to grants, we support projects. Members of the the Governing Council and of the Board of Trustees have the right to make nominations. So the Society has the right, as it has always had, to send its very own Przewalski wherever it wants. Therefore, we organize our expeditions, such as "Kyzyl - Kuragino", the expedition to the New Siberian Islands,"Fukushima", "Selenga - Baikal" and some others. We can not finance everything, for example fuel for research vessels, can not build houses and so on. But in my opinion the important thing is that the Society supports promising startups. It is important to support the idea during its formation, and then, if it is a good project, it will find the opportunity to go on on its own. For example the Society has supported the creation of the first edition of Ecological Atlas of Russia and now this project is supervised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Atlas will be released next year.
Head of the Media Council of the Russian Geographical Society, Dmitry Peskov spoke about media grants.
- Media grants are extremely important. The Society simply has no other tools to introduce the Society's activity to the country. Media grants encourage the promotion of geography and the directions of the Russian Geographical Society’s work.
In total for the last five years 94 media grants have been allocated. With varying degrees of success, they have been implemented, and we got a number of brilliant works. Some of them will go into the history of art and new technologies. To make the Grant program as transparent as possible, the website grant.rgo.ru has been working since 2013. It is the main channel to submit grant applications.
All applications are thoroughly analyzed by the Media Council in coordination with other departments of the Society. Then we make a shortlist of applications and the authors are invited to the Russian Geographical Society to present their projects. This is an interesting event during which people explain why their project is the best one and deserves a grant. Sometimes they fail and sometimes we find real nuggets who receive a bigger grant than they asked for.
Maximum sum of a media grant is half a million rubles, but this is not the limit. Some successful projects dedicated to promotion of the Society, its research activities, support its missions, etc. receive additional funding.
For us the quality of the grant project is very important! If a project claims to be on a federal channel, its quality must comply with the high standards of the channel. However, this does not mean that there is no place for regional media. We welcome, encourage and look forward to vibrant regional projects.
The ability of grantees to attract their own financial sources is of great importance. The Society’s grant should have a supporting role and it should not be the only source of financing. Because when an applicant has his own sponsors or the support of regional authorities it indicates the seriousness of his intentions. Such applications have more advantages than others.
Also the grantees who have already arranged placing of their material gain advantages over others. If this is video content - a preliminary agreement with a TV channel is important, when it comes to written texts - an agreement with a publishing house or a newspaper. We give preference to such projects. This means their authors are serious about their work, they know who will be the consumer of their labor.
What do we want from grantees in 2015? What topics are of interest to us? In 2015, the oldest public organization in Russian - the Russian Geographical Society will celebrate its 170th anniversary. The history of the Society is very profound and rich in interesting facts. The history itself can be an excellent topic for media grants. We are waiting for such works. Second of all - or rather I should have said about it in the first place. Next year we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Victory. The Russian Geographical Society and the Victory are inseparable concepts. Patriotism, participation of prominent members of the Society in World War II and so on. Then media support of research and exploration activities of the Society, ie, expeditions must be highlighted by media. This is very important! In addition, the Russian Geographical Society will intensify its work in the Crimea - it is a storehouse of the world's history, so we will wait for applications the theme of which is the Crimea and Sevastopol. Next - the Arctic. Ecology of the Arctic - the Society has been working in this direction for a long time, you know that Vladimir Putin took part in those expeditions. The Arctic is important, we will pay attention to such applications. Next - promotion of domestic tourism. A huge number of people in our country do not know that there are beautiful places in Russia, which are easy to reach. Such works are in high demand and we will support them!
- Journalists often ask me, what should be filmed, what do we want? I always answer: Guys, you should show your initiative, we do not put any limit! - said Advisor to the President of the Society on Media Policy Anastasia Chernobrovina. - I may give some examples. In the past three years, one of the most striking works was a series devoted to reserves of our country - "Sanctuary Russia", a film about the peoples of Russia, great travelers, military and historical films. A series of films "Geography classes" is of great success on the channel "Rossiya 2". So actually every manager or editor can create his own interesting project that we will promote - it may be tourism or geography as a science itself.
I would like to say that we have formed a dense team - RTR, Cnannel 1, "Komsomolskaya Pravda" newspaper, Vokrug Sveta, National Geographic. But you are also our team! We are always open to cooperation and look forward to exciting suggestions!
Photo: Ilya Melnikov