The Latvian Academy of Sciences


   After the restored independence of Latvia the Academy of Sciences has become a noteworthy factor in science and culture of the newly independent state.

   Generally speaking, an academy of sciences is regarded as an attribute of a mature state, being established when high standard of intellectual development has been reached. It represents the state in the international community of scientists, maintains scientific contacts of the highest standards, carries out exchange of information, literature, and experts, elects prominent foreign scientists as its foreign and honorary members.    

The first academies of sciences emerged in Western Europe, in the 20th century they were also set up in the newly independent states. Attempts to establish an academy of sciences in Latvia can be traced back to the early 19th century. A project was proposed by Pauls Dāle in 1916. A private academy of sciences functioned within the Riga Latvian Society in 1932–1940. However, the Latvian Academy of Sciences has actually been in existence since 14 February 1946. Initially it consisted of individual members and research institutions. 

    Since 14 February 1992, the Latvian Academy of Sciences (Academia Scientiarum Latviensis) has been functioning as an association of individual scientists in conformity with its newly developed Charter and Statutes. On 23 January 1997, the Charter of the Academy (its supplemented version) was endorsed by the Saeima (Parliament) of the Republic of Latvia. The Latvian Academy of Sciences represents Latvia in the International Council for Science (ICSU), in the Association of All European Academies (ALLEA), in the World Federation of Scientists (WFS), in Union Académique Internationale (UAI), etc.

    The main aims and tasks of the Latvian Academy of Sciences have been formulated in the Charter, to be mentioned here: favouring research in the basic and applied sciences, especially in disciplinary research; promoting studies in Latvian history, culture, and the development of the Latvian language; active participation in establishing Latvian science policy and consultation of the Government about scientific issues; care about publishing of scientific literature, scientific terminology, and maintenance of scientific standards in encyclopedias; organisation of congresses, conferences, discussions, and competitions, popularization of scientific achievements and history of Latvian sciences; maintenance of international contacts of Latvian scientists; protection, maintenance, and perfection of research ethics, discussion principles, and traditions.

    The main forms of activities of the LAS are meetings and general meetings, academic readings and work in its scientific divisions, by giving consultations and experts' conclusions, when evaluating scientific trends, organising scientific discussions, awarding the Grand Medal of the LAS and prizes bearing names of prominent scientists, awards to students of higher educational institutions, degrees of Dr. h. c., maintaining contacts with the scientific institutions of foreign countries (in 2000 — with 25 foreign academies of sciences) and so on.

    Since 1994, there are no longer scientific research institutes at the LAS, however, the LAS co-operates both with its former institutes, the major part of which have been integrated within Latvia's universities, and the universities themselves. In the 90ies, the transformation of the LAS into a West European academy has been completed by electing many new members (also from abroad) and introducing new forms of activities. The transformation has been carried out parallel to the whole reform of Latvia's science.

    According to the Statutes of the LAS, the structure of the Academy is made up of 100 full members up to 70 years of age. At present (i.e., as to 1 January 2001), there is a total of 95 full members, 70 of them under the age of 70. The Statutes also envisage 60 corresponding members up to 65 years of age; currently only 51 of the total 90 corresponding members are under the age of 65. Out of 60 vacancies for honorary members, 50 have been balloted so far, and 92 of the provided 100 foreign members have been elected.

About half of the LAS full members are university professors from Latvia. Since 1990, the most outstanding Latvia's cultural and scientific figures have been elected honorary members of the LAS. Lately meetings of the honorary members of the LAS are being held on a regular basis. Among the foreign members of the LAS there are prominent scientific and cultural figures from 22 countries. Within the organisational framework of the LAS, an Overseas Division is functioning in New York, headed by Professor Emeritus of national economy N. Balabkins. In their turn, several members of the LAS have been elected members of foreign academies of sciences. Professor Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, full member of LAS, has been elected the President of the Republic of Latvia.

As regards organisation of science, the LAS takes part in designing Latvia's science strategy, evaluating Latvia's scientific trends, co-operation among the academies of sciences of the Baltic States and the Nordic countries, as well as in evaluating and supplementing the draft laws pertaining to science. The Latvian Academy of Sciences is acting in close collaboration with the Latvian Council of Science, discussing the guidelines for the activities of the Academy, regularly arranges successful meetings of the LAS in Riga, as well as in other regions of Latvia (in 2000 — in Bauska, Jēkabpils and Jelgava).

During the recent years, the prestige of the LAS has considerably increased as regarded by the state as well as the private and public institutions. More and more often the LAS gives qualified experts' opinions. Members of the LAS work as advisors at various state institutions as well as are actively engaged in developing new study programmes for Latvia's institutions of higher education. A number of the LAS members are successfully engaged in carrying out various international projects, they are invited to report at international conferences and work at research centres of Western countries. The Latvian Academy of Sciences facilitates the involvement of Latvia's researchers in the programmes of the European Union.

    In 1998–2000, the Latvian Academy of Sciences has made agreements with the Latvian Association of Intellectuals and with the Riga Latvian Society on organisation of common public conferences for intellectuals (they are held every month and broadcasted on the radio, 40 conferences have already been held so far), with the Latvian Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Science on collaboration (common meetings are held), with the Association for Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS), with the Culture Foundation of Latvia, with the University of Latvia, Riga Technical University, Latvian Academy of Regional Architecture, and other organisations. The opinion of the LAS on current issues is frequently voiced. The award system of LAS has been put in order (new awards for most branches of science, prizes for young scientists have been introduced and in several cases awarded for the first time, collective prizes with the public joint-stock company “Grindex”, joint-stock companies “Aldaris”, “DATI”, “Latvenergo”, and “RD ALFA” have been set up. The status of the the LAS Honorary Patron has been established. A list of the LAS members and honorary doctors of various categories since the establishment of LAS has been arranged according to the tradition of the older European academies of sciences. The LAS members have taken part in drafting the concept for the sustainable development of Latvia (“From A Vision to Action”). A project on science strategy for the small European countries, initiated by the presidents of the academies of sciences of the three Baltic States, is being designed in the frames of ALLEA.

    A detailed analysis of the origin, history, and transformation of LAS is given in the book by Jānis Stradiņš, published at the beginning of 1999 (Rīga: Zinātne. 711 pp.), where readers can acquaint themselves with the events of the past. The book also outlines the future of the LAS.

    At present, the membership of the LAS and the fields of activities start stabilising, the principle of integration in research, higher education institutions, culture, and new technologies is starting to be realized. The Latvian Academy of Sciences has entered the 21st century with a defined programme for activities that would benefit Latvia and its science.