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Doktor nauk (Russian: доктор наук, literally translated as "Doctor of Sciences") is a higher doctoral degree which may be earned after the Candidate of Sciences (which is informally regarded in Russia and many other post-Soviet states as equivalent to PhD obtained in countries in which PhD is not the highest academic degree).
Doktor nauk degrees are conferred by a national government agency called the Higher Attestation Commission (Vyshaja Attestacionnaja Komissija, VAK) on the solicitation by the specialized dissertation committee before which the candidate has defended her or his dissertation. Such committees are created in academic institutions with established research record and are accredited by VAK. The total number of committee members is typically about 20, all holding the Doktor Nauk degree. The area of research specialization of at least five committee members must match the profile of the materials submitted by the doctoral candidate for the consideration. The candidate must conduct independent research. Therefore, no academic supervisor is required; moreover, typically the candidate is an established scholar him/herself, supervising a few Ph.D. students while working towards his or her Doktor Nauk. However, it is normal practice when an experienced consultant is appointed to help the scholar with identifying the research problem and finding the approach to solving it; yet this is not technically regarded a supervision.
The procedures of conferring of both Kandidat and Doktor academic degrees are more formal and different from conferring a Ph.D. degree in Western universities. In particular, for the Doktor, the academic institution, where the scholar is affiliated as a doctoral candidate, must conduct a preliminary review of the research results and personal contribution made by the candidate and, depending on findings, elect whether to render formal support or not. By definition, this highly prestigious degree can be conferred only for a significant contribution to science and/or technology based on a public defense of a thesis, monograph, or (in rare cases) of a set of outstanding publications in refereed journals. The defense must be held at the session of a Specialized Dissertation Committee accredited by VAK. Prior to the defense, three referees holding Doktor Nauk degrees themselves (the so-called "official opponents") must submit their written motivated assessments of the thesis. One more similar assessment is to be provided by some university or academic institution, working in the same field of science or technology, and in addition several other reviewers must mail their conclusions made based on a thesis summary (usually a 32-page brochure).
In the former USSR, this degree is considered a sufficient credential for tenured full professorship at any institution of higher learning. Unless an academic holds a Doktor Nauk, she or he can make it to a full professor only through 15 years or more of outstanding teaching service on the university level. At least one published and widely accepted textbook and the degree of Kandidat Nauk are required in the latter case, anyway. A Doktor Nauk degree holder can become a tenured full professor after just one year of teaching experience in a non-tenured faculty position.
The Doktor Nauk thus has no academic equivalent in North America, as it is a post-doctoral degree.
The German Habilitation and, to some extent, the French "habilitation à diriger des recherches" (HDR) are comparable to it, as are the British higher doctorates (e.g. Doctor of Science), although the last-mentioned are not required for career advancement. On the average, only 10 per cent of Kandidats eventually earn a Doktor degree. Although some exceptionally talented researchers in mathematics do earn Doktor Nauk in their late 20s, the average age of the scholars reaching Doktor in most disciplines is about 50; this implicitly indicates the amount of contribution that must be made.
According to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, "In countries with a two-tier system of doctoral degrees, the degree of Doctor Nauk should be considered for recognition at the level of the second doctoral degree. In countries with only one doctoral degree, the degree of Doctor Nauk should be considered for recognition as equivalent to this degree."
According to the International Standard Classification of Education, for purposes of international educational statistics