During more than 60 years of existence, the Institute developed as a complex scientific organization with a variety of research themes in the frame of three main directions:
- Geodynamics of foldbelts and platforms at the example of the Southern Urals and adjacent territories;
- Study of conditions of formation of the main raw materials: oil, gas, copper, gold etc.
- Biostratigraphical study of the Urals and the easterm margin of the Russian platform with the aim of construction of a reliable base for large-scale geological and prospecting-metallogenic maps.
The studies in these directions are characterized by a combination of theoretical approach and work at practical applications of studies.
From the first steps, the research was oriented at discovery of new oil and gas deposits. A necessary condition for it was a creation of correct stratigraphic schemes of the Late Proterozoic (Mezo- and Neoproterozoic), Devonian, Carboniferous and Lower Permian deposits of the region in the first place. The importance of the stratigraphic studies was also conditioned by the fact that the western slope of the Southern Urals (and Bashkiria first of all) is characterized by complete sections of many stratons, and standard sections of many stratigrafic units had been established here. In particular, in the Bashkirian anticlinorium a stratotypic section of the Upper Proterozoic, called the Riphean, was established, and many stratigraphers of the Institute, in collaboration with researchers of the Geological Institute of Moscow, study it until now. A new stratigraphic scheme of the Riphean, based on modern methods of isotope analysis, was suggested recently. Many Devonian sections, being very complete, are shown to be of a major importance for a refinement of the General Stratigraphic scheme of Russia. Still more important are the sections of the Carboniferous. The Bashkirian stage of the International Stratigraphic Scheme was established here. Now an intense work is going on at a refinement of a Serpukhovian/Visean boundary at the Kordailovka section in Bashkiria for the International Stratigraphic Scheme. Very important is also the work of the Laboratory of Cenozoic geology which supplies the Geological Survey of the Urals and Volga territory with quality stratigraphic schemes of Neogene and Quaternary, which are necessary for geological maps of the new edition.
The prospecting for solid raw materials was oriented, first of all, at VMS (Volcanic-Hosted Massive Sulfide Deposits− the sources of copper, zinc, gold and some other elements). The most famous of them, such as Uchaly, Sibay, Gay were objects of an intense geological, paleovolcanological, geochemical and mineralogical study soon after the establishment of the Institute, and still is, along with many other deposits, discovered later. The correct orientation of prospecting works was impossible without a detailed stratigraphic scheme, and it was also a main concern of the Institute’s stratigraphers. Study of conodonts, which earlier were not known in the volcanic-cherty sections of the Magnitogorsk synclinorium, gave a possibility of creating a very detailed and precise scheme, − an outstanding achievement of the Laboratory of stratigraphy.
The important concern of the laboratories of ore deposits and magmatism and metamorphism are the studies of chromite and gold deposits. The latter studies also the Riphean and Carboniferous small intrusions and dikes, as well metamorphic complexes; the special attention is paid for unique high pressure eclogite complexes of Beloretsk and Maksiutovo.
The heat flow of the Southern Urals was studied since 70−ties. The specific feature of the recent cycle of research was taking into account of an influence of climate changes on the final calculations and results.
During many years, in co-operation with specialists of the Geophysical Institute of the Uralian Branch of RAS and Geological Instutute of RAS (Moscow) a successful study of paleomagnetism of the eastern margin of Baltica continent and the Uralian terranes was made.
Very important are the studies of the Laboratory of hydrogeology and geoecology. The formation of water resources under the influence of natural and technogenic factors is revealed, as well as a hydrogeochemical structure of the deep hydrosphere. New sources of drinking and mineral water were found.
Recently the karst phenomenon is intensely studied because its importance for engineering, construction works, water supply, etc.
Geodynamic study of the Russian platform and Urals was one of the main priorities during the most part of the Institute’s activity. In the 50-ties the Urals was an оbject of study as a model geosyncline. By the end of 60-ties, the theory of New Global Tectonics (the later name – Plate Tectonics) began its victorious march. But until the middle of 70-ties, fixism was predominant in the publications of the Institute. When M.A. Kamaletdinov came as a Director, the ideology changed abruptly: publications of Kamaletdinov and his co-authors contained evidences of a wide development of charriages (overthrusts) in the Urals. Later on, a «theory of a charriage development of the Earth» was suggested, where charriages were declared the main structures of the earth, and their formation – a ruling tectonic process. It contrasted strongly with the plate tectonics theory. While the latter became the main geological ideology, the “charriage theory” did not find an adequate support neither in Russia, nor in the world.
Since the beginning of 90-ties, the change of the administration of the Institute have led to a change of ideology: а considerable part of the researchers accepted the main postulates of Plate Tectonics and then also Plume tectonics. It happened in parallel with a considerable growth of contacts with the western scientists and participation in a series of international projects : EUROPROBE (Uralides), MinUrals, IGCP−400, GEODE and others. Many geologists from Germany, Spain, England and other countries were coming to the Institute and participated in field campaigns and preparation of publications.
The Institute has constant contacts with industrial geological organizations and State Geological Survey. The results of scientific studies are widely used in preparation of the State geological maps of the new series, 1 : 1 000 000 and 1 : 200 000 scales.
The researchers publish their results very actively in the country and abroad. The Institute published more than 200 monographs and thematic issues and more than 2500 papers. Along with publications, the Institute works at many expert reports, prognoses, descriptions and specialized maps, meeting the needs of industrial companies and collecting finance for further research.