Russian brain drain eases but emigrants still most highly cited

Analysis of author movements also suggests some disciplines have seen major loss of talent over past 25 years

九月 24, 2021
Khakassia, Russia - July 16, 2021 Welcome sign along road at the entrance to the Republic of Khakassia
Source: iStock

The “brain drain” of academic talent from Russia has all but halted, but scholars who have left the country in recent decades are much more likely to have been highly cited, according to new analysis.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany analysed the publication records of around 660,000 authors who had been affiliated with a Russian institution at some point between 1996 and 2020.

By looking at how affiliations changed over time, they calculated that the net flow of scholars out of Russia peaked at almost nine per 1,000 researchers in 2000, but had been much closer to zero, or had even reversed, in the years since 2010.

However, it adds that “it is still too early to call Russia a country of attraction for researchers”, while the cumulative effect of the net losses over 25 years meant the country had seen a big dent to talent in some disciplines.

Using a measure it calls “field-based net brain drain”, the paper estimates that neuroscience, mathematics, biochemistry and computer science were among the disciplines seeing the biggest losses.

The most common destination countries for Russian scientists over the period were the US, followed by Germany, the UK, Ukraine and France. These were also the five most common countries of origin for academic immigration into Russia, but the outward flow of researchers was 50 per cent higher, apart from Ukraine, which had more scientists moving the other way.

The article, published in Scientometrics, also found that although just 5.2 per cent of the authors in the dataset were internationally mobile over the period, they were associated with almost 30 per cent of the 2.5 million publications assessed for the research.

In most major fields, internationally mobile researchers “who came to Russia performed worse than those who left Russia in terms of the citations they received” after controlling for discipline and academic experience.

For instance, 46 per cent of academics who moved from Russia to the US were classed by the researchers as highly cited, compared with 26 per cent who were moderately cited and 28 per cent who were the lowest cited. However, for those moving to Russia from the US, just 22 per cent were highly cited, 30 per cent were moderately cited and almost half were in the lowest-cited group.


Print headline: Russian brain drain flows into higher citations



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