MPIDR Working Paper

Brain drain and brain gain in Russia: analyzing international mobility of researchers by discipline using Scopus bibliometric data 1996-2020

Subbotin, A., Aref, S.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2020-025, 19 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (May 2020)
Revised August 2020
Open Access


We study international mobility in academia with a focus on migration of researchers to and from Russia. Using all Scopus publications from 1996 to 2020, we analyze bibliometric data from over half a million researchers who have published with a Russian affiliation address at some point in their careers. Migration of researchers is observed through the changes in their affiliation addresses. For the first time, we analyze origins and destinations of migrant researchers with respect to their fields and performance and compute net migration rates based on incoming and outgoing flows. Our results indicate that while Russia has been a donor country in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it has experienced a relatively symmetric circulation of researchers in more recent years. Using subject categories of publications, we quantify the impact of migration on each field of scholarship. Our analysis shows that Russia has suffered a net loss in almost all disciplines and more so in neuroscience, decision sciences, dentistry, biochemistry, and mathematics. For economics and environmental science, there is a relatively balanced circulation of researchers to and from Russia. Our substantive results reveal new aspects of international mobility in academia and its impact on a national science system which speak directly to policy development. Methodologically, our new approach of handling big data can be adopted as a framework of analysis for studying scholarly migration in other countries.

Keywords: Russian Federation, bibliographies, brain drain, circular migration, computational demography, computational social science, digital demography, information sciences, international migration, labor migration, libraries, library science
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.