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, 26 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (May 2020)
Revised June 2021
Open Access


We study international mobility in academia with a focus on migration of researchers to and from Russia. Using an exhaustive set of over 2.4 million Scopus publications from 1996 to 2020, we analyze the affiliation addresses of more than 659,000 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 which alter the mode country of affiliation over different years. Only 5.2% of these researchers are internationally mobile, but they account for a substantial proportion of citations. Our estimates of net migration rates indicate that while Russia has been a donor country in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it has experienced a relatively balanced circulation of researchers in more recent years. Overall, researchers emigrating from Russia outnumber and outperform researchers immigrating to Russia. Using subject categories of publications, we quantify the impact of migration on each discipline of scholarship. Our analysis shows that Russia has suffered a net loss in most disciplines and more notably in five disciplines of neuroscience, decision sciences, mathematics, biochemistry, and pharmacology. We demonstrate the robustness of our main findings under random exclusion of data and changes in numeric parameters. 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 novel 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.