MPIDR Working Paper

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

Subbotin, A., Aref, S.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2020-025, 18 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (May 2020)
Open Access


We study international mobility in academia with a focus on migration of researchers to and from Russia. Using millions of Scopus publications from 1996 to 2019, we analyze detailed records of more than 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. We compute net migration rates based on incoming and outgoing flows of researchers which indicate that while Russia has been a donor country in the late 1990s and early 2000s, in more recent years, it has experienced relatively balanced flows and a symmetric circulation of researchers. Using subject categories of publications, we obtain a profile of possibly mixed disciplines for each researcher. This allows us to quantify the impact of migration on each field of science. For a country assumed to be losing scientists, our analysis shows that while Russia has suffered a net loss in most disciplines and more so in pharmacology, agriculture, environmental science, and energy, it is actually on the winning side of a brain circulation system for dentistry, psychology, and chemistry. For the discipline of nursing, there is a 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 could inform policy development. Methodologically, our new approach 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.