Brain drain from Russia not a disaster at all

The brain drain from Russia is not a disaster - this is the conclusion made by the World Bank economists. It turns out that the Russian-trained workforce is not in a great demand in the West, and their departure from the home country is not a disaster for Russia. At the same time, Russian scientists are not willing to work in their home country, believe the authors of the study.

In the largest scientific powers of the West, including the United States and Germany, according to approximate calculations of the World Bank, 650,000 educated Russian immigrants reside, of which approximately 450,000 are employed.

The numbers are pretty large, but experts advise not to deceive ourselves. In Western countries, academic degrees must be verified. Among Russian immigrants from 2002 to 2008 only 1,364 people earned a doctorate degree (PhD) in the U.S. - this is the tenth place in the overall ranking of the countries. On average, 195 Russians in the USA are granted this degree each year. For comparison, the first place in terms of this indicator belongs to China with 25 thousand people, as well as India - with 9.6 thousand doctors annually.

The Russian students, in contrast to the Indians and the Chinese flooding the universities in Britain and the U.S., prefer to study in Germany. 23 percent of Chinese students study in the U.S. compared to 14 percent of the Russian ones. The labor markets of Great Britain and the United States are better fitted to ensure that foreigners could find work, experts say.

Now high-tech companies determine the growth of the U.S. economy and labor market. In 16 percent of these companies at least one of the founders is a foreigner, as a rule, an immigrant with a technical degree. Among the 250 foreign businessmen in the United States included in the sample of the experts of the World Bank, there were representatives from 54 countries. 16 percent of them are Indians, 10 percent are Britons, and 2.8 percent - the Russians. They founded seven companies of the 250 sampled.

Thus, the authors suggest that research in Russia exaggerates the catastrophic "brain drain", as well as the gains of the host countries from highbrow migration. The study has a number of observations about the characteristics of the life of the Russian diaspora and their diplomas in the West.

For example, Russian immigrants are less inclined towards entrepreneurship than the immigrants from Asia and other European countries. However, it should be taken into account that the scientists who left the country in the 1990s did not do it for the sake of business, but for a quiet comfortable life and stable work. Even now, a full life in science for most scientists is an explicit priority to a successful business.

It seems that the use of a formal approach by WB experts, simply relating the executives to their ethnic origin, counting the number of degrees and students of different nationalities and so on, does not allow for far-reaching conclusions about the contribution of members of a particular nationality in the technological development of the West.

For example, the idle of today's geeks, Apple, is famous for its Steve Jobs. But the company also had Steve (Stephen) Wozniak, who was born in a family of immigrants from Ukraine. He is much less known, but from a technical point of view, he has given the company far more than Jobs.

Therefore, to assess the contribution of foreigners, including those from Russia / Soviet Union, for example, in the U.S., it would be logical to consider not a confirmation of a degree (often associated with teaching rather than research) and nationality of heads of technology companies, but study the origin of patents registered in the United States - an important source of enrichment for the United States, especially if we are talking about the implemented ones. Those who worked in strategic Russian Research Institute in the "wild" years can probably tell a lot more about the potential contribution of the Russian science in general in progress and technological achievements of the West.

However, the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2006 published data showing that the author of every fourth patent application filed in the United States is a foreign citizen who works in the United States.

According to the American Enterprise, 75 percent of international patents registered by telecommunications firm Qualcomm, 65 percent of patents of pharmaceutical giant Merck, and 64 percent of the electromechanical group General Electric are attributed to immigrants.

Yet, this number is very unsteady. The legendary American Thomas Edison filed 2,332 patents in his name and became a Guinness record holder. Yet, Edison made no significant discoveries. However, in simple numbers his contribution is thousands of times greater than that of scientists- immigrants from Russia and other countries.

This situation, despite the undoubted overall increase of legal literacy of the scholars, is fundamentally unchanged. For example, Boeing opened an engineering center in Russia and took hundreds of Russian specialists in the United States for long-term training and work, and then returned them to their homeland. Statistically, the brain drain is not happening as they left and came back. But in fact, there is "leakage of ideas."

The concept of "leakage of ideas" is broader and more complex to adequately assess the potential losses and gains of different territories. The more so that similar solutions tend to occur to people on different continents at the same time.

For evaluation of this phenomenon, statistical "garbage" like the comparisons of the number of graduates able to find a job in their field, is only an indirect indicator. Incidentally, this number is more convenient to use to assess damage from the Russian scientific migration, such as analyzing the problem of inter-generational gap in various sectors of the Russian science, which the study authors overlook.

Another missing part is the relocation of an entire subject of research. At the inception subjects are often tied to one person, around which the necessary infrastructure, including laboratories, assistants and such gradually increases. That alone is worth thousands of ordinary undergraduates calculated by the WB.

Vitaly Salnik


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov