Network of international scholarly migration in Russia: Comparing disciplines of scholarship among international movers using Scopus bibliometric data 1996-2019

Alexander Subbotin, Samin Aref


This research focuses on international mobility of academics, with a focus on migration of researchers from and to Russia. As of 2014, the number of PhD holders working in Russia has been only 60% larger than the PhD holders working in the United States who originated from the former Soviet Union (Aref’ev and Sheregi 2015). The Russian brain drain is one of the most debated aspects of post-Soviet migration which has great impact to the academia in Russia at least in certain fields of scholarship. Analyzing the academic brain drain, assessment of its consequences, and development of programs to overcome its negative outcomes are among the most pressing issues at the present stage of the high-skilled migration research and policy development which goes beyond the case of Russia. The availability of millions of publications indexed in the Scopus database allows us to use affiliation addresses for identifying the cohort of researchers who have had international moves involving Russia. Also, the metadata recorded in Scopus on the subject categories of the publication venues allows us to determine the disciplines of scholarship suffering the most from the brain drain where the existence of established academic schools in Russia is threatened by a lack of incoming international flow and a large outgoing flow. We model and analyze international scholarly migration in Russia as a (an ego-) network where nodes represent countries and directed edges represent the movements of researchers between countries. Each move is associated with a certain profile of possibly mixed disciplines based on the publications of the mover at the approximate time of the move obtained based on the publication dates. Using the Scopus data for 1996–2019, we obtain nearly 1.1 million authorship records from over 47000 individual researchers who have had international moves involving Russia. Using categories in All Science Journal Classification (ASJC), we identify the subjects that appear most frequently among the movers. With respect to disciplines, there are differences between international movers who have published most recently with affiliations in Russia (return or incoming academic migrants), and those whose most recent work have been published in other countries (non-return academic migrants). Return migration also varies between those scholars with academic origin in Russia (who had Russian address in their first publication) and those with a non-Russian academic origin. Emerging sources of big data such as bibliometric databases allow an unprecedented opportunity for studying the migration, while there is a lack of official statistical data on high-skilled migration in Russia and Russian general migration data fail at indicating reliable scales for high-skilled migration. The obtained results may be of interest for further studies on international academic migration, which is a topical issue at the present stage of the socio-economic development in Russia. Academic migration flow estimates can be used to inform policies to encourage specialists from certain areas to stay or return and create the necessary conditions for attracting international researchers which ensures the diversity of a national science system in all areas of scholarship.

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