Staunton, July 29 – Researchers have long pointed out that cooperating with a nation’s academic diaspora is a valuable alternative to tolerating greater brain drain or seeking the return of scholars to their homelands. But a new study of Russian IT professions suggests this option may not be readily available to Moscow.
Irina Antoshchuk has investigated the behavior of Russian IT scholars working in Britain, and she finds that Russian scholars in the UK work closely with other Russians in that country, somewhat less with Russians in other countries, but only very rarely with Russians in Russia (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-научная-диаспора-ценный-ресурс-или-опасный-конкурент).
Russia is very proud of its enormous diaspora of scholars, she says; and at the official level has sought to promote cooperation between its members and Russians in Russia (sib-science.info/ru/conferences/rossiyskaya-nauka-07122020 and science.spb.ru/allnews/item/2329-livanov-fursenko).
Anotshchuk’s investigation, part of the “Russian Computer Scientists at Home and Abroad” project, found that 83.6 percent of Russian IT scholars abroad maintain close contacts with other Russian scholars. Two-thirds coauthor paper with them. But their contacts are mostly with Russians who are also part of the diaspora and in the same country as themselves.
“The scholars actively cooperate with Russian speaking scholars in the country where they themselves live, while cooperation with Russia does not play a particularly significant role in their scholarly activity,” the Russian researcher who is now a graduate student at the Universities of Amsterdam and St. Petersburg.
Most ties Russian IT specialists have with Russian scholars at home are restricted to the universities where they received their training. Having graduated, they tend to work with others even though their contacts continue with those who trained them. In part, this is because of the nature of academic organization; and in part, because of the financing of research.
Moscow has been successful in involving Russian scholars abroad when it has launched mega-projects, but in most cases, these have left the Russian emigres in secondary roles and thus made it less likely that they will build on such ties. If Russia wants to change that, it must change its approach to funding.
If that doesn’t happen, Russians will continue to work with Russians but largely in the countries to which they have emigrated and not with Russians in Russia, thus costing the country what could be an extremely valuable resource, Anotshchuk concludes.