Russian brain drain
Jan 5, 1998
Scientists in the Russia federation are finding it increasingly hard to survive. Poor pay, outdated equipment and job insecurity have started large-scale emigration from the republics.
In a article published in the December 22 issue of Chemical and Engineering News, Russian scientists have spoken of their stuggle to survive. The average cost of living in Moscow is about $200 per month, but the average salary of a senior scientist is between $100 - $150 per month. Many have taken second jobs in a attempt to make ends meet.
Researchers also face a stuggle to upgrade or maintain aging equipment. State funding is now only enough to pay salaries and graduate student stipends, and no funds are available for libraries, buildings, maintence, or essential utilities. The academic's have had to rely on private companies and international institutions for support.
Massive staff cuts have occurred at many of the institutions privatized during 1993-1995 and funding from the Defense Ministry, which funded 75 percent of all research, has completely dried up. Russia is also at the bottom of industrialized countries in terms of GDP spent on research. In yet another decline, science will receive only 2.8 percent of the 1998 budget.
In an attempt to promote their subject to a indifferent public, scientists have started taking to the streets: in October over 250 scientists picketed the Russia Parliament demanding that science funding be raised to 4% as required by law.
It is not even certain that the remaining institutes have escaped closure. Vladimir Bulgak, the vice prime minister for science and high technology, has suggested that 30% of the Russian Academy of Science institutes should be closed.
Many scientists are moving to the west. An estimated 70, 000 to 90, 000 researchers between the ages of 30-45 emigrate from Russia every year, with most scientists leaving the country shortly after graduation. More are moving out of science altogether. Nikolai Plate, secretary general for science at the Russian Academy of Sciences, is quoted as being more worried about the internal brain drain than the external.
There is however some good news; Institutes and universities have more autonomy than in the past, and there are no limitations on international activities. Some groups have even started to thrive.