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Monitoring survey of Highly Qualified R&D Personnel: International Mobility and Scientific Productivity

Priority areas of development: sociology
Department: Department for Human Capital Research
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

This project aims at deepening the knowledge of the career paths of doctorates and the role of mobility. The career paths of doctorates are explored based on three types of mobility: inter-sectoral, intra-sectoral and international mobility. This study is analytically focused on actual and potential mobility of PhDs and more special on the multiple affiliations of PhDs as a form of professional mobility.

The project focuses on three major interlinked issues:

  1. job-to-job mobility and research career, 
  2. international mobility and publication activity, 
  3. motivations for research career.


The survey is based on the results of the study on doctorate holders. The collected data allowed analyzing the main social, economic, and demographic properties of the group.

The study is a part of a large-scale comparative international project: «Careers of Doctorate Holders» (CDH). This project aims at developing internationally comparable indicators on the careers and mobility of the most qualified personnel in science and technology. It brings together researchers from 26 countries under the auspices of the three major international organizations: OECD, Eurostat and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Statistics on careers of doctorate holders are compiled with a view to measure the demographic, employment, international and intra-sectoral mobility, career and earnings characteristics of holders of advanced research qualifications at national and international level. The term «doctorate holders» is used for persons with an advanced research qualification, in possession of an ISCED 1997 level 6 degree.

These statistics aim to answer questions about international mobility, which is an important aspect of the labor of highly skilled workers and frequently referred to as brain drain, brain gain, or brain circulation.

Empirical base of research:

The analysis of the mobility of Russian doctorate holders presented in the paper is based on the data of dedicated survey “The Monitoring of the Labor Market for Highly Qualified R&D Personnel”. The questionnaire and the sample were about the same in 2010, 2013 and in 2015, that enables us to track certain trends regarding development of Russian doctorate holders.

The target population included persons aged from 25 to 69 years who live and work in Russia and have doctoral degrees. In this panel survey, multistep stratified sampling was used with quotas under the following parameters: gender, age, field of science, employment sector and geographical area. The nationally representative sample was clustered within eight Russian Federal districts and stratified by the number of PhD graduates in each district.

Results of research:

The career trajectories of doctoral holders are addressed in terms of career employment and effects on productivity (publications, patents, salary). This analysis is complemented by a second major issue, which aims to understand the role of motivations, experiences, professional shifts and other social phenomena in decision-making processes concerning career paths, and the decisions of opting for one type of mobility over the other, when mobile.

While a scientific career choice, Russian researchers are mostly driven by the intrinsic (personal) motivation, as for the extrinsic motivation (such as pay and bonuses) it seems to be not really important. The priority of personal and social motivation is typical for scientists of both sexes and all age groups. The time of the current occupation on the scientific position, highly qualified specialists are able to use their knowledge, creativity and analytical abilities, so the activity in the sphere of education and science meets the high level of intrinsic motivation of researchers. However, there are a number of instrumental issues – first of all, the financial problems, namely insufficient funding of projects, low financial and material support of experimental studies. These problems hamper the researchers to realize their creative potential and to satisfy their personal motives and goals.

The overview of approaches to study and measuring of scientific productivity shows that the most researchers tended to connect productivity with number of publications. International scientific mobility is studied as movement in the distribution of authors in the space of affiliations. The analysis reveals that directions of international scientific mobility are determined by differentials in scientific impacts between receiver and donor countries.

Analysis of the main socio-economic indicators of partner countries and the international scientific mobility of Russian researchers has shown that mobile authors seek to combine work in Russian organizations with work in countries which have a well-developed scientific infrastructure, a large and stable labor market for researchers, and high rates of publication and citation. The distribution of mobile researchers by country (without distinguishing them by scientific discipline) is determined by the difference in the socio-economic and scientific potential between Russia and the receiving country: the higher the socio-economic and scientific development of the latter, the more likely mobile researchers are to try to move there.

Collaboration with leading organizations contributes to greater scientific productivity and heightened reputation for mobile researchers. In comparison with non-mobile Russian researcher, a mobile researcher receives more scientific recognition (as measured by citations) and more opportunities to carry out projects, which in turn contributes to their high rate of publication activity. In this respect, mobile researchers become like their foreign colleagues. Thus, in terms of productivity and level of recognition, the gap between mobile and non-mobile authors is similar to that between authors in the leading receiver countries and mobile researchers. This means that the bibliometric characteristics of mobile researchers are isomorphic to those of receiver country authors. This supports our thesis that international scientific mobility acts as a form of social mobility for Russian scientists.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

This analysis showcases the potential of collected data to inform policy questions, notably through the use of micro-data based econometric methods. Results of the survey may be used to elaborate public policies in the field of employment and careers of the highly qualified R&D personnel. The working papers are also used in monographs and articles addressing human resources of R&D sector in Russia.


Shmatko N. A., Katchanov Y. L. Gatekeepers in Russian High-Tech: a Study of Heads of Leading Research Centers / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series WP BRP "Science, Technology and Innovation". 2015. No. 39.
Katchanov Y. L. Towards a simple mathematical theory of citation distributions // SpringerPlus. 2015. Vol. 4. No. 1. P. eid 677. doi
Gokhberg L., Shmatko N. A., Auriol L. Rethinking the Doctoral Degrees in the Changing Labor Market Context, in: The Science and Technology Labor Force: The Value of Doctorate Holders and Development of Professional Careers / Ed. by L. Gokhberg, N. A. Shmatko, L. Auriol. Dordrecht : Springer, 2016. doi P. 1-7.