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Monitoring survey of Highly Qualified R&D Personnel

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

The study «Monitoring survey of Highly Qualified R&D Personnel» 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 the careers of doctorate holders are compiled with a view to measuring the demographic, employment, international and intra-sectoral mobility, career and earnings characteristics of holders of advanced research qualifications at a 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 labour of highly skilled workers and as such is frequently referred to as brain drain, brain gain, or brain circulation. In addition, issues about the qualitative and quantitative match of the education of doctorate holders with the labour market are addressed. These statistics also deal with questions on how well the competencies of the highest educated are used by society as well as the attractiveness of different career paths for doctorate holders.

Goal of the Research:

This project aims to deepen 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 mobility during the educational path comprising a PhD, and on mobility after a PhD.

The project focuses on two major interlinked issues: 1) mobility and internationalization, 2) skills and motivations for research career.

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 the decision-making processes concerning career paths, and the decisions of opting for one type of mobility over the other, when mobile.

Empirical Base of Research:

The survey is based on the results of the study on doctorate holders. The collected data allowed us to analyze the main social, economic, and demographic properties of the group. A multi-stage stratified quota sample is representative by region, type of organization, age of the respondent, field of doctorate degree. The total sample amounted to 1631 respondents.

Results of Research:

The actual international CDH data collection revealed several principal trends in the labour market and careers of doctorate holders and researchers:

1. More than half of all respondents (53%) have permanent (indefinite) contracts in their main positions; and 44% have labour contracts for more than one year. At the same time, their experience in the same organization often exceeds 10 years. This attests to the long-term relationships between employers and highly skilled employees.

2. Doctorate holders are relatively better than individuals with lower levels of educational attainment in terms of employment rates. Our study provides that one third of the respondents (36.4%) have more than one job. Usually, this secondary employment relates to the higher education sector.

3. In comparison of the second international CDH data collection, the professional mobility of respondents has witnessed a steady increase: during the last 10 years, 25% of doctorate holders and researchers have changed their jobs. More than 40% of doctorate holders did so between 2010 and 2013, between the second and third rounds of survey. The higher education sector remains the main recipient of doctorate holders and researchers. Apparently the process of redistribution of highly skilled labour force is one of the consequences of governmental politics for the integration of scientific research institutions and universities. It may be assumed this trend may remain the same for the foreseeable future.

4. Internationally mobile doctorate holders not only have high professional scientific skills (ability to work in workshops and laboratories), but also have wide range of general social skills such as creative collaborations with colleagues and an understanding of the functional principals of complex scientific organizations.

5. Internationally mobile highly skilled scientists, who are integrated in international scientific collaboration, clearly form a group. This group is constituted by male doctorate holders (doctor nauk), working in organizations of public sector; they have more strong professional relationships with foreign scientific institutes and have more opportunities to publish in international scientific journals and to take out Russian and international patents. The annual income of internationally mobile doctorate holders is higher on average in addition to their higher employment levels.

6. The group of internationally mobile doctorate holders has accumulated a great variety of different scientific skills and experience, professional recognition and prestige. It is a professional body which can consolidate and develop the modern Russian scientific and university community.

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

Field of application:

The monitoring results are regularly presented at Russian and international conferences and are published in national and international reviews and journals. The working papers are also used in monographs and articles addressing human resources of R&D sector in Russia.


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Shmatko N. A. What Engineer’s competencies for innovation market?, in: Advances in Social Science, Management and Human Behaviour. Zürich : London Research Press, 2013. P. 51-56.
Katchanov Y. L., Shmatko N. A. The Complexity in Sociological Theory: an Axiomatic Description // Applied Mathematical Sciences. 2013. Vol. 7. No. 73. P. 3591-3599. doi