Russian Research in Global Balance of Scientific Influence

Data on researchers’ affiliations in publications indexed in international citation databases (Web of Science or Scopus) reflects their collaborations with research organisations and individuals in other countries. According to findings by the HSE Institute of Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK), the rate of Russian researchers' involvement in international cooperation has been growing from year to year.

As part of the project 'Monitoring survey of highly qualified R&D personnel', which is the Russian section of the comparative international project 'Careers of Doctorate Holders' implemented in 25 countries and coordinated by the OECD, Eurostat, and UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the ISSEK staff analysed data on the affiliations of Russian researchers mentioned in papers published between 2008 and 2013 and indexed in the Web of Science Core Collection (Thomson Reuters) database. The ISSEK's work with the WOS CC database is ongoing, and updated 2014-2016 data on Russian researchers is expected to be released by the end of this year.

The number of Russian publications in the WOS CC citation indexes is on the rise, growing from some 31,000 in 2008 to 49,000 in 2015. Similarly, the number of publications co-authored by Russian and foreign researchers increased from 9,9000 in 2008 to 11,300 in 2013 and then to more than 15,000 in 2015, according to the WOS database.

At the same time, the total number of WOS-indexed publications authored solely by Russians increased at a greater pace than those with international co-authorship between 2013 and 2015. Thus, despite the absolute increase in co-authored papers, their share in the total number of publications by Russian researchers has slightly decreased. While both co-authored and Russian-only papers showed an increase between 2008 and 2013, the former's proportion then began to decline from 33.4% in 2013 and to 30.5% in 2015.

A more detailed analysis covering the data for 2008-2013 reveals the number and rates of co-authored publications between Russian and non-Russian researchers and the latter's countries of origin. Over the period under review, scientists from 159 countries co-authored 58,027 papers with Russians, or 29% of the total of Russian publications indexed in the WOS CC. Graph. 1 illustrates the scale of this scientific cooperation.

Graph. 1. Russian publications with international co-authorship. Top 20 partner countries in 2008-2013 (according to the Web of Science Core Collection)

It follows from these findings that Russian researchers prefer to cooperate with authors from countries with an advanced research capacity and well-established scientific traditions, such as the U.S., Germany, France, the U.K. and Italy. Scientific cooperation with BRICS is less common and, paradoxically, cooperation with its closest neighbours – the former Soviet republics – is even more rare.

Balance of Research Impact

However, the impact of partner countries on each other in terms of research can be uneven. For example, the proportion of papers co-authored by Russians and Germans stands at 8% of all Russian and 2.1% of all German WOS-indexed publications, meaning that Russian authors' rates of publication are four times more dependent on the Russian-German scientific cooperation than vice verse.

For a better understanding of how such balance of research impact (BRI) is shaped, let us consider an example. As mentioned above, Russian papers co-authored with German colleagues account for 0.08 (8%) of all indexed Russian publications (the share of Russian-German publications). In turn, German papers co-authored with Russian colleagues account for 0.021 (2.1%) of all indexed German publications (the share of German-Russian publications). Russia’s BRI in respect of Germany is calculated as a ratio of the share of German-Russian publications to the share of Russian-German publications, or 0.263 (0.021/0.08 = 0.263) in this example. In terms of BRI, three types of relationships are possible between countries:

–        dependence (Russia's BRI is less than 1);

–        equality (Russia's BRI equals 1); and

–        leadership (Russia's BRI is higher than 1 relative to a partner country).

BRI-based distribution of Russia's partner countries is shown in Graph. 2.

At the top of the graph are countries with BRIs of less than one in respect of Russia – these are the G7 countries and China. While Russian authors' publication rates depend significantly on cooperation with colleagues from these countries, the latter do not experience much influence from Russian researchers.

At the bottom of the graph are countries with BRIs of more than one in respect of Russia – these are the former Soviet republics, former Comecon members, certain Latin American countries, and others whose scientific publication rates tend to be driven by cooperation with Russian researchers, but not the other way around.

Countries with a BRI of one are at the centre of the graph and include all countries located between, and inclusive of Spain and Iran, as well as two BRICS countries – India and Brazil. All of them tend to maintain a balanced relationship with Russia in terms of scientific impact.

Effects of 'Post-Soviet' Cooperation

Five former USSR republics (Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) have not been included in the analysis due to statistically insignificant annual number of WOS-indexed publications. For the remaining former USSR republics, their BRIs with Russia range from almost 98 for Moldova to 11.2 for Lithuania, i.e. the proportions of their scientists’ published papers co-authored with Russians in the total number of papers from relevant countries far exceed the share of Russian papers co-authored with scientists from these countries. One notable exception is Ukraine, whose BRI relative to Russia stands at a moderate 5.49. In other words, cooperation with Russian colleagues is highly important for researchers from the former USSR countries; indeed, Russia is often their key international research partner.

Graph. 2. Russia's BRI in international scientific cooperation in 2008-2013 (according to the Web of Science Core Collection)


Russian researchers tend to influence the publication activity of their colleagues in neighbouring states, including former USSR republics, and also certain Latin American countries. At the same time, many Russian scientists seek to collaborate with researchers from more academically advanced countries, and Russian authors' rates of publication are far more dependent on such cooperation that those of their foreign colleagues. In summary, Russian authors' contribution to Russia's balance of scientific impact tends to rely on cooperation with scientists from more advanced countries, such as the U.S., China, the U.K., Germany and some other European countries.

This material has been prepared by G.L. Volkova and N.A. Shmatko