Ivanov   Inter Press Service   Jun 05/96   Russia is being robbed


( Inter Press Service English News Wire )

     MOSCOW, Jun. 5 (IPS) Russia is being robbed of some of its best brains as an increasing number of scientists and researchers yield to the lure of lucrative offers from around the globe.

     Migration has robbed Russian research institutions of many high-level personnel over the past five years, according to Yuri Glushchenko, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who has studied the problem.

     Russian science has lost between 70 and 80 per cent of its mathematicians.  And some branches of physics have lost up to 40 per cent of all scientists and researchers, according to Glushchenko.

     Those who leave for good mostly go to Western Europe, especially Germany. North America, Israel and, to a lesser extent, Australia are also favored destinations.  And they have also begun receiving offers from Southeast Asia, South Africa, Latin America, and the Gulf Arab countries.

     Europe accounts for 26.4 per cent, the United States 22 per cent, Canada and Australia each for 8.5 per cent, South Africa 5.1 per cent and Israel 1.7 per cent.

     There is also latent brain drain from Russia.  Many more professionals are working either directly or indirectly for foreigners without leaving the country.

     "This creates both legal and illegal channels for the leakage of promising Russian know-how to the West and to the East," says Glushchenko.

     Internal loss of skills is another form of brain drain.  Many scientists and researchers are leaving their jobs to become businessmen, politicians and managers.

     The brain drain from science to other sectors has exceeded 30 per cent in the past few years, eroding the country's scientific and technological potential.  It is estimated that the West will be able to employ more than 200,000 leading Russian scientists and specialists, equivalent to $20 billion of Russian aid to other countries.

     There are many reasons why scientists leave, including low wages, lack of research funds and lack of control over the content and results of research.  In 1993 just 61 of Russia's leading academic and other research institutions were granted the status of state institutions for which the government is supposed to guarantee financial support.

     Over 3,500 research centers and institutions were in effect left to fend for themselves.  But it soon became clear that there was no money even for the few "elite" centers.  Last year scientists set up the Association of State Research Centers (NAUKA) to lobby for changes in policy.

     The Association was headed by Professor Gherman Zagainov, former director of the Central Aero-Hydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI) (the first research center to receive the status of a state research institution), and a full member of the Swedish Royal Engineering Academy and of four Russian Academies.

     "We need global solutions," he says.  "We must save not individual institutions, but all who are still working, generating ideas and trying to put them into practice."  He points out that the government allocates less than 3 per cent of its budget for science.

     "This is not even enough for the Academy of Science," he says.  "But it is all the state can afford. Consequently, we must count on ourselves to survive."

     Some 2.5 million people work in science in Russia.  The number includes 200,000 research workers and employees in the Academy of Sciences system.  Some 970,000 are based in Moscow.

     There is growing movement in favor of privatization of science.  "The state should decide how many scientists it can afford to pay a reasonable salary so that they could work for our future," says Zagainov.

     "The rest should be set free and given the institutions in which they work. Scientists should be allowed to own and manage this property as best they can.  They may use it in a private business or a co-operative or launch a joint venture or sell it."

     In Moscow demand for office space is high, but 34 buildings occupied by scientific institutions are half-empty.  They could lease out some of the rooms and use the proceeds to fund research, he suggests.

     Another major concern is the extent to which the brain drain is becoming a security risk.

     "Spies have no work now," Professor Valentin Smirnov, head of the Novator design laboratory, which develops advanced weapons systems.  "We have lost at least 12 people.  National security no longer seems to be a reason to prevent anyone from leaving.

     "We had a section head who had worked on a missile control system.  Millions of rubles were spent on the project.  It was finally completed and the system works faultlessly, but the man now lives in Israel."

     He blames the new inter-departmental commission on the protection of state secrets which, he says, is too concerned with promoting a democratic image.  "Every person who has been denied an exit visa files a complaint with the commission and in most cases the commission overrules the ban."

     The West is now concerned about Russian scientists taking their secrets to Third World "nuclear threshold" countries and is changing its strategy with regard to brain drain from Russia.

     To stem the flow, the United States, the European Union and Japan in 1992 set up an International Scientific Research Center in Moscow to give Russian scientists and researchers the chance to continue to work at home.

     But this was not just charity.  It has allowed industrialized countries not only to switch Russia's top defense scientists into projects of interest to the West, but has also given the West access to research programs financed out of the Russian budget, with the help of a system of competition for grants and joint ventures.

     Experts estimate that it would be necessary to invest a hundred times more money to organize similar research projects in the United States.

Copyright 1996 IPS/GIN.  The contents of this story can not be duplicated in any fashion without written permission of Global Information Network

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