July 01, 2016

Picking Brains

a new plan aimed at boosting the prestige and success of Russian science targets up to 15,000 Russian scientists who have left the country for work abroad and is designed to convince them to return. One such returnee, theoretical crystallographer Artem Oganov, describing the program to Moskovsky Komsomolets, notes that even this ambitious goal represents a small fraction of the estimated 200,000 brains that have drained from Russia in the last few decades, as scientists have sought better economic and career opportunities abroad.

The government has been scouting émigré scientific talent to inject into Russian science, still built around an outdated structure dominated by the Academy of Sciences that deters risk-taking and innovation and is heavily dependent on state funding. All past attempts in this realm have done nothing to staunch the flow of young scientists to more lucrative, less bureaucratically constrained positions outside Russia.

Oganov, who heads a working group put in charge of reversing the brain drain, admits that the goals are both limited and focused. “We don’t want to return everyone,” he said, “just the most successful.”

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