Magazine article Russian Life

Picking Brains: Russia Ponders Plan to Bring Scientists Home

Magazine article Russian Life

Picking Brains: Russia Ponders Plan to Bring Scientists Home

Article excerpt

Russia ponders plan to bring scientists home 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The government has been scouting emigre scientific talent to inject into Russian science, still built around an outdated stmcture dominated by the Academy of Sciences that deters risk-taking and innovation and is heavily dependent on state funding.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."

The idea is to offer competitive salaries as well as benefits that the often cut-throat foreign academic world does not provide, such as housing and childcare, Oganov said. To achieve this during a deep recession, when even existing research budgets are being cut, he suggested that the government could partner with business, seeking sponsors in relevant fields.

"We'll compile some lists of people, but with a targeted approach, only a couple hundred people can be attracted. To reach a mass scale, we have to do a huge public campaign, so that scientists will want to apply to return themselves," Oganov added. …

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