The Attractiveness of Academic Career in Russia
The new issue of the HSE ISSEK newsletter 'Science, Technology and Innovation' presents statistics on the growth of the number of researchers in Russia, the share of graduates hired by R&D organisations, and the growth of R&D personnel’s average monthly salaries during the previous 15 years.
The RF Presidential Decree of 7 May 2018 'On national goals and strategic development objectives of the Russian Federation until 2024' sets an S&T policy goal to make working in the Russian Federation attractive to leading Russian and international scientists, and promising young researchers.
The steps taken in recent years to attract young talent into the S&T sphere and make sure they keep on working there, including providing special support to young doctorate holders, contributed to a growth of this cohort, in both absolute and relative terms.
E.g. between 2006–2017 the number of researchers aged under 39 grew from 117,1 to 157,8 thousand, while their share in the total number of researchers increased from 30,1 to 43,9%.
People aged between 30 and 39 currently make the largest age group of researchers (91,4 thousand). In 2006–2017 this cohort grew 1,8 times (from 13,1 to 25,4% of the total number of researchers). There’s a potential for its further growth: the share of researchers under 29 years old grew by 1,4 percentage point, and as a result in 2017 this category accounted for 18,4% of the total number of researchers.
At the same time, social expectations of a research career remain less than optimistic. According to the 'Monitoring of education markets and organizations' study commissioned to HSE by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, most of full-time university students (58%) intend to work in the commercial sector. About 15% plan to pursue a career in the civil service, 17% in the public sector, and only one tenth is interested in a career in science. A public opinion poll conducted by HSE in the scope of the 'Monitoring Survey of Innovative Behavior of the Population' study revealed that only about a third of Russians (32%) believe becoming a scientist would be a good career choice for their children.
The above trends are supported by official statistics. The share of university graduates who opt for a career in science remains low: in 2017 it was under 1%, and taking into account their actual research positions it’s even less, at 0,7%.
The low appeal of a career in science is due to the stereotype ideas about research work. According to ISSEK studies, a majority of Russians believe scientists to be altruists who help accomplish difficult objectives (80%) and work for the greater good of humanity (72%). At the same time, about half of the population think research work is boring (53%). E.g. every second respondent believed scientists had no fun (50%), and no interests in life other than their work (45%). A significant share of Russians (42%) believe scientists are paid less than members of other professions for the same amount of work. Meanwhile, according to the Rosstat, the average salary of R&D personnel in 2017 was 24,7% higher than the average wage in the overall economy.
Making careers in science look more attractive requires not just improving researchers’ work conditions, and eliminating non-financial barriers in the R&D sector, but also taking steps to improve the image of the researcher profession.
Sources: calculated by HSE ISSEK on Rosstat data; Monitoring Survey of Innovative Behavior of the Population; Monitoring of education markets and organizations; results of the project 'Expert assessment of Certain Areas of the Science and Education Policy Based on Analysis of International Experience and Empirical Data'.
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Previous issue: 'Innovation in Russia: Dynamics of the Key Indicators' (in Russian)