Russian Computer Scientists in the UK: Collaboration Through Diaspora Knowledge Networks

This sub-project is devoted to the co-authorship networks of Russian computer scientists (RCS) who migrated to the UK and work in British universities and research centres in the area of computer science and related disciplinary fields. UK was chosen as a highly relevant case for the analysis of scientific collaboration as it is one of the leading research countries in terms of research output and productivity, including computer science. It is also distinguished by high level of international collaboration and scholarly mobility, having a diverse academic community and containing one of the most substantial and talented RCS populations.

The study is theoretically important as diasporic and ethnic ties are attracting increasing scientific being a vital channel of knowledge flows, innovation and technology transfer (Kerr 2007; Agrawal 2008; Breschi, Lissoni 2013). Diasporic connections are also found to be of consequence for scientific networks: migrant academics tend to engage in collaboration with their compatriots across the world, playing a major role in establishing and developing global knowledge networks (Scellato et al 2015; Larner 2015). Furthermore, diasporic and ethnic ties might contribute to the development of the country of origin, leading to knowledge transfer and exchange between migrant specialists and their colleagues at home and thus generating a brain gain effect (Saxenian 1999, 2006; Taeube 2004). But, while knowledge spillover effect has been investigated for high tech industry, the question, whether similar processes take place in scientific research, has not been properly addressed. Investigation of RCS working in the UK and analysis of their co-authorship patterns, with focus on scientific collaboration with their compatriots, seeks to shed some light on this issue.

The study departs from Web of Science data (1985 till 2014) and is based on the analysis of co-authorship in publications supplemented by semi-structured interviews and information from open Internet sources . Several criteria were used to detect RCS population: origins (Russia or former USSR countries), Russian language, current or former employment in the UK, scientific activity in computer science (publication in CS, position of the researcher or lecturer in HEI or research centres). As a result, the list of 197 RCS was composed, including 144 current and 53 former scholars. Analysis of their affiliations showed that a considerable proportion of RCS is concentrated in several UK universities, which are research-intensive institutions and are distinguished by high position in British rankings. Co-authorship analysis was conducted for RCS in several universities with high quality research in computer science, that also contain major share of RCS population in the UK. Interviews were collected from 17 researchers, which were selected to represent different generations, migration waves and positions in the academia.

The findings are that the majority of RCS maintains some kind of ties to other Russian-speaking scientists (76%), while RCS who are not engaged in such collaboration are three times fewer in number (24%). In addition, at least half of RCS in research-intensive universities (57%) demonstrates a considerable level of diasporic collaboration, which makes an important contribution to their scientific activity and constitutes a substantial share of their scientific output. The majority of diasporic connections take place among RCS based in the UK, generally formed after migration, while few connections are maintained with researchers in the country of origin. Collaboration ties with UK-based RCS tend to be long-term, more stable and productive. Common education and migration background as well as work experience were found to be important factors of scientific network formation. Thus, RCS show a certain preference to work together with Russian-speaking scholars, but this collaboration takes place mostly within British or European academic community. Therefore it is hardly beneficial for Russian science since it rarely incorporates connections in Russia, rendering knowledge exchange and transfer to the home country doubtful.