Collaboration between Russian and Western Scientists

by Dr. Valentina A. Markusova

All Russian Institute for the Scientific and Technical Information of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
Ulitsa Usievicha 20, Moscow 125315, Russia
e-mail:, Fax: 7-095-943-0060

1. Introduction

Increasing globalization of science, technology and economy are main features of the science at the edge of new millenium. International collaboration through co-authorship is a topic to which many recent studies have been developed. In the past East-West scientific links have been mainly based on international exchange agreements, but under perestroyka, the Soviet Union has finally recognized the damage it has suffered as a result of its isolation from the mainstream world science (1). Before the disintegration of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) the collaboration with western countries was regulated by the government. Dramatic changes in the 1990s had a strong impact on the development of science. The aim of the paper to examine the changes that had taken place in international scientific links as a result of disintegration of FSU from 1993 , particularly on the collaboration with scientists from USA, England and Netherlands.

2. Method

There are several different indicators by which scientific cooperation between two countries can be measured: number of scientists participating in exchange programs, number of papers co-authored, and number of joint research grants funded are examples. To trace the changes in cooperation between US, Netherlands, England and Russian scientists for the present project, change in the number of jointly authored papers was selected as an appropriate measure. The Science Citation Index database (CD-ROM edition) was selected as the source of data. Russia as the country appeared in SCI database since 1993. It was decided that the years for study would include 1993 and 1997. About 14 hundreds joint papers for 1993 and 25 hundreds joint papers for 1997 were analyzed.

3. Results

The number of co-authored papers has been grow significantly during the studied period. The growth of collaboration by country is presented in Figure 1.
The distribution of joint papers by field of science which is displayed in Figure 2 shows that physics and astronomy continues to be a leading field of collaboration with any studied country as in 1993 as in 1997. Approximately 50 % of the Russian co-authors papers with US scientists, 60% with England scientists and up to 68 % with Dutch scientists were published on field of physics and astronomy. Physics, astronomy and earth sciences are fields of sciences that are characterized by a significant number of multi-authored papers - particularly those papers with more than 50 authors. Such papers are mainly describing the project related to the research in high-energy physics and particle detection or the joint program for space exploration. About 15% of joint papers with three studied country had more than 30 authors.
Figure 1Figure 1
Figure 2Figure 2

However, it was observed a tendency in decreasing collaboration in physics among Russian and Dutch scientists in 1997. The distribution of joint papers by field of science within any studied country is shown in Figure 2. Joint papers on life sciences are on second place (about 20%) if we rank all papers by field of sciences. The Russian national center on cardiology increased significantly its joint research with American scientists in 1997. This appears to be related to the fact that the President of Russia had surgery performed by Russian surgeons with strong cooperation with American physicians. Immunology, genetics, virology, drugs abuse and alcohol are leading subjects of collaboration. Many organizations affiliated with the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) became involved in joint research on AIDS and cancer with English and Dutch scientists.
Russian -Dutch cooperation on chemistry and earth and environmental sciences became stronger in 1997 comparing with 1993. In 1997 the champion of Russian-Dutch collaboration in chemistry was the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Siberian Branch of RAS - 19 papers.
The first place in English-Russian collaboration in chemistry belongs to the chemistry faculty of Moscow State University - 20 papers. However, each field exhibits an increase in the number of institutions engaging in collaborative work. Each field of science (excluding mathematics and computer sciences) has a leading group of organizations strongly involved in collaborations. We observe that the ranks of organizations among the leading group have been changed in the observed period of time. A small group of Russian institutions affiliated with Russian Academy of Sciences is strongly involved in collaboration.
The leading organization in several fields is Moscow State University (MSU). MSU is a well-known institution in education as a research organization. Other local universities did not have so many opportunities before the perestroyka era in Russia. During the last 5 years there have been many positive changes ( for instance, different grant programs by foreign agencies have developed to support science in the regions, travel grants programs have begun, etc.) in the lives of local universities. We also note, as a positive tendency, that in 1997 (compared with 1993) the geography of local universities involved in collaborations became more dispersed, especially collaboration with American universities. In 1997 there was a slight increase in collaboration by American and Russian researchers from organizations which were strongly involved in military research. As an example, six papers have been published by scientists affiliated with organizations situated in Arzamas-16 (or Sarov), Chelyabinsk -70 (or Snezhinsk). Ordinary Russian citizens have not been allowed to visit these cities even now. In 1993 one paper and in 1997 three joint Russian-American (and one English-Russian joint paper in 1997) papers related to the study of dangerous viruses were published by Russian scientists from "Vector" - an organization involved in previous times in the development of biological weapons. This is very positive sign because collaborative work provides an impetus for prevention of mutual distrust and the spread of this kind of research in terrorist countries.
However, activity of different foreign funding agencies to support basic research in Russia and to strength collaboration among Russian scientists and their western colleagues provoked hot discussion in the State Duma- Russian Parliament. The Minister of Science and Technology Policy of the Russian Federation academician M.Kirpichnikov on last hearing on November 11.99 had again to defend Mr. G.Soros's activities in Russia, particularly the International Science Foundation Telecommunication Program and Open Society Institute (also G.Soros Foundation) grant program. Last few arrests of Russian scientists who were engaged in collaborative works with US and Canadian scientists provoked many speculation in western and Russian press on future of joint research projects. A week ago Prosecutor General Office resumed Captain Nikitin's (a well-known researcher who worked for Norwegian organization "Beluna") case. His previous trial was covered by mass-media around the world and he was in the beginning of this year justified "not guilty".

4. Conclusions

1. The collaboration among Russian and US, England and Netherlands had flourished. A small group of Russian institutions affiliated with Russian Academy of Sciences is strongly involved in collaboration.
2. A tendency to significant diversity in the institution producing joint publications was observed. Only Russia-USA collaboration during last year attracted researchers from different regional universities in all fields of science.
3. A few Russian organization involved in previous times in the development of the nuclear and biological weapons became involved in collaboration with US scientists.
4. Last few arrests of Russian scientists who were engaged in collaborative works with US and Canadian scientists and resumption of Captain A. Nikitin's case provoked many speculation in western and Russian press on future of joint research projects.


1. Berry M.J. (1991). Perestroyka and Changing Nature of East-West Scientific Contacts. Technology in Society, Vol.13., pp.151-178.
2. Markusova V.A., Arapov M.V., Aversa E. (1999). Collaboration between American and Russian Scientists, 1993-1997. Proceedings of the 7-th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informometrics, July 2-8, 1999, Colima, Mexico.

Back to Papers ListBack to Papers List