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Russia Doubles Researcher Salaries in 2018
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This is the conclusion of recent Higher School of Economics study on researcher salaries in Russia.

Here are the details for Jan-Jun 2018:

  • All workers in scientific organizations: 64,000 rubles ($1,000), up 40% y/y
  • Researchers: 86,000 rubles ($1,300), up 70% y/y
  • Academic staff: 94,000 rubles ($1,500), up 100% (!) y/y

Average salary of all workers at scientific organizations (not just researchers) is now 85% more than for the economy as a whole, while academic staff earn double.

This is highly encouraging, since for most of the post-Soviet period, researchers actually earned less than the average salary, contributing to massive brain drain from academia. As a result, Russia produces less than 1% of the world’s elite level science, or twice less than Poland and China in per capita terms (as proxied by the Nature Index).

Geographically, the highest academic staff salaries are in Moscow (127,000 rubles = $2,000) and the oil rich regions. The lowest six regions are in the ethnic minority republics of the North Caucasus, with Ingushetia being dead last (42,000 rubles = $650). This is encouraging, because that is how things should be absent ethnic nepotism/affirmative action, considering regional IQ scores, which are also lowest in the South Caucasus – even if Ingushetia does somehow manage to have Russia’s highest concentration of PhDs.

This took way too long to implement, with prior investment under iPhone Idiot Medvedev having focused on showpieces such as Skolkovo while the actual core of the Russian science & tech remained starved of funding. In Putin’s third term, academic salaries have been steadily augmented, and appear to have leapt upwards to almost internationally competitive levels this year (adjusting for Russia’s lower costs of living). Russian scientists will now be able to compete with the world on a more level footing. Nobody is going to go into Russian academia to get rich – you can still make 250,000 rubles in equivalent high human capital jobs in the private sector in Moscow – but at least it will no longer be a reserve for people not talented enough to make money in business or emigrate for greener pastures abroad.

As I also suggested in a previous thread, this is also a level at which Russia could begin thinking about hovering up Ukrainian (and perhaps Belorussian) researchers, and human capital more generally. Commenter The Big Red Scary, who is in a position to know, says that even student salaries are “significantly better” in Moscow than researcher salaries in Kiev.

• Category: Economics • Tags: Academia, Living Standards, Russia 
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  1. >#Ingushetia does somehow manage to have Russia’s highest concentration of PhDs
    >> and MDs (!)
    = nepotism is a euphemism. Diplomas are for sale.

    i remember [among encounters w/Evil] having encountered a chat of MDs…
    somehow they delved into the sensitive topic “graduates vs REAL graduates” of a particular couple of provincial universities… naming real names/positions… deriving an ethnic [Caucasian] conclusion.

    …remindful of the judge of the Krasnodar Regional Court, Elena Khakhaleva, “refute” info in media about the [alleged] lack of her diploma in #law_edu.

    tis not Munchausen, tis thoroughly organized.

  2. Amazon Reportedly Killed an AI Recruitment System Because It Couldn’t Stop the Tool from Discriminating Against Women

    Given Russia’s limited resources, let’s hope it focuses those investments into areas of maximum importance.

  3. These figures are astonishing! How much you are going to earn, Anatoly?

    To give you guys some perspective, median wage in Russia is somewhere around 25,000 rubles right now. 50% of Russian workers earn less, than the median wage.

    Average wage statistic, published by Rosstat, is not very representative of the kind of pay Russians are getting. It’s calculated as a simple arithmetic average between oil company CEOs and everybody else.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  4. @Felix Keverich

    I suspect closer to 30,000. When I was in Veliky Novgorod – average Russian provincial city, perhaps a bit worse – I saw the following job ad for by a new store:

    24,000+ for entry level cashier. Median person is probably doing a bit better than an entry level cashier.

  5. @Anatoly Karlin

    There’s something weird about that 42 000. I can get sub professional specialists like book keepers, interpreters, jurists (ie non court lawyers) for 20 000 Roubles a month in Saratov. The legal minimum in Saratov is 9 500. Higher end restaurant staff, say a cook, get 16 000. 30 000 will get me almost anyone except an IT person, maybe not the best engineers but someone qualified. There are 35% social costs on top of that of course and a relaxed attitude to time off and public holidays.

  6. Salary matters a lot… when the only thing you like about your job is the salary. Research is not digging ditches, you can’t make it attractive to the right kind of people simply by raising salaries. Besides, if you really want to get rich, research is the last thing you should be considering, in any country.

    The key problem is the quality of science produced. That’s determined by how the system of distribution of funds works, not by the total amount of funding or salaries. A huge part of the reward for those engaging in research is that you enjoy what you are doing. This can only happen when you produce high-quality results, publish them in good journals, and earn respect of your colleagues. Here in the US academic researchers even at the professor level are paid 10 times less then you can make with the same level of education, smarts, and effort pretty much anywhere else. The US is an example of the fact that salaries don’t solve any problems: in biomedical research in recent years NIH mandated fairly high post-doc salaries, now more than $48,000 in the first year after grad school. As could be expected, this did not make the quality of post-docs any higher.

    To explain this in simple terms to non-scientists, imagine that the pay for published poetry is increased 10-fold. Only a complete moron (or an economist) would expect that to increase the number of Shakespearean-level poets.

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  7. @Anatoly Karlin

    Are you questioning government statistics here? ;)

    24,000 is actually pretty high wage for this region. Median person was earning 21,600 rubles as of April 2017.–161230.html

    Only 1% of Novgorod workers earn 100,000 or more. But naturally, they are skewing the average.

  8. Dmitry says:

    My older brother’s (who has doctor of science – computer science) salary is now over $150.000 in a year . In the first year it was $120,000 (after only having had internship jobs before), and then they increase it very rapidly. Working hours themselves do not seem so different to in Europe.

    I talked with someone on this forum, who was saying this level is not high, because of cost of living in California, compared to other countries. However, this is complete nonsense, because his corporation pays for almost everything.

    All he has to spend his salary for is to buy food, rent (he pays $2,500 a month, and is within bicycle distance of his job) or to buy things for himself. He bought a Subaru WRX, but for work just uses the bicycle in the morning.

    On the other hand, he has no American friends, no girlfriend, and even oriental people in his town are not very friendly there outside work.

    So, overall, situation in America is not completely happy, even if it is a salary paradise. If you lived in Moscow, then social life would be far better (on the other hand, to get a job with even half such salary would be very competitive, require a lot more experience before, and with so much competition).

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
    , @Pericles
  9. @Dmitry

    I am not saying that the salary (in PPP, which changes the US:Russia comparison ~3-5-fold; I was in Russia just a few weeks ago, so I know it first-hand) is completely irrelevant. All I am saying is that salary is not the only, not even the main driver for those who do high-quality scientific research. Of course, at the professor level in the US (if you do research bringing in considerable extramural funds) the salary is comfortable, in the $150,000 – 250,000 range, but that does not make you rich – you just don’t care much about a $100 or even $1,000. You don’t need to think twice about going to opera with your wife (would set you back ~$600-1,000; if you live in a village like Nashville, you also have to drive to the nearest decent opera in Chicago or NY, which doubles your expense), or buy things not strictly necessary. It feels good, as you buy whatever you want, but you can’t buy a yacht or a small jet for your own use (not that I want those).

    As to cultural life, of course, there is no comparison. In terms of drama theater only London can compete with Moscow, in terms of scale – only NY, and in terms of general impression – only Rome. All those berlins, madrids, and parises don’t even come close. As one of the Brits visiting World soccer championship in Russia said about Moscow, “I expected to see third world, but I saw the capital of the world”. I wasn’t in Moscow proper since 1998 (in 2015 I only saw airports and a few Metro stations on my way to Crimea and back), and I was amazed by the difference. Old buildings ware renovated and beautifully lighted at night, lots of new ones appeared, many excellent pedestrian zones created in the historical center (which is greater than the whole Paris or Berlin), the number of Metro stations doubled, and the new ones are more beautiful then most art museums in North America. Moscow looks much more majestic than it ever did in the USSR. Good thing is that these positive changes are visible not only in Moscow. They are just as obvious in the provincial cities (including the ones where no games of the World championship were played), and in the state of the roads: we drove rental car from Penza to Nizhny Novgorod and back. On our way we saw federal roads in good repair, although secondary ones do need work: our navigator sent us from Boldino to Nizhny via those. What impresses you even after the US is the size of the fields (all tilled and used, not barren) – many are bigger than some European countries. This scale fooled Napoleon and Hitler: logistics fail when your nearest base is many thousand kilometers from the front.

    But science is a different proposition: academic research is a long-term investment that determines the prospects of your country in 20-50 years. This can only be done by the state – private for-profit entities never have this kind of foresight, nor they should being for-profit. Judging by the publications in my field (biochemistry and cell signaling), there is virtually no science worth the name in Russia. A pity, as it takes many years of considerable effort to revive real science. The key is distributing the funds based on results, not based on the rank of the applicants or silly notions of bureaucrats (Skolkovo is the textbook example of bureaucratic idiocy).

    What’s more, I review grants for the NIH and NSF in the US, as well as for Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, even New Zealand, as they try to get an objective opinion of someone who is not feeding from the same trough. But I was never asked to review a single Russian grant. This shows that Russian funding agencies are not interested in objective assessment, they just channel funds to the “right” people, like in Soviet times. Russia outgrew its Soviet past (silly notions from the US and ever envious Europe with eternal inferiority complex notwithstanding), and it’s high time to pay attention to academic research, like China is doing in recent years.

    I hope Russian authorities realize that science and education determine the future of the country, even though Russia needs to invest a lot into its military, to keep ever more aggressive and irrational dying empire and its sidekicks in check.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Dmitry
    , @The Big Red Scary
  10. Dmitry says:

    at the professor level in the US

    My brother is not professor there , he just works for a large company – although related to his expert work and what he is interested in, so it’s very easy work for him.

    Of course you could apply for jobs in this area that do exist in Moscow, with a lower salary, but still high salary jobs are advertised, a lot of them for multinational. However, there will be for sure fewer positions advertised, more competition, difficult to attain, and usually hiring people with more experience. Also less likely to find related to an area of your specific interests or knowledge. Just a completely different (much worse) ratio of higher salary jobs in corporations, to people who want them.

    In California, qualified person can immediately go into $120,000 with only having internships before, and then climb your salary from there every year.

    As to cultural life, of course, there is no comparison.

    Thinking more about social life as young people, than culture life.

    I was visiting the summer last year in California. For me, it seems not a bad place at all. If you have friends and a family, or are American, it could be paradise.

    But social life (as a foreign man) is not easy at all. Also, remembering, that there is limited time to even try to socialize outside work, or leave your area.

    My brother lives in a very multinational area, and even despite this, there is not many social opportunities.

    In Moscow, it’s obviously you will have far easier socialising and much more friends, than in America. In fact, even as a foreigner in Western Europe it is like this.

    in the $150,000 – 250,000 range, but that does not make you rich

    For young people without children, you’ll be not bad at all. You don’t have so much time to spend money. I have a much, much lower salary, much less expertise, and more difficult job – but still can buy cool stuff, and live in a nice area of a pleasant town.

    As to cultural life, of course, there is no comparison. In terms of drama theater only London can compete with Moscow

    I believe, the only American equivalent, will be New York City.

    When I visited Los Angeles, I was thinking “wtf is this a city?”.

    Judging by the publications in my field (biochemistry and cell signaling), there is virtually no science worth the name in Russia.

    I have a friend (who lives in Israel), who wants to research in this area. At the moment, he is preparing a visa for going to, or applying for things, in Canada.

    I’m not an expert or knowing people in this area, but it would seem like young people don’t stay much in Russia to apply for this area. Probably if I said why don’t you apply in Russia, he will laugh.

    I hope Russian authorities realize that science and education determine the future of the country, even though Russia needs to invest a lot into its military, to keep ever more aggressive and irrational dying empire and its sidekicks in check.

    We can be sure oil demand will peak in the 2030s. Yet, how many people are even panicking about this topic? What happens after oil demand peaks? Attitude is like a stereotypical “maybe”.

    • Replies: @Thorfinnsson
    , @AnonFromTN
  11. @Dmitry

    We can be sure oil demand will peak in the 2030s. Yet, how many people are even panicking about this topic? What happens after oil demand peaks? Attitude is like a stereotypical “maybe”.

    If oil demand peaks, what will happen is that high cost producers will exit the market. Onshore Russian production is quite low cost, so Russia should be okay. American fracking and ultradeep will die.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  12. @Dmitry

    What passes for drama theater in NYC is vastly inferior. Every NYC musicle is targeting audience with the IQ of 100 or lower. In other US cities drama theater is even worse, at the level of village amateurs. Only in London, like in Moscow, you can go to theater every day of the year and never see the same play twice.
    Metropolitan Opera in NYC is at the top level, like Bolshoy. Chicago opera is lower class, although still OK. Nashville opera is crap.

    I am surprised that your brother has trouble socializing or laying a chick. This is fairly easy in the US, unless you want friends in the Russian sense – that never happens in the US. What they call friends is called acquaintances in Russia. I am not familiar with this aspect, though, as I came to the US with my wife and daughter.

    Science-wise in my field Canada is second-rate (same as Israel), but Russia currently is lower than that.

    I agree that Russian authorities are shortsighted: oil, natural gas, grain, or weapons, individually or collectively, cannot ensure bright future of the country. Considering that Russia does not have cheap workforce, like China, or lots of natural resources per person, like Qatar or Bahrain, the state should promote education, academic science, and high-tech first and foremost.

    It is much easier to find a well-paying job for an educated person in the US because the US authorities are even more shortsighted than Russian. School education here is awful, most colleges waste a year or two on remedial courses (teaching things students should have learned in school, but didn’t), even graduate programs start with remedial courses (teaching things students should have learned in college, but didn’t). The strength of good graduate programs (ours was in the top three in the country for 20+ years) here is in the quality of the labs students can do their PhD research in. Unfortunately, Congress keeps cutting science funding, so this factor won’t exist in 20 years (assuming the US will keep wasting resources on stupid wars and useless military). It’s sad to see the empire dying, I saw one (USSR), and now I see another going down the drain. China might pick up the slack there: they realized that natural sciences are about finding out the truth, rather than pleasing the boss, and they started actively recruiting serious scientists, Chinese and non-Chinese. I know quite a few non-Chinese people in the US now who run parallel labs in China. Good for China, bad for the US. Russia should do the same thing, but doesn’t so far.

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  13. @Thorfinnsson

    With the population exceeding 140 million, oil can’t save you. Oil/gas revenues can give you a breather, which can be wasted or simply stolen by greedy thieves, like it was before 2010 in Russia, and like it currently is in the KSA and most Gulf satrapies. With its ill-conceived sanctions the US actually did Russia a huge favor: the government stopped wholesale plunder of the country’s natural resources and put some effort into developing industry and agriculture. Russia was heading off the cliff before, but now the direction changed to more reasonable.

    • Replies: @Thorfinnsson
  14. @AnonFromTN

    There’s a lot more to the Russian economy than oil & gas. It’s not the KSA.

    You brought up agriculture–Russia is now the world’s #1 wheat exporter and wheat exports have surpassed weapons.

    Most Russian manufactures outside of weapons aren’t internationally competitive, but as a large country with vast natural resources it can get by without that.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  15. @Thorfinnsson

    There is some truth in what you say, but long-term Russia cannot be successful w/o good education (it’s better than the US education even now, but that’s not hard – even Nigeria is better in that regard), high-quality science, and advanced technology feeding off it. Even weapons industry will run out of steam w/o science and technology. It’s in an advantageous situation now: competing with the US MIC, where 9/10th of the funding is stolen or squandered one way or another, but that won’t last, eventually Russia would have to compete with real MIC of China and others.

    • Replies: @Thorfinnsson
    , @Dmitry
  16. @AnonFromTN

    I agree that to succeed a country must actively work to reach the technological frontier, and that requires science and technology.

    But this doesn’t necessarily have to follow the conventional American model.

    While Germany pioneered the modern university, it also placed (and still does today) much of its research outside of the university through the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (today the Max Planck Society).

    One can also stimulate science and technology on the demand side. The government can buy various kinds of science and technology and the market can figure out how to supply it.

    Also, a word of caution–everyone is apt to overestimate the role of his own profession in society. You are a scientist and thus likely esteem your own role in society. I’m a businessman and liable to do the same thing on my end. The truth is it takes many different kinds of men to make a country work.

  17. @Thorfinnsson

    You are right that it takes many kinds of people to make the country work. However, there are quite a few “conditio sine qua non” – necessary conditions for success. Technological advance is one of them in the 21st century, and that does not happen w/o country’s own science: otherwise it is doomed to copy-cat others, which makes it vulnerable to all sorts of “sanctions” by those others. Fiscal responsibility is another: that’s the strength of Russia and the Achilles heel of the US today. Constant growth of living standards is yet another one. That’s where business is indispensable, in addition to implementing in practice what the technology produces. One can continue this list, but I think I named the three most important conditions of country’s long-term success.

    Market works well in things where there is competition, i.e., in things that you choose and buy many times (such as pants, socks, nails, etc). If the goods are such that you only get them once in your life (say, higher education, or heart surgery), the “market” is a ruse used by the interested parties to extract abnormally high profits. Basically, market is driven by a strong natural force – greed. In strength it is like water or wind. It can be just as destructive as hurricanes or floods, unless properly regulated.

    Sad thing is, it takes only one kind of people to ruin it all: greedy shameless thieves, as the example of the US shows.

  18. Dmitry says:

    I am surprised that your brother has trouble socializing or laying a chick. This is fairly easy in the US, unless you want friends in the Russian sense – that never happens in the US. What

    Well, it’s mainly men in this area, and they working all day and go home after work. Some Russian-speakers there, but not in his office.

    In West Europe, it’s a bit better situation.

    Still, my impression visiting California last year – that it is potential paradise, but cultural differences of living in America, are quite significant, so for people living there after a few months it becomes less exciting.

  19. Dmitry says:

    Even weapons industry will run out of steam

    Directly, weapons exports themselves are not very significant economically, and not going to sustain any economy.

    Single luxury clothing company like Dior , has 3-4 times the revenue of total annual weapons exports from Russia, and probably with much higher profits.

    Currently, oil income is insanely large and vast amounts of money, so there is space to relax. But what will happen in 2030s?

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  20. @Dmitry

    Well, in the weapons industry (as opposed to Dior) service usually brings in several times more money than sales. In addition, the purchase ties the buyer to the manufacturer, as the buyer needs not just service, but ammo, spare parts, periodic repairs, etc. When the buyer tries to subcontract the repairs to someone else, shit happens. Like Croatia for political reasons sent Soviet MIGs for repairs to Ukraine. Net result was predictable: repairs were done sloppily, worn out parts were put in instead of new, and the planes returned defective. Serves Croatia right, if you ask me.

    But I agree that weapons sales, service, etc., should not be a large part of exports. Not to mention that most countries buying weapons don’t really need them. E.g., KSA buys weapons for many billions from the US and UK, while their main problem in defense (more like in offense – nobody attacked KSA so far, whereas it wages a war of aggression against Yemen right now) is dismal training of its military, as the rank in KSA army does not depend on your achievements, but depends on the connections of your clan.

  21. @AnonFromTN

    Although it could be that you’re experience is more representative than mine, for the record I’ll make a few comments.

    Judging by the publications in my field (biochemistry and cell signaling), there is virtually no science worth the name in Russia.

    The more mathematical subjects (theoretical physics, computer science, various kinds of mathematics) are still quite practiced at a high level, and have been getting stronger.

    But I was never asked to review a single Russian grant. This shows that Russian funding agencies are not interested in objective assessment

    I don’t know how grant proposals are reviewed (I joined one laboratory after the grant had been given, and only recently helped write another grant proposal), but some institutions (including departments in the Higher School of Economics) have an international review board that periodically writes reports. Similarly for tenure decisions.

    On the other hand, hiring at Skoltech seems to depend very much on connections, but nonetheless the hiring decisions with which I am familiar have been reasonable. But what has been very good about Skoltech is reasonable student stipends, which makes it possible to retain some of the better students in Moscow rather than sending them all to Harvard.

    So I can well imagine that experimental science is in poor shape, but it seems theoretical science is thriving. But from an institutional point of view, this is low-hanging fruit. You just have to give people half-decent salaries, paper, pens, laptops, and wifi.

  22. @Thorfinnsson

    While Germany pioneered the modern university, it also placed (and still does today) much of its research outside of the university through the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (today the Max Planck Society).

    And a good thing too, since German universities are organized on an extremely inefficient feudal system, while the Max Planck Institutes are scientific heavens on earth.

  23. Since The Big Red Scary was quoted in the post, let me clarify the epistemic status of my comment:

    A few young researchers that I know were poorer in Kiev than half-decent Ph.D. student in Moscow, and these young researchers are now much happier in Moscow, both materially and scientifically. This evidence is purely anecdotal, not statistical.

    More anecdotal evidence: I know a number of thirty-something academics in Moscow who make around 2.5 million rubles a year (before 13% tax), through a combination of research and teaching. There are some strong senior scientists who make twice that.

    But AnonFromTN is right: you don’t really have to pay scientists that much. Much more important are good conditions for research, freedom, and self-respect. In my experience, very important for all three is a good-sized and cooperative group of like-minded people.

  24. Pericles says:

    I have numerous acquaintances who moved to the US/SV for work, then moved back to Sweden when it was time to populate the earth. In fact, I can only think of one holdout with kids who has stayed.

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