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πŸͺ† The Russian brain drain

πŸͺ† The Russian brain drain
Photo by Simon Hurry / Unsplash

Fascinating tweet from Johannes Wachs a few days ago:

Johannes is an assistant professor at the Institute for Data, Process and Knowledge Management of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. He studies the impact on our societies of social, technical, and economic networks.

The tweet above is about a research paper submitted for review, showing the impact of the war on Ukraine on Russian developpers. The proxy he's using? The geolocation of contributors to GitHub (GitHub is the primary online repository for open-source software, owned by Microsoft since 2018). By comparing where Russian developers are now registered from where they were before the war, Johannes gets a real-time reading of the social and tech impact of the war on this demography.

I confirm a significant exodus of developers from Russia by late June 2022. 8.6% of Russian developers list a new country, compared with 2.4% of developers from comparable countries in the region but not directly involved in the conflict. 11.3% of Russian developers have obscured their location (vs. 1.9% in the comparison set). Our data also allows us to observe heterogeneities in who leaves and who remains, and to see where they are going. Developers leaving Russia were significantly much more active and central in the collaboration network than those who stay behind. This suggests that the most important developers have already left Russia.

Of course, it's too soon to evaluate the long-term economic effects on Russia of such migration (if we could ever untangle them from the massive pressure of international sanctions). But still, you have to consider how far-reaching this impact can be in a networked economy where developers are always a rare resource and their activity a forward-looking indicator of where an economy is going.