After the Cold War: The impact of Soviet èmigrès on the Mathematics Academy

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The end of the Cold War brought great changes across the political and economic landscapes. But it also affected the academic world in significant ways.

In a new research paper titled “The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians,” which is to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Professors George J. Borjas of Harvard Kennedy School and Kirk B. Doran of the University of Notre Dame examine the impact made by the emigration of Soviet mathematicians to the United States and other countries.

“Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was little collaboration and only infrequent exchanges between Soviet and Western mathematicians,” the authors write. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, over 1,000 Soviet mathematicians migrated to other countries, with a large fraction settling in the United States. In addition, the mathematicians who remained in the Soviet Union became part of the globalized publications market in mathematics.”

Borjas and Doran analyzed a spectrum of data relating to academic publications and citations and the production of so-called “home run” breakthroughs in the field. They report several key findings.