In Time Magazine, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, support for Russian science collapsed. According to this Time Magazine piece from last year:
There are no specific statistics on the number of scientists who leave — emigrants don’t generally notify the Russian migration office that they are leaving. But this is not the first exodus. There was a massive wave of scientists who left Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Mathematicians, physicists and biologists took whole laboratories to the U.S. The second most popular destination was Israel, where a previous wave of Russian scientists had already set up shop in the 1970s.
By the beginning of the 2000s, nearly all the top names from Soviet science field were working outside of Russia. According to the Russian-Speaking Academic Science Association, there are around 100,000 Russian-speaking scientists and researchers working outside of the Russian Federation, including those who left Russia before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russian Ministry of Education and Science puts the number closer to 25,000.
It has taken years for Russian Science to build itself back up. And that’s not for lack of very talented, highly educated young talent. It’s because the funding infrastructure that supported massive science investments during the Cold War imploded with the Soviet Union.
There is a lesson here for America. If the Fiscal Cliff implodes the funding structure for American science, that talent will also leave for better climes. When I was in Singapore two years ago, I was already seeing evidence that this could happen. Such a hollowing out of American science would be an unparalleled disaster.