Institute of Education

Research & Expertise to Make a Difference in Education & Beyond

HSE University Studies Human Capital as Part of Consortium

Lilia Ovcharova

Lilia Ovcharova
© HSE University

The Human Capital Interdisciplinary Research Centre (HCIRC) is a world-class research centre comprising a consortium of HSE University, RANEPA, MGIMO University, and the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). Its work was highly rated by the RAS in 2021. Lilia Ovcharova, HSE University Vice Rector and initiator of the centre’s creation, talked to HSE Daily about integration in international studies on active ageing, creating a database on development trends in human potential, studying the effects of digitalisation, and the centre’s priority activities for the future.

In its conclusions on the HCIRC, the RAS stated, ‘The research results obtained are comparable to—and in a range of important areas exceed—those obtained by other Russian and international researchers in this field’ and recommended that the centre’s work continue. What was the basis of this statement? I think that the centre’s three areas of activity had a significant influence on the RAS expert assessment.

The first is that the HCIRC specialises in the creation of highly rated international databases on human potential and supports the Russian segment in international projects that have a large number of participants. Fifteen research groups are involved in implementing this. As a result, Russia is now integrated into international studies on active ageing. I’m referring to studies into the social status of elderly people led by Oksana Sinyavskaya and Vladimir Magun. Russia is integrated into the European Social Survey (ESS), which is a global benchmark of the quality of data collection and covers the populations of more than thirty European countries. It is also integrated into the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which collects data for international comparative studies into the human potential of older generations.

The Russian segment of the Total Economy Database (a database of economic growth and productivity data on 122 countries) created by the team of Ilya Voskoboynikov, Director of the Centre for Productivity Studies, is a renowned and widely cited international source of data.

The Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK) implemented a unique project to create a database on development trends in human capital. The project, led by Alexander Sokolov and Yulia Milshina, makes it possible to evaluate the opportunities and challenges to the development of human potential in six areas: health; education and work; economics; society and values; politics and regulation; and living environment.

The database was created with the participation of world-leading researchers in the field of sustainable development.

It is important to highlight the anthropological studies of the RAS Institute of Anthropology and Ethnography into methods of adaptation to cold conditions among ancient people in Sungir. These studies utilise world-class mini-CT scanning techniques that do not damage the Upper Palaeolithic remains. Sungir is a unique archaeological monument located on the outskirts of Vladimir. It is the northernmost known late-Palaeolithic settlement in Europe.

The second important area is evaluating the influence of human potential on national development. Here, it is important to highlight the employment research done by the group led by Sergey Roshchin and Vladimir Gimpelson.

One of the major results confirms that over the last fifteen years, the return on investment from education in Russia has remained consistently high, and there has been no observable trend towards a decrease in the economic value of education.  

In addition to the labour market, our demographers concentrated on the issues of increasing life expectancy. Among them was the group led by Mikhail Denisenko, who analysed normalised state spending on healthcare based on the age of the population in Russia compared to European countries. They observed a growth in investment in health preservation for those under 70 years old and a sharp decline in investment for those over 70.

Oksana Sinyavskaya’s group studied the opportunities and limitations of the development of platform employment as a new opportunity for income growth for the population.

Platform employment is already widespread among all categories of the adult population. It opens up new employment opportunities for vulnerable categories of the population.

In the neurosciences cluster, the research into the representation of speech functions in the brain led by Olga Dragoy was also rated highly. The results are important in providing personalised medical treatment for patients who require neurological intervention—the prognosis of the dominant speech hemisphere reduces the risk of speech disorders occurring after an operation.

Maria Nagernyak’s group researches the use of time budgeting to better understand people’s daily activities and assess the population’s quality of life.

The group demonstrated that maintaining a work-life balance is becoming a priority in social policy both in Russia and worldwide. It also observed that there still exists a significant gender gap in the amount of time spent on unpaid labour.

Finally, the third area to receive a high assessment is research into the effects of digitalisation, the development of which has become a major trend determining the risks and opportunities in the country’s development.

In this field, I would like to highlight the HSE ISSEK project led by Ekaterina Streltsova dedicated to developing the concept of a digital culture and analysing the influence of digital technologies on people’s wellbeing and quality of life. The team created a set of indicators demonstrating how digitalisation assists in improving wellbeing on one hand, but presents risks to it on the other.

The conditions created in Russia to ensure that digital technologies have a positive impact on citizens’ wellbeing match the levels seen in OECD countries. At the same time, Russia lags behind these countries in terms of inequality in digital skills and excessive internet use among children.

One important result of the consortium’s work is the launch of cross-cutting projects that strengthen scientific cooperation between the consortium’s four member organisations. The most notable example is the development of a distributed research group into the issues of stratification, poverty, and inequality led by Svetlana Mareeva and Olga Voron.

Another example of interdisciplinary cooperation is the handbook ‘Human Potential: Approaches and Studies’, for which the writing work was coordinated by Vasiliy Anikin, Pavel Sorokin, and Maria Nagernyak. This academic monograph unites economists, psychologists, sociologists, neurocognitive specialists, geographers and other researchers from 17 HCIRC projects and provides a comprehensive view on the concept of human potential, taking into account the problems and challenges facing the economy and society.

We see three priority areas of activity for HCIRC in the current environment:

The first is related to the development of a national model of social stability and cohesion. The new political and economic situation creates major risks for society, the state, and business. That is why we are going to reorient some of our projects towards the development of a model of national stability, including proposals on improving productivity and expanding the middle class.

The second area involves the national goal to create opportunities for self-actualisation and the development of talent. This includes creating the conditions for nurturing harmoniously developed and socially responsible individuals.

The consortium also plans to further its research into the threat of terrorism, countering extremist ideologies, and resisting threats to the development of human potential.