Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Making research careers more attractive: concrete steps leading to brain-gain results

01.07.2004


In a knowledge-based economy, where new ideas and scientific knowledge are central to innovation and growth, investment in human resources in science & technology (S&T) is an essential factor to remain competitive. Europe is top of the class as the world’s biggest ‘S&T brain factory’ with graduate numbers (2.14 million in 2000) above that of the US (2.07 million) and Japan (1.1 million). In fact, 26% of all graduates in Europe come from an S&T field in comparison with 21% in Japan and 17% in the US. In addition, the number of S&T graduates grew significantly faster in the EU during the 1990’s than in the US & Japan. Keeping this pool of talent in Europe remains a challenge and innovative measures are being implemented at national and EU levels to enhance the attractiveness of research careers. But how trustworthy are claims that Europe is suffering from a “brain drain”?



Mobility trends: key facts
In 2001, more than 26.000 specialised workers entering the US were from the EU-15 and more than 7.300 from the Acceding countries. The number of Europeans who earn their doctorate in the US and choose to stay abroad is also high. Among the 15.000 EU-born US doctorate recipients who graduated from 1991 - 2000, some 11.000 reported plans to remain, while the Central & Eastern European figure was 70%.

Some see this as evidence of a worrying ‘brain-drain’. Few would argue that the loss of highly-skilled researchers entering the most productive period of their careers is a good thing. Looking at these figures more closely, however, we can see that absolute numbers are quite small when compared with the 40 million tertiary educated EU citizens.



Based on 1999 figures, the EU contingent of non-US born S&T workers in America was barely 10% with EFTA, Acceding and Candidate countries making up a further 4%. On top of this, often quoted studies can focus disproportionately on researchers’ intentions and not the actual numbers staying on, returning home, or taking up employment elsewhere in the EU. In fact, US immigration statistics show that only 7 - 8% of incoming S&T workers are from Europe, while there are no reliable figures on return flows.

The flow of highly skilled Europeans to countries like the US, Canada and Australia has also to be seen as part of Europe’s social and political past and present, and more than likely also its future.

Between 1946 and 1965, for instance, an estimated 372.000 professionals, scientists and technicians immigrated to the US while the change in the political landscape in Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s brought about significant East-West migration. Compared with today’s trends, it could even be argued that a ‘brain gain’ is taking place for Europe.

Drain or gain for Europe?
Researchers’ mobility within Europe reflects long-held national trends and predominantly takes place between Member States (50% of total S&T students). Percentages of ‘foreign’ participation in domestic third level student populations range from 15% in the UK to 11% in Belgium and 1.4% in Italy. Again, there are historical variations to contend with. For instance, the UK and Germany attract flows from Asia and Oceania; Belgium, France and the Netherlands from Africa; Ireland from the USA; and Spain from Latin America.

Secondly, researchers’ mobility is not necessarily a ‘loss’ with the individual often gaining important career and personal development in multi-cultural environments. Today’s migration patterns have an expanded rationale, influenced by R&D related circumstances. This typically includes global scientific networking, higher qualifications, additional specialisations and endowments increasingly designed to beat the competition in filling domestic R&D posts. At the same time, flows of highly skilled researchers, scientists and engineers are enhanced through improved social, political and technical conditions.

The most important aspects keeping EU-born researchers abroad are work quality, broader scope in position and access to leading technologies, while commitment to R&D funding, the reputation of the host organisation/employer, the presence of other research institutions and salary/job benefits also play a key role.

Post 9/11 security measures are making it more difficult to take up employment in the US, whereas the EU is creating a more flexible visa system. Reintegration initiatives by EU countries, particularly in America, are trying to establish networks with researchers to attract them back. In the same vein, the EU’s Marie Curie Actions are trying to encourage greater US participation in EU projects by, for example, bringing US students to Europe. In this way, 10.7% of the latest Marie Curie incoming fellowships coming to Europe will be held by American citizens.

The alarmist proportions of ‘brain-drain’ are not borne out in fact. The most recent studies undertaken by the Universities of Kassel and Maastricht in late 2003 indicate that numbers leaving for the US are decreasing. Accession Country researchers, for example, are actually returning back to benefit from EU opportunities.

New EU and national measures aimed at assisting researchers in their career choices are focussing on three axes: life-long mobility opportunities, researchers from third countries as well as the return and reintegration of EU-born researchers. Several member states are now offering lower taxation regimes to foster new research ‘start-ups’, while countries like Finland, Italy and Poland are financing networking systems to keep the communication channel open with own-country researchers abroad. The EU is also conducting a feasibility study on operating a similar approach at pan-European level. Differences in classifying researchers in national systems (as workers, as students etc), are being standardised meaning that more reliable data on the flow of incoming and outgoing researchers will be available in future.

Networking and informal contacts as sources of key information may have greater ability to draw foreign researchers than previously thought. A new Mobility Web Portal with over 3000 active links on job opportunities, assistance on administrative and legal issues when moving abroad etc. is just one of many new steps being taken to help market the European Research Area as a challenging and rewarding place to work. The first European Network of Mobility Centers, launched in Paris 30th June, 2004, will initially include 200 centres located in 33 countries.

Fabio Fabbi | EU Commission
Further information:
http://europa.eu.int

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Study relating to materials testing Detecting damages in non-magnetic steel through magnetism
23.07.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

Im Focus: World record: Fastest 3-D tomographic images at BESSY II

The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Building up' stretchable electronics to be as multipurpose as your smartphone

14.08.2018 | Information Technology

During HIV infection, antibody can block B cells from fighting pathogens

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>