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A joint JRC/IPTS-ESTO Study

Edited by: Tom Casey, Sami Mahroum Ken Ducatel & Rmi Barr

Based on field work conducted by: Austria: Bernhard Dachs, Anton Geyer, K. Matthias Weber (ARCS) Belgium: Bart Jansen, (VITO) Finland: Aleksi Neuvonen & Annele Eerola (VTT) France: Rmi Barr (OST) Germany: Bernhard Dachs, Anton Geyer, K. Matthias Weber (ARCS) Greece: Angelos Manglis & Tonia Damvakeraki (Atlantis) Ireland: Tom Casey (Circa) Italy: Claudio Roveda & Paolo Vercesi (Fondazione Rosselli) Spain: Mario Zappacosta (JRC/IPTS) UK: Richard Pearson & Claire Tyres (Institute for Employment Studies) & Khaleel Malik & Deborah Cox (PREST)

June 2001

Report EUR 19905 EN

European Commission Joint Research Centre (DG JRC) Institute for Prospective Technological Studies Legal notice Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use which might be made of the following information. Report EUR 19905 EN European Communities, 2001 Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

Table of Contents
1 2 INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................................. 10 THE MOBILITY CONTEXT .......................................................................................................... 12 2.1 DEFINING BRAIN DRAIN ................................................................................................................... 13 2.2 THE ECONOMICS OF BRAIN DRAIN AND BRAIN GAIN ................................................................... 13 2.3 THE MOBILITY OF RESEARCHERS .................................................................................................... 14 2.3.1 Intra-EU/EEA Mobility ......................................................................................................... 14 2.3.2 Return Mobility Experiences outside of the EU .................................................................... 16 2.4 SUMMARY ....................................................................................................................................... 18 3 THE ANALYSIS ............................................................................................................................... 19 3.1 UNDERTAKING RESEARCH .............................................................................................................. 20 3.1.1 Differences Across Disciplines.............................................................................................. 20 3.1.2 Differences Across Institutions.............................................................................................. 23 3.1.3 Differences at national and local level ................................................................................. 26 3.2 STEPS IN THE RESEARCH CAREER ................................................................................................... 28 3.2.1 Step 1: The Doctorate ........................................................................................................... 28 3.2.2 Step 2: Post-Doc Options...................................................................................................... 30 3.2.3 Step3: The Transition to Tenure? ......................................................................................... 32 3.2.4 Recruitment Practices: Stumbling up the steps..................................................................... 35 3.2.5 Exiting Research ................................................................................................................... 37 3.3 MOBILITY OF EU RESEARCHERS ..................................................................................................... 38 3.3.1 Outward Mobility.................................................................................................................. 38 3.3.2 Return Mobility ..................................................................................................................... 41 3.4 EMERGING ELEMENTS OF BEST PRACTICE ....................................................................................... 47 3.4.1 Institutional Attractiveness.................................................................................................... 47 3.4.2 Current Operational Programmes ........................................................................................ 51 3.4.3 Reforming Careers Structures............................................................................................... 51 3.4.4 Developing EU level aspects................................................................................................. 53 4 TOWARDS BEST PRACTICE ....................................................................................................... 54 4.1 4.2 5 IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE ........................................................................................................... 54 THE RESEARCH LADDER ................................................................................................................. 56

ANNEX: FIELDWORK GUIDELINES ......................................................................................... 60

Executive Summary
The mobility of researchers is an important component of the strategy to build a European Research Area. The initial January 2000 Communication Towards a European Research Area explicitly sought to promote the greater mobility of researchers, to put a European dimension into scientific careers and to make Europe attractive to researchers from the rest of the world.1 Specific steps are now underway to identify and remove obstacles to the mobility of researchers in Europe by 2002 and to attract and retain high quality research talent in Europe and to facilitate the creation of a genuine European scientific community. In particular, DG Research has been tasked to provide support for a High Level Group of Representatives (HLG) from the Member States on Improving the Mobility of Researchers. The HLG report in turn is an input to a forthcoming Commission Communication on a Mobility Strategy for the European Research Area due in June 2001.2 This present report was commissioned by the European Parliament Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy (ITRE). But, it can be seen as one more input to the wider work on researcher mobility being led by DG Research amongst Commission Services. The study looks at the issue of how a period abroad affects the future career paths of young researchers. Mainly we were interested in the impact going abroad has on their chances to continue their career at home. It is provoked by the observation that flows of researchers outward bound seem largely to be in the direction of the richer economies of Europe and the USA. If they do not return, such flows could draw off the most talented researchers from the southern Member States, from the less favoured regions and from the pre-accession countries, leading to an imbalanced and unsustainable pattern of mobility that would be contrary to the concept of the European Research Area. The research aims to identify features of emerging best practice to encourage a free and even circulation of scientific talent around the European Union and beyond. In particular it looks at the triggers and barriers to return mobility as they affect individual researchers and their research centres. Specifically, the current research looked into the factors that condition the return of young researchers in the area of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and Biotechnology after a period spent abroad. For the study an international team undertook nearly100 interviews with research directors and researchers working in high-profile public research institutes and universities across 10 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom). The interviews focused on researchers in Biotechnology and the Information and Communications Technologies
1 2

COM (2000) 6 final. See the report of the High Level Expert Group on Improving the Mobility of Researchers, European Commission, DG Research. and the forthcoming Communication on a Mobility Strategy for The European Research Area, DG Research, European Commission.

(ICT) as two of the leading priority research disciplines. It covered the public research sector in universities and research institutes because the work was motivated by concern about the one-way mobility of scientists who have been educated at high cost in their region of origin. The interviews cover the motivations and experiences for undertaking research abroad and then returning home, the recruitment and career structures of their own institution and within their own country. We explored their views on national and EU research policy in the context of attracting and retaining the best researchers. We looked at the issues also from the point of view of the research centres that had attracted these researchers back. It is important to remember that the work was driven by the interest to find elements of best practice for a balanced system of flows. Thus the people we interviewed were, very largely, those who have succeeded in the current academic system. They were the success stories who had largely benefited from time spent abroad and were now back in their home country, many of them in tenured or tenuretrack research positions. Mobility Out and Back We found that the outward-bound mobility of young researchers is already quite high, at least in the disciplines we looked at. In fact there was a general feeling that a period spent abroad particularly at postgraduate and post doctoral level is now an expected part of a researchers curriculum. In the interviews we found that the BTA (Been to America) is an undeniably important factor in European research. All national reports, all research institutes and universities made reference to the strength, dynamism and competitiveness of the US system. The large majority of the 80 or so senior researchers interviewed for this report had completed post-docs in the US. Only 2 had done post-docs in a southern Member State, in Milan and the Joint Research Centre (at Ispra in Northern Italy). Even Germany, with its very strong research system, has a major concern about the ability of its universities and institutes to attract researchers from abroad. Surprisingly perhaps, our interviewees generally expressed a feeling that access to funds for periods abroad is not currently a significant constraint on mobility: however we found that the move back to the home country raises many issues of concern to research policy. The good news is that researchers generally would like to return home. But their pathway back is by no means assured. Return depends on the context in which the period abroad takes place. If the researcher goes away as part of a structured opportunity and has somewhere to return to the mobility can be positive and secure. For instance, periods of study abroad within a PhD programme or on sabbatical or within an exchange agreement within networks of excellence are relatively secure ways of expanding expertise and horizons. The more uncertain route abroad is when young researchers leave for indefinite period and without a certain way back. The archetypal case in point is a researcher that takes a post-doctoral position in a foreign country on his or her own initiative. The interviews show clearly that a mistake or a failure at this point can damage or even ruin a career. To go abroad without a secure return path is always a risk that must be carefully calculated.

The message from the research directors to mobile young researchers was consistent: target the best research institutions, publish rapidly in reputable journals, aim at an international reputation in a narrow area, and keep in touch with the research community back at home (often: your PhD director) let them know you intend to come back. If not, researchers risk becoming locked out of the home system. Being locked out can arise when the individual abroad: goes to a weak institution and/or does not publish fast enough to establish scientific prestige. Their attractiveness to the home research system drops dramatically, and their PhD work can be forgotten. If their period abroad is hosted by a less prominent institution or if they have a lack of success in publishing they can experience a difficult return. In effect the path back can be slower or they have to accept a lower level post on their return or exit from a research career. They may have to stay abroad or give up their research career. In this context, the moderate performing stay-at-home researchers have higher chances because of stronger local contacts, higher visibility and because they represent a lower risk to the recruiting institution. The researcher may also lose touch with the requirements for re-entry (which in all cases are as much tacit and informal as codified and formal). Success in national competitions often depends on direct support from the eventual research laboratories. They may also simply become too old for entry into the various competitions and miss the various windows of opportunity that arise. The most prominent example is the tight age control on entry to the French Public Research system by age 32 or 35. A significant barrier to return can also be the implicit selection criteria used by the local recruitment committees. Thus, even high performers need contacts to achieve reentry. This is why, strikingly often, post-docs from abroad that do make it back have come back to their original PhD lab. This indicates a rather closed and risk averse scientific world in Europe, rather than an open and meritocratic market for talented personnel. Perhaps less traumatic for the researcher is to be locked in to the host system. This can occur, for example, when senior positions are obtained which cannot be replicated in the home country. It can be as difficult to go down the career ladder as up. Financial rewards from or financial commitments to the host country become very large. Partners and children view the host country as home. Both forms of locking mechanism are correlated to the length of time passed in the host country. In either case the region that initially trained the researcher has lost its investment. Some of these lock-in/lock-out issues are impossible to address by policy measures (such as dual nationality marriages or very high financial rewards in the USA). But through the interviews we found that a large part of the brain drain could actually relate to institutional rigidities and a lack of transparency in the home country that keeps some of the most talented researchers away. These are surely adjustable by policy action. Indeed, we even detected that these institutional features are leading to a high degree of brain waste even amongst the researchers that do make it back. Many returnees that we interviewed had been unable to valorise their experiences in top research groups abroad because of a low quality research environment at home and above a lack of opportunities to establish themselves as

autonomous researchers. The way mobility fits into a research career depends on timing, period spent away and how well the system accommodates movement. Attractiveness is key That is why, if there is one key message from our study, it is that mobility schemes will only promote balanced flows if integrated with attempts to build up the attractiveness of research in home regions as well. Mobility schemes orientated only towards the individual researcher or the research project may actually exacerbate problems of brain drain and brain waste. (See section 3.4.1) By attractiveness we mean factors such as the quality of research environment, the amount and openness of career perspectives and the transparency of the rules of the career game. Attractiveness also implies the acceptance of selectivity, not only among individual scientists, but also among institutions. Indeed mobility policies could be used as one instrument of competition for scientific prestige at the institution level. Therefore, the overall aim should be Attractive Institutions rather than Attracting Individuals. Reinforcing Europes centres of excellence and building-up new world-class institutions will create magnetic poles to which researchers will fight to come. Such approaches are indeed already integral to the European Research Area with its emphasis on co-operation between national research systems, the building networks of scientific excellence at a European level and establishing clusters of integrated projects.3 The challenge is to bring these components together so as to reinforce excellence where it already exists and provide support to develop it where there is the commitment and energy elsewhere. Issues for Best Practice in Researcher Mobility In this context, the aim of the study was to provide some indicators of emerging best practice on attaining more balance and sustainable flows of researchers within the European Research Area. The further lessons that we brought forward were: Institutional Attractiveness is a Cornerstone of a Balanced Mobility System The fundamental message from researchers and research directors is that, if we want to tackle imbalances in mobility patterns, we have to reinforce our existing world-class centres of excellence and to build up new centres right across the EU. In this respect, schemes that support the mobility of researchers (out and back) should be developed within a general strategy of institutional development and reform of the research system in Europe. By contrast the absence of career opportunities awaiting them at home could actually increase brain drain. (In sections 3.4.1 and 3.4.2 we give some specific examples of the ways of building institutional attractiveness).

See The Commission Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the multiannual Framework Programme 2002-2006 COM (2001) 94 Final - 21.02.2001 and the Commission Proposal for a council decision on a specific programme 2002-2006 for RTD and demonstration aimed at integrating and strengthening the European Research Area, 30 May 2001: both are downloadable from

Opening-up Closed Systems PhDs and post-doc careers in most Member States are precarious until a relatively advanced age. This career structure often leads to a large Waiting Room full of post-docs on short term contracts, often with poor, if any, associated social welfare provisions (see section 3.2). Relatively few get out of this waiting room to establish an autonomous research path and a tenure-track career. For all the others, future prospects or exits from this uncertainty are unclear. In the longer term a more explicit contract and better conditions for researchers may be necessary to attract and retain the most talented people as researchers. An example can be found in the UK Royal Societys proposed a Concordat for Research Management (see section 3.4.4). In addition, opening up research systems by emphasising competition for posts from all comers would seem to be more effective in terms of producing high quality scientific research (see section 3.2, especially 3.2.4). Mobility networks are helpful in this at the non-tenured, transient, junior post-doc level, but the critical transition is to a junior research group leader perhaps along with access to a tenured position. Such positions are currently very scarce and highly prized by researchers. They could represent a major potential driver of research performance (see section 3.4.3). Encouraging Openness for Regional Development: Balanced mobility patterns towards as well as away from less favoured regions requires a commitment to world class institutions building (see section 3.1.3). Opening up such institutions to global recruitment policies and the development of junior research leader packages with a strong international dimension may be more powerful development mechanisms than supporting the individual return over time of a similar number of nationals (or regionals) from abroad.(see Section 3.4.2 for more detail of potential approaches) Responding to Globalisation The increasingly global production of knowledge and mobility of researcher will have major implications for the shape of research in universities and research institutions right down to the details of recruitment policies and career structures. In particular the vastly increased numbers of Chinese and Indians in the US research workforce has not been mirrored by similar openness in the EU. There are good reasons for this in terms of unwillingness to risk recruiting people sightunseen with degrees from unknown places. But if it is accepted that a global fight is on to attract high quality research personnel, turning our backs on the many applicants that come from these sources may be a short sighted approach (see section 3.4.1.) The Possibly Perverse Incentives of Mobility Schemes Surprisingly, no researcher we interviewed asked for more funding to take them away from home (sections 3.3.1 and 3.3.2). Indeed, more funding for mobility might have the perverse effect of increasing the number of mediocre researchers going to middle rank or weak institutions and we found problems of this sort even within our sample of successful returners. This could then increase the number of researchers that have problems to return. By contrast, it is clear that high prestige fellowships really help in career building. This implies that before any funding is given there have to rigorous applications of quality controls, performance measures and selectivity in mobility schemes. 8

Return Mobility Schemes Researchers are extremely grateful for return mobility funding when it is well structured, leading to solid, preferably autonomous, research in which they can apply their new found skills from abroad (see section 3.2.2). But individually orientated returnee grants are often not enough in themselves. Many do not permit the researcher to establish an autonomous research programme on their return, thus extending their period as a dependent researcher. In the few cases where they do come back with their own project, or even a tenured post, there is often a damaging gap during which they fight for sufficient funds to set up their research group and their laboratory. The result can been months or year of lower productivity at a time in their lives when researchers are at the peak of their powers. Many interviewees suggested a mechanism of start-up grants to allow returning young researchers who have a strong potential as research leaders to set-up research teams rapidly and effectively (see section 3.4.5). Lowering Recruitment Risks Much of the preference for the local candidate personal recruitment is due to the higher search costs and higher uncertainty when examining applications from unknown candidates (see sections 3.1.2 and 3.2.4). New tools particularly Webbased approaches have utility. But opportunities for the two sides to meet and interact in a structured way may be crucial (recruitment fairs, young researcher forums, and provision of grants for travel home in order to get to know people). Good examples of such structured co-operation are the International Computer Science Institute and the FORUM USA events at Caltech, Stanford and MIT to inform researchers about research opportunities in France in (sections 3.4.1 and 3.4.2). Economic Efficiency Although not directly impacting on mobilty, it was notable in the interviews that there is a high attrition rate amongst female researcher in life sciences. Apparently there are to begin with fewer female undergraduates in the ICT field, but in life sciences the majority of undergraduates are women and they represent very high proportions of PhD and junior post-doctoral researchers. Relatively few of these women seem to make it up the ladder to tenured positions. It indicates remarkable inefficiency and waste in research systems if so many junior female researchers are discarded along the way (see section on gender in section 3.2.3). The greater openness and fluidity of research systems suggested above might help to retain the best female researchers but further steps may be needed to reduce the waste of the talents and expertise of this body of researchers.


This report was commissioned by the European Parliament Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy (ITRE). It was undertaken as a joint JRC/IPTS and ESTO study and the fieldwork was executed through case study teams of the European Science and Technology Observatory (ESTO) operating in 10 European Countries. The work takes place in the context of the increasing international mobility of scientists and growing concerns about brain drain. In particular, it was prompted by concerns amongst Parliamentarians about: 1. Rigidities and the low resources of the European university system driving the best young researchers to seek opportunities outside of the home regions and possibly outside of Europe in the United States or Canada 2. The lack a sufficient critical mass in the research capacity of many home regions that could provide a research environment to what they find abroad. 3. Potentially serious negative on the economic and technological impact on the home regions, which have invested in the initial training of the researchers. The research aimed to look at these issues from the point of view of emerging best practice in attracting back researchers after a period spent abroad. This work is seen as complementary to other work co-ordinated by DG Research within the context of the mobility of researchers.4 To examine the issue we undertook a series of structured interviews with the actors that have a direct stake in the issue: the researchers themselves and their immediate employers. Because we were interested in best practice in attracting back researchers we only interviewed people that had returned and the research directors involved in employing them. Each interview was carried out according to a standardised form.5 The interviews were evenly spread across ten Member States (Austria, Belgium Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK). In keeping with the brief we concentrated only on the academic research sector (universities, university institutes and national research centres). In order to make the task manageable, we also focused the work on two key disciplines: Information and Communication Technologies and Biotechnology/Life Sciences. In each centre three interviews were carried out. One with a research director that had experience of recruiting researchers from abroad and two researchers that had returned from a period abroad. For each field work team we stipulated that there should be at least some representation of female interviewees amongst the researchers interviewed.

Particularly the report of the High Level Expert Group on Improving the Mobility of Researchers and the forthcoming communication on a Mobility Strategy for The European Research Area, DG Research, European Commission. 5 See Annex.


Table 1: Geographic and Disciplinary Breakdown of Case Studies Country Austria Belgium Finland France Germany Greece Ireland Italy Spain UK Number of centres Number of Cases Studies per Discipline ICT Biotech 1 2 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 2 12 12

In this report, also, we give synthetic results using individual variations between countries to illustrate points. This is because our aim was to work towards the identification of best practice on mobility in Europe rather than to develop a critique of particular institutional set-ups at member state level or below. For similar reasons we do not identify the particular institutions and individuals that were interviewed for research. The rest of the report is structured as follows. Section 2 provides a review of previous research on mobility and issues related to potential brain drains and regional imbalances in the flow of scientific researchers. Section 3 then provides a synthetic review and analysis of the interviews. It begins by providing an overview of the differences in research approach in different disciplines and in different institutions as well as the basic employment structure of research. It then looks in some depth at the career structures and recruitment practices seen across the EU. The Section goes on to draw out the general pattern of the outward and return mobility of researchers to the EU. The Section finishes by taking a much broader look at how the EU and its research institutions might ensure that globally - the best researchers come to and stay within Europe. Section 4 tries to crystallise some of the general policy issues moving towards the elements of best practice on mobility that can be deduced from our work.



On 18 January 2000 the European Commission adopted a Communication entitled Towards a European Research Area.6 The Communication deals with the prospects of capitalising on the depth and width of the European human capital pool for securing adequate human resources for the future needs of European research. Greater mobility of researchers, promoting a European dimension into scientific careers and making Europe attractive to researchers from the rest of the world are among the key elements for achieving this. The idea of a European-wide research area was taken up further during the Lisbon European Council on 23-24 March 2000. The European Council asked the Council and the Commission, together with the Member States where appropriate, to take the necessary steps to remove obstacles to the mobility of researchers in Europe by 2002 and to attract and retain high quality research talent in Europe. A few months later, the Research Council of 15 June 2000 adopted a resolution7 in which it invited the Member States and the Commission to co-operate in order to identify and take action to remove present obstacles to the mobility of researchers so as to facilitate the creation of a genuine European scientific community. The initiative was taken up by Commissioner Busquin personally as he convened a group of nominated representatives from the Member States, the High-Level Expert Group (HLG) on Improving Mobility of Researchers, to help prepare an analysis with a view to the Commission presenting proposals by June 2001. Yet while mobility is generally perceived as a positive form of knowledge transfer, researcher training, and/or as an optimal use of human capital, its drivers lie primarily within the scientific and research establishment. Governments and public policymaking may provide support and initiative for both staying and moving, but the main drivers remain within science, namely: the scientist, the institute, and the community of peers organised around one scientific discipline. This is because scientific mobility is not a typical case of labour mobility but rather a complex phenomenon. It is shaped and driven by the perceptions and objectives of the many actors involved in it. Those can be students pursuing skills, higher incomes and better employment opportunities abroad; senior scholars seeking research materials, colleagues, and refreshing new experience, or mid-career researchers seeking permanent positions. The geographical mobility of scientists is by no means a recent phenomenon. At one time scientific mobility was between Athens and Alexandria, at another between Leiden and Los Angeles. It is an additional element in the constitution of a scientific identity. Science is by its nature a universal culture that shares common norms, methods, philosophy, and language across political borders. Scientific communities often stretch across national and political borders. Despite some local variations, the ethos in science applies for scientists across political borders and everywhere and hence, chemists researching from Uppsala to Edinburgh, from Munich to Tokyo, function as one coherent, multinational community. This nation-less culture of scientific traditions creates a certain influence over the distribution of science across
6 7

COM (2000) 6 final. OJ C 205, 19.7.2000, p. 1.


countries and regions, especially through scientists career paths, which override political, cultural and natural boundaries. 2.1 DEFINING BRAIN DRAIN

What is brain drain? An OECD report on the movement of highly skilled personnel identifies, and distinguishes between, two main outcomes for their mobility: Brain exchange and brain waste8. A brain exchange implies a two-way flow expertise between a sending country and a receiving country. Yet, where the net flow is heavily in one direction, the terms brain gain or brain drain is used. A brain waste, however, describes the waste of skills that occurs when highly skilled workers migrate into forms of employment not requiring the application of the skills and experience applied in the former job. In order to reflect the complexity of the phenomenon, a new concept has been introduced namely, the brain circulation.9 The new concept refers to the cycle of moving abroad to study, then taking a job abroad, and later returning home to take advantage of a good opportunity. This is believed to be a form of migration that is increasing rapidly especially between advanced economies. The form of mobility is often perceived as a positive mobility that generates a form of knowledge transfer. Thus, countries might win or lose from scientific migration by receiving and sending scientists abroad. The win and loss will depend on the length and nature of the mobility. If mobility is often a long-term and permanent one and is not compensated by inward scientific mobility then it is a loss for the sending country. Yet, if mobility is a circular one, which includes scientists repatriation and inward migration of scientists from other countries, then it is a gain. 2.2 THE ECONOMICS OF BRAIN DRAIN AND BRAIN GAIN

The immigration of skilled migrants has often been evaluated as a positive factor stimulating the dynamics of local economic growth. It is believed that places with abundant access to highly skilled human capital will be in a better position to lead, integrate, or catch up in the fast growing knowledge-based economy. Over the years, several arguments and perceptions have developed with relation to the debate about brain drain, though they were primarily in a north-south context. There has been no agreement though on whether or not a brain drain inevitably causes damage to the economy of a sending country. However, the mainstream attitude among those concerned with the issue seems to suggest that a net outflow of talent from one region or country will have inevitably negative impacts on the sending region. This is because the acquisition of a sufficient and adequate national (or regional) human capital is a crucial condition for socio-economic development in less favoured regions and countries. This opinion, also known as the nationalist perspective, seems also to be the most prevalent among those concerned with the issue. The main fear is that sending countries and regions make investments in the education of their locals and then lose them to other countries and regions. The cumulating loss consists not only of direct costs of educating these emigrants, but also from loss of taxes that would otherwise have been collected from them. There are also additional hidden costs

OECD Occasional Papers N0 3, by John Salt, (1997), International Movements of the Highly Skilled , OECD, Paris 9 Gaillard, J., Gaillard, A.M., (1998), The International Circulation of Scientists and Technologists: A Win-lose or Win-Win situation? Science Communication, Vol. 20 No. 1, September 1998 106-115.


represented in the potential loss of the services that the migrants would have provided had they stayed at home. This is in addition to a whole series of other multiplier effects, such as training of junior colleagues, absorbing and cumulating knowledge for local use. There have been other arguments and perceptions focusing on the good that comes out or may come out of the emigration of highly skilled nationals. For instance brain drain can be beneficial if the home country cannot offer jobs and the migrants repatriate income or return later with new skills. The so-called cosmopolitan perspective suggests that brain drain is nothing but a reflection of the operation of an international market for a specific factor of production. In this approach, it is argued that like any factor of production, human capital will move to those regions where its productivity and reward are higher. It will tend to flow where its use produces the greatest return, which will end up maximising world output. Furthermore, it has been argued that higher prospective returns to skills in a foreign country encourage more locals of a certain region to seek higher levels of skill acquisition. The benefits and losses of skilled migration is a complex one, of which its costs and benefits have not yet been carefully studied. 2.3 THE MOBILITY OF RESEARCHERS

More recently, the debate seems to have moved from viewing migration as one-way path from one location to another, into a more dynamic process of networking and linkages. Thus the notion of brain circulation has been introduced. This is presumably a positive form of mobility involving scientists and researchers [as well as other highly skilled professionals] moving in and out of different geographic regions, and hence increasing the diffusion of knowledge. The notion of brain circulation has originated from research focused mostly on research students and scientists from developing countries staying in the US. For example, it was found that more than 31% of Chinese scientists who remain in the US have maintained frequent contacts with their home institutions in China. Indeed those scientists provide a significant channel for knowledge transfer to China. The Chinese case is an example of migr scientists providing a link between the local research environment and the global one. Likewise, Indian and Chinese technologists in Californian maintain extensive professional relationships with other institutions in their home countries. Saxenian found that Chinese and Indian migrants tend to shuttle between their home and host countries, becoming more or less transnational citizens.10 It is still not clear whether European scientific migrants make of their migration a link between their host and home countries. 2.3.1 Intra-EU/EEA Mobility

In the last few years the press has been telling stories of some prominent European migr scientists returning home, but its not clear whether these are exceptional individual cases or whether they represent a trend. This study seeks to shed some light on this issue. Within Europe, various European funding programmes have been launched to increase the circulation of scientific talent across the EU and beyond. The

Saxenian, A., 1999, Silicon Valleys New Immigrant Entrepreneurs. Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco.


most prominent among these are the Marie Curie Fellowships and the Research Training Network schemes. The schemes provide financial support to PhD researchers and Post-Docs by funding the researchers and their hosts. In 1999 there were around 1500 applicants for the Marie Curie fellowships of whom 600 were funded. The total cost of the scheme has been 168 million for that year alone. These are mobility fellowships that researchers have to use to spend lengthy periods of time doing their research in another EEA (+Switzerland) state. The origindestination charts for the Marie Curie Fellowships for 1999 show clearly that the UK is the major host of post-doc fellowships (33%) followed by France (20%) and then Germany (10%) and the Netherlands (8%). The distribution of home countries of such grants was wider and less peaked. It is led by France (20%), Spain (19%), Germany (14%) and Italy (10%). The UK with six per cent of the total applicants is in fifth place, and is the only country that hosts more fellows than it sends.11 The primary objective of Research Training Networks scheme12 is to promote training-through-research, especially of young researchers at pre- and post-doctoral level, within the frame of high quality international collaborative research projects. The scheme provides funds for researchers mainly in teams within Europe but also elsewhere in the world to work together in an organised fashion on a common theme. The scheme also allows to exchange researchers between teams, for long or short periods of time, leading to, for example, the transfer of knowledge, expertise and best practice. In 2000, 454 proposals for Research Training Networks were received of which 167 were funded. The total budget available was 220 million Euro and the selected networks involved 1352 research teams which would provide up to 4000 person-years of young researcher training, typically over a four-year period. To encourage the mobility of researchers, one of the conditions for employment in a network is that researchers are not of the same nationality as, and they have not spent more than 12 of the last 24 months in, the country in which the hosting institute is based. In the period from 1996 to 1998, the main countries that hosted researchers under the Research Training Networks scheme were the UK (18%), Germany (15.5%), France (14.5%) and Italy (12%). The main nationalities of the researchers were French (20%), German (16%), Italian (14%) and British (11.5%), with a minor representation of Norway, Iceland and Luxembourg (less than 1% each). An interesting observation is that Belgian researchers have a slight preference for France as a destination, while Austrians for Germany and Greeks for the UK. Some countries, such as France, Spain and Greece, may be considered as net exporters, hosting significantly fewer foreign nationals than they export, while the converse happens for countries such as the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden.

Researchers mobility within Europe does not go only through Marie Curie fellowships or Research Training Networks but also through other sources of funding such as national ones. The European Science and Technology Indicators Report (1998) lists Switzerland and Belgium as the two top recipients of PhD fellows from

See the origin destination charts for the Marie Curie Fellows for 1999 available from The main difference in the flows for 2000 is that we see Spain playing amore significant role in hosting fellowships.

Further details on this activity be found at


within the EU. The multilingualism of these two countries makes them attractive to researchers from neighbouring countries. Language seems to be a major factor when PhD researchers from neighbouring countries are assessing their choices of enrolling in another European programme. Acknowledging the language factor, European research institutions and universities are increasingly relaxing their demand from foreign researchers to be proficient in local language. In contrast, academic positions are increasingly advertised in English and other languages and foreign researchers are allowed time-out to learn the local language. This is particularly true for Germany, Netherlands, and Sweden. This signifies a reaction to the growing demand for scientists on the one hand and for the competition for talent on the other. Researchers mobility in Europe is becoming more and more popular and in demand. A recent study of the Marie Curie Fellows found that overall these fellows have expressed their satisfaction for being able to do their research training outside their home countries. While the issue of return to Europe will be dealt with extensively in the rest of this document, the experiences of some other countries are worth mentioning in this context. 2.3.2 Return Mobility Experiences outside of the EU

The issue of brain drain by no means a uniquely European issue and there are other well publicised schemes to try to attract back the brightest and best researcher. Before moving on we want to point to some of the major schemes in countries such as Australia and Canada which are particularly open to migration to the USA. In addition, we note the Chinese example, which is particularly interesting given the very strong representation of Chinese researchers in the ranks of US science and technology today. In Australia, the Federal Government will create 25 new university research fellowships worth Au$225,000 each annually in a bid to stem Australia's brain drain and lure talented Australian researchers from overseas. The move to pay top dollar for the nation's best and brightest researchers over the next five years was part of the Government's overall funding boost to university research and infrastructure. In addition to formulating policies to stem the exist of home grown talent, the government moved also to modify immigration regulations to favour skilled persons in general and certain skills in particular. The aim of the Australian government is to participate in the international exchange of scientific talent in a gaining way. This is becoming ever more important, especially with Australia having to compete for attraction not only with the US and the UK (traditional attractions), but also with the growing attraction of certain Asian countries to Australian scientists (e.g. Singapore and Japan). In Canada the geographic proximity to the US and a shared language, and to a certain extent culture, have traditionally facilitated the mobility of labour across the two countries. The mobility of professional labour between the two countries have been made easier than ever by the introduction easy granted temporary work permits within the NAFTA agreement (the so-called TN1 visa). Yet given the sheer size of the US in terms of population, economy, and opportunity, the movement between the two countries has tended to favour the latter. Canadian researchers are no exception. Exciting career opportunities, better career prospects and the breadth and depth of the US scientific establishment provide an easy alternative to Canadian researchers.


Additionally, Canadian researchers are increasingly attracted to European countries academic institutions (especially France and UK). The double nationality of many Canadian-born citizens makes employment in the EU for many easier (many inherit EU nationalities from their parents). Against this background, the Canadian government launched the Canada Research Chairs Program. The Canada Research Chairs Program initiative is part of an overall C$4.1 billion investment by Canada's federal government to promote leading-edge research and innovation in universities, research hospitals and the private sector. Its ultimate objective is to enable Canadian universities, together with their affiliated research institutes and hospitals, to achieve the highest levels of research excellence, and to become world-class research centres. This is achieved by attracting and retaining excellent researchers in Canadian universities. These chairs are open to both Canadian and foreign scientists residing both in and outside Canada and are widely advertised internationally. The chairs are created in the natural sciences, engineering, health sciences, social sciences and humanities. In China the government's efforts to improve working and living conditions for returning students has aimed at luring academics back to China. Some of the returned scientists are presented with opportunities in various key research projects such as the 'National 863 Projects' - which supports R&D in areas such as biotechnology and materials science - the 'National Natural Science Foundation Projects' and the 'National Climbing Projects'. The returned scientists get to play important administrative roles in these projects. Universities and research institutes also offer them considerable sums of money in research funds and appoint them to senior academic positions. For example, the annual '100 Talents Programme' started in 1994 at the China Academy of Science has supported about 200 returned scientists with an average research fund of $250,000 each. In 1997 the Chinese government started the new 'Spring Light Programme to support Chinese scientists working abroad to come back on a short term basis. By the end of 1999, more than 600 Chinese scientists and scholars will have come back to deliver lectures, perform experiments or conduct research with their fellow scientists in China. The programme also provides financial help for these scientists to attend international conferences held in China. To encourage scholars and scientists to come back, the Chinese government widely publicises the achievements of scholars and scientists who have returned from abroad. In the past few years, several national conferences have been held to exhibit these achievements. At these conferences, highranking government officials meet the delegates and encourage them to work hard for the country. Perhaps what is most interesting about the Chinese experience is the direct involvement of local governments in China in trying to attract scholars and scientists back into the country. Many provincial governments have set up special offices dedicated to the problem. Some have set up a special 'high technology zone' where returning Chinese scientists can start up their own businesses. The local governments build up a high-grade infrastructure and see to it that the zone is managed according to modern management standards. For example, the Shanghai special zone for returned scientists currently has more than 500 high technology enterprises, and total investments have reached $100M. In 1995, about 5000 Chinese scholars and scientists


returned. In 1997, more than 8000 Chinese scholars who had gone abroad to study during the previous 15 years returned. Among these returned scientists, about 1000 of them have PhD degrees with an average of seven years post-doctoral working experience. 2.4 SUMMARY The benefits and costs of brain circulation are difficult to detect and register at the level of national economy. It is obvious though that governments and academic institutions are increasingly aware of, and sensitive to, international exchange and flows of scientific talent. Across the world, policies and programmes are being developed to engender and maintain advantage in attracting and sustaining sufficient scientific talent. Legal barriers are being eased or removed, linguistic and cultural barriers are being softened, and the awareness of the specificities of scientific careers is increasing. Science as a profession is under the focus again. The next chapters will dive into the scientific careers of 80 European scientists who have made the move away and back from their home countries.



This chapter contains a synthetic summary of the case studies carried out in ten European countries. The interviews looked at the individual and general conditions that determine triggers and barriers to the return to their home country of scientists in two important disciplines (ICT and Biotech).13 In Chapter Two we saw that there is a history of concern about imbalances in the flows of scientists particularly from less favoured regions and even universities to wealthier places that offer a better research environment and better pay. This view is now being moderated by empirical evidence that researchers (at least in industrial sectors) do not completely lose contact with their home region and can actually have an important role even while maintaining their remote base of operations. From our work, we found a consistent desire amongst researchers to return home. This desire was always driven more by personal than professional reasons. In general, though, researchers do not seem to return to enhance career prospects per se except in so far as the return was a gateway to full autonomy as a researcher. This was the case despite most of our interviews having been conducted in high prestige research centres in metropolitan areas. Moreover, people often stay away because the research system in their home region does not offer them an acceptable re-entry point. The overall conclusion is that the regional imbalances in the flows of researchers cannot be tackled in isolation by mobility schemes targeted at individual researchers. Given that there will be a substantial increase in the outward mobility of researchers in the coming years, this means that mobility support will necessarily have to be integrated with plans for developing research excellence and flexibility in career structures of researchers. Mobility should not be a one-way street into professional exile. To tackle this issue we would highlight two main priority areas that are complementary to support for return mobility. The first priority, building research excellence, calls for a reinforcement of research capacity in centres and regions that are sending researchers rather than receiving them. At issue is the creation of regionally equitable patterns of mobility that are sustainable in the sense that (special) programmes are continuously required to correct or support a system that is out of balance. This implies that the fundamental issues lie at the institutional level, with all the implications that it carries for levels of financing, organisational structures and recruitment policies. The second priority concerns re-entry points. Currently, career structures for researchers are structured so that it is often hard for people who have left a national system to find a way back in that adequately valorises their experience.


Although substantial empirical work undertaken for the study, we do not claim that it provides a comprehensive picture of the situation in these different countries. The purpose of the work was not to engage in a detailed comparison of the different national situations but to point at the broader issues surrounding the mobility of researchers. Thus we offer synthetic lessons rather than detailed nationallevel results.


Given our finding that research systems and career structures are the foundation stones of the mobility issue, we review these aspects in the two next sections. Policy strategies regarding research systems of course has to reflect the diversity of the national research systems and the differences between disciplines. Strategies for research careers meanwhile should reflect the changing roles of doctoral and postdoctoral experience in developing a researchers profile. Our analysis of mobility in the third part of this chapter builds on these framing conditions. Here we draw out a number of lessons about mobility that help, in the final section, to draw out some basic implications for emerging best practice in encouraging the mobile and flexible research careers that are imagined when we talk of an open European Area for Research. 3.1 UNDERTAKING RESEARCH The return mobility issue is affected by the discipline concerned and the institutional context in which it takes place. A research career in ICT offers considerably different options than its equivalent in Biotechnology. In addition, public sector research in a university has a different character to research work in a national research centre. These disciplines are increasingly global in nature. They are also more and more linked to industrial research. Yet mobility (from public to private and from one country to another) finds few common points of reference to support such transfers. For example, the mores and expectations of researchers in public and private differ substantially. The case studies offer striking evidence on that the imperative to publish rapidly and in the best journals is still very strong in order to succeed in publicly funded research. This strains against the increasing efforts of the last two decades of most European governments to seek some more direct return from their investment in public research through commercialisation, patenting, licensing and spin-off companies. Such publishing, and its implied mind-set, is also quite foreign to private sector research. One can immediately envisage the difficulties of effectively interfacing the two systems, particularly in terms of career development and exchange of researchers. 3.1.1 Differences Across Disciplines The report focuses on two very broad disciplines, ICT and Biotechnology, being those that EU Governments see as potential sources of major industrial wealth and competitiveness.14 They are strategically important to Member States and to the EU as a whole. Importantly, they are also disciplines, which are open to commercial exploitation through scientific research in a way, which, for example, financial or professional services or, for the moment, food, textiles and clothing are not. They are also sectors with large research efforts in the public sector: in universities and research institutes. They are, however, historically, culturally, institutionally, and even in terms of scientific approach quite different. ICT has always had an unashamedly close and symbiotic relationship with industry. In biotechnology, the parent life sciences are

For example these two areas are targeted to receive some of the largest blocks of funding in the proposals for Framework Programme 6 see The Commission Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the multi-annual Framework Programme 2002-2006 COM (2001) 94 Final - 21.02.2001


still, certainly in Europe, closely tied to teaching and research hospitals. Scientifically, ICT has always sought reductionist and mechanistic explanations. Only with the relatively recent emergence of biotechnology do we see a shift to a more reductive approach. But there are of course major similarities, which we review in this report. And we even see even emergent crossover specialisation such as neurosciences and nanotechnologies. And most importantly for this report, we see the internationalising in the recruitment of researchers into both ICT and the biotechnologies. Research institutes and some of the best universities now increasingly expect potential research leaders to have significant experience abroad. Research in ICT Publicly funded, European ICT research is facing a number of challenges, which are affecting the career choices of students and researchers at all levels. Industry is increasing its pull in Europe and in the US. Industry pays higher far higher wages than any public institution could provide. It also has research facilities, both pure and applied, which far outstrip all but the top universities. The intellectual prestige of industrial research is high. Bell Labs or IBM have always been respectable, now it is OK to work for Nokia, Phillips and Eriksson and even start-ups, at least in the US. The brightest undergraduates, post-graduates and even professors are not so much being bought out of public research but are choosing better facilities, equipment and, importantly for more junior researchers, better and more visible career structures. ICT, like many engineering disciplines, has never had a strong universitybased research presence. One senior researcher even questioned the need and motives for post-docs: shouldnt they be in industry where the real action happening. Another claimed that industry no longer sees junior lecturers as pillars of research. Even the PhD might even be under threat. European graduates going to the US now tend to do an MSc and to move immediately into industrial research. The PhD is too slow. The French and Spanish studies cited cases of researchers going into industry before finishing their PhD and falling applicants for PhD places. Another researcher pointed to a possible future: the US system, where the research was undertaken in industry, and universities simply hired tenured staff from industrial research labs admittedly with PhDs from the Golden Triangle of Stanford, Berkley and MIT. All ICT researchers interviewed seemed to recognise the US as the disciplines industrial and research home, with Silicon Valley / Berkley / Stanford and Route 128/Boston/MIT as the main academic / industrial poles. Even returning scientists seemed quite open to the possibility of moving into the national ICT industry, or even back to the US- one, presumably jet-lagged, research director still commuted back to the US each month. Areas of research weakness were seen in some interviews as being compounded by scientific recruitment committees, at national and university level, that are reluctant to recognise emerging and more applied fields as legitimate areas for permanent faculty positions an important issue in interfacing with the US system which includes so much applied research.


These issues have, of course, affected public research and recruitment in Europe. There are reports of vacancies in universities and research institutes at PhD level across Europe. Some German researchers felt that it was particularly difficult in Germany with its relatively strong industrial base. German research institutes have reacted to these challenges not only by employing non-EU nationals and working more co-operatively with industry, but also, perhaps more innovatively, by spinning out their activities to Silicon Valley itself (See Section 3.4.1). Research in Biotechnology The Life Sciences have far deeper roots within public research institutes and universities than ICT. They have grown up based on the linked, parallel systems of clinical research practised for the most part in public hospitals and scientific research based in universities and research institutes. Their solidity has been deepened by altruistic funding from major foundations such as the Howard Hughes in the USA and the Wellcome in the British Isles, providing private monies for public research at a level unknown in ICT. In some cases, they have offered more farsighted research leadership than the research institutions and universities themselves. This is a very different starting point than that of public ICT research. Furthermore, despite the hype, industry both in the EU and USA is far less developed, and for the moment presents less of a recruitment challenge. There are only pockets of concentrated industry within the EU: Bavaria, Baden Wurtenberg, Paris or Cambridge. An Austrian researcher dismissed the national biotech industry as marketing subsidiaries of MNCs or volatile start-ups, when refusing a job offer. This is a very different environment from ICT for the development of public research and indeed for the mobility of researchers and the development of their careers. But even here, there are difficult issues facing public research and recruitment: Industrial opportunities are developing: In the US and in some regions of EU, the industry is growing fast, attracting high calibre researchers to well financed, relatively well defined careers. Though, the industry is still small compared to ICT: US biotech turned over only $24 billion with Europe turning over a tiny $5 billion.15 However, the proportion of high level researchers in biotech companies could be far higher than production oriented ICT companies and the impact on university hiring more acute. There are also new types of jobs opening up for biotechnology PhDs in patent companies and specialised scientific writing companies. The latter are employed, say, by a pharmaceutical company to do highly specialised technical, state of the art reviews. However, good research institutes and universities still report relatively few recruitment difficulties. The nature of research is changing: The research area is changing even being revolutionised - in a way that ICT is not. In terms of who does the work: The genomics / proteomics approach is bringing new techniques and players into the life sciences research game. Mathematicians, chemists and physicists are coming, increasingly unaccompanied, into the life sciences. Problem-led research is breaking down only recently recognised disciplines. The choice of problem is also changing: research groups can be found screening research areas which will not be overwhelmed in a month, should some small research company find it interesting.

Nature 24 May 2001,


In terms of facilities: Centralised biotechnology equipment hubs and centralised animal research facilities have now become common implying the need for a larger critical mass of researchers to be able to exploit such economies of scale. Also in terms of facilities, research groups now are to be found balancing an in-house research effort with buying in work from commercial companies with proprietary research techniques blurring the line between private and public research, even on the lab bench. Legislation & Bioethics: Over the last decade, the public and their governments have taken much greater interest in biotechnology. Some researchers fear the effects of possible legislation as much as animal rights activists, and keep in their mind open to possible relocation to the US. Government funding is growing: Certain areas of the life sciences have seen explosive government funding earmarked for certain areas, particularly genomics / proteomics. This is problematic in the smaller and less wealthy countries with a smaller science base as it makes it hard to develop the critical mass needed to move into the area16. The question being asked by universities and research institutes is from where will such trained scientists (post-docs) come.

Table 1 below summarises some of the contrasts between ICT and Life Sciences, which affect recruitment of researchers. 3.1.2 Differences Across Institutions Publicly funded research is undertaken within a range of institutions, which operate sometimes very different recruitment policies with different needs for research profile and experience abroad. The main groupings are 1) the traditional university faculties and departments; 2) research institutes within or between universities; and 3) networks of national research centres and institutes. There are also a number of semior fully private or not-for-profit organisations undertaking research, mostly on contract, drawing on public funding for research.


This was the case for Greece in our case studies but is true even for the larger Pre-Accession Countries.


Table 2 Characteristics of ICT v Life Sciences

Who are the researchers? Skills of researchers? ICT Fairly well defined group Relatively transferable from one problem area to another. Maths and Maxwell go a long way. Long well respected tradition. Not a major or deep-rooted element, save in theory areas near physics or chemistry. Very strong, especially at Masters and PhD From Government and industry University and research institutes Low impact Probably the USA Male dominated undergraduate to professor. Life Sciences New groups entering, discipline boundaries quite flexible / porous Techniques can be quite specialised and take time to learn. Recent phenomenon. Some friction with public research. Long, strong tradition.

Industry-based researchers? University-based researchers?

Recruitment of researchers to Industry? Funding of research? Research institutions? Research controlling legislation? Centre of Research? Researchers & Gender?

Increasing From Government, industry and non-profit organisations University, research institutes, hospitals Potentially high in some areas Probably the USA Majority female at undergraduate to PhD but tenured posts dominated by men.


Universities The great majority of European universities were founded as teaching institutions. From this base, and initially as a minor function, over the last 150 years, they have developed a research capability but still rooted in and often in some ways subservient to the teaching activity. More recently, certain universities have started to consciously define themselves as research-led rather than teaching-led universities. The changes implied for universities moving to being fully research-led are enormous in terms of financial structures, mechanisms for allocation of resources as well as in terms of recruitment and career development of its tenured and nontenured staff. The traditional power structures and elites, and indeed, the quiet lives supposedly enjoyed by senior academics are being profoundly challenged by such developments. Some universities have made the transition, others have accepted the concept but not the operational realities, and still others will remain essentially teaching institutions. Indeed, some countries do not formally recognise such a differentiation among their universities. One very striking staffing aspect of becoming a research-led university in the UK, with temporary contract staff making up the majority of staff, is shown in the Table 2 below. Such a staffing structure would, for example, not be legally possible in French universities.


Table 3 Research Quality v Permanent Staff: UK 2001

Research Permanent Staff Assessment as % of Total Top 5 for Research Cambridge 6.4 27.4 LSE 6.1 44.4 Oxford 6.1 32.9 Imperial 5.4 41.5 Warwick 5.3 44.8 Hull Mid Table 3.6 62.2 Bottom 5 for Research Wolverhampton 0.5 72.5 Bournemouth 0.4 66.1 Paisley 0.4 72.3 Thames Valley 0.3 97.9 Northampton 0.2 89.8 Source: Times Higher Education Supplement, 18th May 2001 University

University Research Institutes Perhaps another answer for universities seeking to undertake research within a teaching-led institution without some of the rigours of becoming research-led has been the university-based research institute. Such institutes can permit research to develop without the conflicts with the teaching functions. They can provide flexibility in bringing researchers together without challenging traditional disciplinary and departmental divisions. They can act as co-ordinating and focusing mechanism for research 1) Within one university as the Conway Institute ( in University College Dublin or 2) Across a number of universities as the Flemish VIB ( Independent Research Institutes National and local governments as well as other groupings, for many reasons, have set up research institutes or networks of institutes such as the Max Planck Institute (MPI in Germany), CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France), CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche in Italy) or CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientficas in Spain). These are independent of universities. Such institutes, while regulated by national employment law, can often be much more open in their recruitment policies than universities. Indeed, they will often have formal or informal requirements that research employees, even temporary ones, have a certain level of research experience abroad. While often co-operating with universities, they may also be in fairly direct competition with universities for research funds, PhD students and staff. Usually, employment in such institutes carries no obligations to teach. The staff is full time researchers. The nature of the institutes research funding may also be more constant that research funding into the universities, avoiding endless grant applications.


Table 4 The Institutional Research Spectrum

INSTITUTION TEACHING-LED UNIVERSITIES RESEARCH-LED UNIVERSITIES UNIVERSITY RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS INDEPENDENT RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS POSSIBLE CHARACTERISTICS Possibly funding allocation by student numbers Possible reluctance to free staff from teaching for research Promotion based on seniority Base funding adjustable to support developing research areas Recruitment and promotion based on research record. In-university or between universities Greater flexibility in funding and recruitment Coherent research policy possible Total focus on research, no teaching, less admin duties. Better possibilities of critical mass and of more stable funding. Greater freedom of recruitment.


Differences at national and local level

Interwoven into this structure are further differentiations in the structures, procedures, rules and requirements of doing academic science. These additional differences can occur at a national, regional or even institutional level. The national differences give rise to distinct career structures for scientists, and to more or less strongly separated labour markets. Footloose undergraduates and PhD students may flow across national boundaries for six months or a year but for the internationally mobile post-docs the channels of development are more structured and personal career stakes are much higher. The research labour markets of EU Member States seem to be structured by a number of factors: Historical factors: the ethos in the founding of the English Royal Society (entrepreneurial travellers), the French Academie des Sciences (State support and direction), and the Italian Academy of Science (high level, gentlemen researchers) all seem to have echoes even today in national research approaches. Political / philosophical factors: the role of government and public administration is country specific and extends into the way government research institutes and universities are set up and function. Financial structures: range from national systems dominated by 1) strong, single source, central funding of institutions to 2) multiple sources, highly competitive funding to individuals. Differences in the system have major implications for recruitment as well as career structures and expectations. Funding levels: In some countries, such as Greece, the historic absence of a research training culture and its associated research infrastructure has traditionally driven post-docs and even doctoral researchers overseas. The differences in career structures corresponding to differing national approaches can be quite striking. Some examples: In France, there is an extremely strong, visible, common career structure for all public sector, researchers. Whether in a research institute, university, or the CNRS, the researcher is a civil servant with all the safeguards that implies for pay scales and pensions. For those who succeed, there is a rapid move from


PhD into secure tenured employment but then limited differentials in career and salary. By law this transition has to be achieved within the narrow window of age 31 (for a CR2 position) and 35 years of age (for the more senior CR1 position). Whatever the finer details of selection, positions are advertised and competed for nationally, indeed internationally, but local contacts plays an important role in conditioning the application and learning the rules of success in passing such selections. Researchers views of Italy are different. The system in Italy is antiquated, as career progression is said to be based on political reasons rather than on merit and professional excellence there is little possibility for independent growth and freedom in research which can be pursued by applying for independent research grants. In Italy, the financial opportunities are fewer and so one is more dependent on his own superiors and what they want to do Another researcher found, very little autonomy, scarce resources, a rigid hierarchy based on age rather than scientific capabilities and achievements.. A small circle of scientists holds the power over research funding, recruitment and career of researchers, research themes and projects. Their power stems from their ability to play politics within the Ministry of Science & Technology and CNR. More than this, the organisational and managerial structure of the CNR, under strong pressure of trade unions, doesnt really give weight to the professional capabilities of researchers when assigning positions and determining career progressions A very senior researcher discussed the strongly formalised, hierarchical and little dynamic environment of the Italian university (with their) existing formal rules and informal practices. In the UK, there is increasing division between universities which undertake research (research-led) and those which are seen as teaching institutions. Funding and assessment approaches are consciously structured to achieve this concentration of excellence in a limited number of locations and the achievement of supposed critical mass within such locations. For young researchers the struggle is to gain entry to such an institution to work in a second level institution implies poor access to research funding and high teaching loads, so less time for research. For the institutions, the objective is to attract and hold onto those who, not only can do the science, but also bring in the research grants. In Greece, the universities have offered few posts for researchers and low salaries of the researchers and, up to the 1990s, an absence of research training. Until the middle 80s there were few National Research Centres in Greece. A post doctoral experience abroad, is considered a necessary qualification for a research career in a good National Research Centre. Ireland is probably in transition from an Italian towards the UK approach. Government and, in theory, universities want research-led universities. New research funding is becoming more competitive, but base line funding and administration finds it difficult to break out of the power structures of traditional teaching-led approaches.




The experience of being a researcher will depend in the first instance on the choice of the discipline and then on the institutional route that is elected. Once a track is chosen it is hard to change path and remain inside public research as a career. In fact, although it may not always be clear at the time, individual researchers are on a critical path from decisions about doctoral studies, post-doctoral experiences and the transition to autonomous researcher and/or a tenured post. The quality of the choices and the timing of these choices can seriously enhance or damage their careers as researchers. The most critical choices seem to be the area of specialisation and where and with whom you work. Even at this stage, one can see a number of implications for the mobility of researchers. A good student can probably undertake a PhD in any first class university in the EU and then move easily as a post-doc to any other first class university. There are relatively few difficulties. Administrative difficulties are never a real problem. But then, it may not be at all as easy to move from a first post-doc to a research leader position or junior tenured position in ones own country since the systems no longer interface. There is also further asymmetry. The UK post-doc going to Italy will find it easier to return to the UK, than the Italian post-doc in the UK seeking to return to Italy. The same post-doc may find it easier to go to the USA. 3.2.1 Step 1: The Doctorate Traditionally, scientific research, at least as seen in universities and public research institutes, is highly elitist and highly competitive. Only the best, as defined by the outcome of undergraduate and Masters degrees, are permitted to enter, Parsifal like, on the initial proof of ones right to be a researcher, to seek new knowledge, to start a PhD, the Doctoral degree. But things are changing, as a director of research in Flanders observed: Due to the democratisation of education, achieving a PhD has become an integral part of academic education and consequently the number of bio-tech post-docs in Flanders has increased dramatically. Participation in higher education across Europe has increased dramatically and larger numbers are undertaking PhDs. This is consistent with a number of factors: 1) The move to a knowledge economy with a premium on new knowledge creation across many sectors along with more opportunities for research, 2) Pressure on the value of traditional qualifications such as first degrees qualification inflation, 3) A richer society simply consuming more education. Thus, the PhD, while still training for research, might not be as closely tied to the university / research institute career as it once was. Professionalising the PhD The debate on the changing nature of the PhD is closely linked to a debate on how this PhD should be undertaken. Traditionally, the PhD has been seen as a master28

apprentice relationship focused on creating new knowledge. The recent graduate student finds an established researcher within the university with expertise in a particular area and willing to supervise the student over a period of three or more years in learning to do research and undertaking a substantial research project. The emphasis is on the indebtedness of the student to the supervisor. An alternative model, put forward by the director of a research institute, but in fact increasingly common across Europe, sees the individual master-apprentice system as one in which the quality of that training is left totally to chance. (and) there is a need to develop a corporate university approach to the creation of a high-quality, postgraduate environment. Such an environment might include: Formation of Graduate Schools with the critical mass to provide research training and support a wide research programme for PhDs to work in. Many PhDs still obtain an extremely narrow research experience. Formal Postgraduate Education Programme. This would include Year 1 of research training focusing on transferable research skills and short training periods in different research labs. A choice of PhD supervisor only at the end of Year 1. Overall supervision to remain a School responsibility avoiding student isolation. The student must see him/herself as driving his/her own career if they are to quickly develop into independent researchers. In time formal partnerships with top-level graduate research schools abroad including China / India - should be developed for exchange of students. Providing perhaps a more predictable and quality assured way of bringing researchers to Europe. Undertaking a PhD For a research career, the message is still consistently to undertake the PhD at the best possible university or research institute, irrespective of its location. The reputation, and the contacts, of the PhD school will also be very important in moving on to a post doc position. In small countries, such as Greece, Finland or Ireland, this has meant in the past many PhD students going abroad, particularly to the US. Improving research structures and a build-up of national research teams has seen this near-obligatory mobility diminish, at least in some areas of the life sciences. Research in ICT seems still more oriented towards the US. Training in a good research team means that responsibility for front-line research does not fall immediately on the PhD student as in the master-apprentice model. The research group of research leader, post-docs, PhDs and technical support staff provides for more efficient research and better support to the PhD student. As one researcher characterised it, Previously, the lack of working post-docs in labs had left a chasm between the supervisor and PhD students. The inexperience of PhDs entailed major time losses development of techniques was slower and unsure. Questions such as is it me at fault? is it the technique at fault? is it a real result? are far more quickly resolved by experienced (and more confident) post-docs with a developed feel for the area. In certain countries and in certain departments, research directors report that it is getting increasingly difficult to recruit good PhD students. ICT seems to have the more acute difficulties, due to competition from industry. But the Life Sciences are suffering too.


Meanwhile, departments in Northern Europe at least are reporting increasing numbers of applications from 3rd World Countries. Here they find that undergraduate courses are very different and very variable with unexpected gaps in knowledge and basic skills. Researchers are generally unwilling to recruit such students, tending to take on PhDs only when there has been good contact with well-known and recognised institutions in the students home country. Unlike at post-doc level, the yardstick of publications is not available. 3.2.2 Step 2: Post-Doc Options The main options open to those just receiving their PhD are. 1. A junior tenured post. This is rare and offered only to outstanding researchers, or as a normal career start in the case of France. 2. A tenure-track post. However, it is often difficult to differentiate a tenure track position17 from a post-doc position. 3. A post-doc position is main route for those who are seeking a research career in public research. It may be undertaken abroad or at home and then very often in the institution where the PhD was obtained. 4. A research position in industry or commerce. Unlike the US, such a move is very near to excluding any eventual research post in the public research, particularly university research. 5. Exit to non-scientific research activity in industry / commerce / teaching / other. As the absolute number of PhDs increase and the proportion of university undergraduates gaining PhDs increases, it is likely that more and more will find their way into non-scientific research positions at quite a young age. For the majority of new PhDs staying within the public research system, in most EU countries, a position as a post-doc beckons. However, the quality of post-doc positions varies hugely. The spectrum reaches from short contracts working on short-term projects, away from the PhD area and with little chance of publications to medium term contracts (three years or more) within internationally prestigious research programmes in world-leading teams that offer prospects of publishing with leading researchers from leading institutions. Optimally the period for this post-doc period seems to be 2-3 years. Much longer than this and the researcher risks being locked into the unstable world of temporary contracts. Or, put another way, missing the window of opportunity to make the transition to a junior research leader tenured post. For these reasons, the first post-doc move can make or break a career. The Post-Doc: Decision Time For post-docs wanting to return after a period abroad or coming to the end of their first post-doc position this is truly decision time. They can re-enter their own national research system at a number of levels:


Perhaps the only clear position found is that of the ATER (temporary junior professor) in France, which is offered immediately on graduating within the university where the PhD was taken. This seamless transition within the same institutions tends, however, to preclude foreign experience and or even changing university.


1. As a member of a project research team dependent on payments from the particular project. The project may last say from 6 months to two years. The researcher has no choice in the area of research. 2. As a holder of an independent bursary / fellowship essentially with their own salary lasting from 6 months to three years. There may be the necessity to negotiate lab space with an institution. The individuals bargaining power, particularly regarding research area may be low. 3. Again as holder of his/her own bursary, but this time the research area has been negotiated with the lab ahead of time. The researcher may have had a strong input into the definition of the research agenda, both by his/her choice of lab as well as by negotiation. 4. As an autonomous independent researcher with his/her own funding. This can vary from a position indistinguishable from No 2 above, to having funds for a research start up; for equipment, possibly a post-doc, one or two PhDs and a support technician. The expectation is that the individual will become a group leader. 5. As a junior tenured member of staff. In most countries, but not all, the junior position is expected to launch a fairly autonomous new research agenda, rather than perform a service role to senior researchers. Their funding for such research varies from simply having the right to apply for research grants to a full start-up package. The above spectrum of opportunities contains many key issues for the post-doc. Some of the issues might make the researcher ponder as to whether a career in research is realistic or even possible for the individual particularly the individual who is coming from abroad. Issues include: Applications for Grants: At what point does the researcher have the right to apply for funding in his / her own name. This is critical in achieving some level of control over ones own financial and career destiny. It marks a point where the researcher can show the ability to raise funds. It is also potentially a point at which autonomy of research can be gained. The researcher, even without tenure, might cease to be dependent financially and intellectually on a senior researcher. Researchers without the right to apply for grants can use a senior researcher as a front man for the application, but there are obvious limitations. Gaining Autonomy of Research: At 27 to 30 years of age good researchers in the natural sciences are at their creative best. They should know what research needs to be done and how to do it. Basically they need independence and resources. This transition is a struggle for all but the brightest few. Formal mechanisms that provide this jump immediately for researchers coming or coming back from overseas are few and highly competitive, but they do seem to be increasing. Speed of Grant Providing Structures: A researcher coming from abroad or returning home on a one or even two year contract or scholarship, needs to find new research funds - fast. Domestic or EU research programmes which take the best part of a year to roll over can create major problems for junior researchers. Losing Research Time: One researcher remarked that every physical move cost 12 months in lost publications. Moving is disruptive and takes time. Integration into a new research group takes time. Setting up a new research


group takes even more time. For those who need to publish to support their efforts in seeking tenure, this can be a difficult and very risky period. Losing Research Direction: A PhD has given the researcher a number of publications in a particular field. The well chosen post-doc period in a good research institution abroad or at home has supported the researcher in publishing even more strongly, probably in the same or closely associated area. The person is gaining a name at an international level. The nature of the next move is now critical. Taking a position which entails a significant shift in research area can destroy a career or put it back a couple of years, especially in biotechnology where just the time required to set-up an operational laboratory can extend to a year or more. For most junior researchers, it takes time to become known, accepted and published in a new field. Becoming a Teacher & Administrator: Within universities, some research positions, not just the newly tenured junior, can carry a significant teaching and administrative load. This may be important in eventually gaining tenure, but it may also slow down research and publishing. The mix of CNRS full time researchers in the same lab as junior professors with a teaching and administration load is said to keep the momentum of research and publishing higher.

Rapidly, during or on finishing a first post-doc period, the good young researcher probably at an age of 27/30 years is looking to run his or her own research group. These posts may lead to tenure, but at very least it is what might, in this very uncertain world, be considered tenure-track. And here, funding really becomes savagely competitive. It is in many senses the Rubicon for young researchers. The alternatives are another period as a post-doc or exiting the public research system. Different EU Member States have different variations and requirements. Most obviously, German and Austrian researchers will also be considering the additional need for the habilitation, if they intend to stay in universities.18 On the other hand, the French refuse most of the game and require researchers to be given tenure by their very early 30s, just a couple years after their Doctorate if they intend to stay in public research. For young Greek researchers who decide to return home after having spent 2-3 years in postdoctoral research the main problem is the lack of positions in the Greek research system. Many follow a more business-oriented path. But young male Greeks face an extra problem at that crucial point in their career - they have to serve two years of compulsory military service: a common reasons that many do not return. 3.2.3 Step3: The Transition to Tenure? In comparison to the numbers of post-doc researchers, the number of tenured posts is small, and hence highly competitive. Thus, as we shall see, recruitment to these positions is the subject of much comment by researchers.


The habilitation is a further degree, beyond doctorate, that demonstrates a substantial body of research. It is meant to show considerable maturity in the researcher and has traditionally been a requirement for access to a professorship in Germany.


For individuals, tenure provides financial security and for some researchers, their first entry into pension, health and social service regimes. In many cases, where research autonomy has not been already achieved, the newly tenured person is now usually (but not always, especially in very hierarchical research systems) expected to launch his/her own research programme. In universities, it also implies a teaching load. For institutions, the provision of tenure may be seen as a risk. The person with tenure may be with the institution until retirement possibly 30 years hence. The grantattracting powers of most researchers fall rapidly after 45 years of age. In addition, there is concerns that, once tenure is achieved, research effort might fall anyway. There are variations to this story across the EU. The German university system holds tenure more closely, offering it only to professors. In Spain and Greece progress from the junior tenured positions to the senior professorships is said to be simply one of the passage of time. The Figure 1 below shows a typical research career structure within many Member States. The most striking features are The large numbers of highly qualified researchers who must transfer out of public sector research at the various stages from their mid-20s onwards. The relatively low proportion of researcher who obtain tenure In other words, the fierce competition for a relatively few tenure posts requires structured ways to achieve the transfer of researchers out of the public research into industrial research or non-research occupations. This seems to be achieved relatively smoothly in the ICT area, given the severe shortages of qualified personnel in the economy at large. Although the longer they stay in post-doc life the less options they have - the ICT industry prizes youth. But in the Life Sciences the industrial linkages are less well developed. Here there may be greater concern. The growing incentives for post-doc research, amongst which we can count extra funding for mobility schemes, may create a waiting room effect. In the waiting room might be a body of researchers in their mid to late 30s that are not quite able to make the transition either to independent and tenured research and who have fewer options for an honourable exit from research.


Figure 1 A Diagram of Research Career Structure




Industry/ Commerce

Stay Abroad

Autonomous Position

2nd Post Doc Period

Industry/Commerce/ Other

Post Doc Abroad

Post Doc at Home

Industry / Commerce /Other

New PhDs

From the point of view of encouraging mobility the structure of the career raises some important issues. If mobility reduces visibility, researchers intending to pursue a research career at home should be understandably reluctant to leave their native research system. On the one hand, structured and finite periods can enhance a CV and the researchers chances back home. But, to leave for an indefinite period and without an obvious point of return raises the risk that there is no feasible re-entry trajectory. The design of mobility schemes therefore requires considerable attention in order to prevent a rise in the number of misplaced researchers that finish a period of post-doc abroad and have no road back. Gender Issues A further concern is the under-representation of women in autonomous research and tenured positions in ICT and especially the Life Sciences even in the very limited study being presented here19. Major losses to the EU research system occur on finishing the PhD and transfer to the post-doc system.20 One researcher pointed directly at the savage competitiveness and uncertainty of the post-doc system and the speed of development of the problem-defined areas and techniques, which created knowledge gaps for those taking time out of research as the main gender discriminants. This was contradicted to some extent by two other

The one female tenured lecturer in a Department of 7 colleagues, pointed at the adjoining Genetics Department of 8 tenured colleagues with no females while 80% of the undergraduates are female. A male colleague in Genetics pointed to his lab of 10 female and 1 male PhDs and post-docs. 20 For a thorough treatment of this issue see: European Commission, 2000, Promoting excellence through mainstreaming gender equality, Report of the ETAN Working Group on Women and Science, CEC, Luxembourg.


researchers indicating the flexibility which research work gave to family life: it was not a 9-to-5 job, although both were speaking from a position of tenure. There are no indications that any research team leader would employ post-docs on anything but scientific grounds: experience, relevant techniques, publications. All recognised the loss of female talent and indeed government investment - to research but could not make any positive suggestions to overcome the problem. One remarked with irony that since the career pyramid was so narrow at the top, such leakage did not handicap current university research. It would only be when public research was suffering real recruitment difficulties at the PhD / post-doc level that a real effort would be made to solve the problems. The increased flow of non-EU post-docs might postpone the resolution of such problems. 3.2.4 Recruitment Practices: Stumbling up the steps21

Being mobile means successfully negotiating a series of recruitment steps. Across the EU there seems to be some concern about the transparency and consistency of the mechanisms and procedures, which are used to recruit researchers to the different positions within universities and research institutes. These relate first to the level of position: the higher the post the more formal are the requirements. The level of the post: There is a variety of different levels of research positions ranging from high level professors for example the Spanish profesores catedraticos, to ordinary, associate and assistant professors, to lecturers to group leaders and a multiplicity of levels of more junior research posts. The UK has a very open system of advertising and recruitment all the way up from junior posts. But more generally, the higher the level of the post, the more likely there is to be a system which openly advertises the posts, nationally and internationally and has examinable and legally defined procedures for receiving, processing and informing applicants. At the lower levels, the procedures become much more informal and, for the candidate, being in the right place at the right time and knowing- or getting to know - the person with the available funding becomes important. As an Austrian researcher lamented There are recruitment systems for professors not for assistants The tenure associated with the post. Tenured posts can exist right down to very junior research positions, as in France. In much of Europe, a tenured post is a job for life, with large legal and financial implications for the hiring institution and the State. The formality of recruitment reflects these commitments. The likelihood of tenure and the level of seniority of the post, of course, also correlate strongly. The financial system used to fund research: Roughly, the greater the stability of funding, the more likely it is that evolved formal procedures are in place for recruitment. Where a research team is dependent on short duration project by project funding and funding which may only confirmed at the last minute, then the research director has to be able to hire quickly, and use matching short term contracts.

This report has, by and large, surveyed top-line research organisations in major cities. Recruitment difficulties may be more acute in smaller, more peripheral urban and rural areas interviewees indicated that this might well be the case


The type of research institution / group into which the recruitment is taking place: university, research institute or other type of organisation availing of public research funding. While research institutes were set up to provide research flexibility or focus (See Section 3.1.2), their recruitment systems are often very similar or the same as those of the universities. The difference comes from being willing to contemplate the recruitment of a much wider spectrum of research experience and often being more demanding on experience abroad.

Relatively few research systems have specialised elements of their recruitment systems, which target their own or other nationals abroad (See Section 3.4.1). For the most part, researchers coming from abroad pass through the normal, formal or informal, domestic recruitment systems. This said, the recruitment systems do present differing possibilities and barriers to those who have decided to spend time abroad.22 Given the non-tenured, informality of many recruitment systems for junior researcher posts, the approach required of potential researchers seeking such posts includes: close contacts, visiting old friends, going on visits from institute to institute, development of networks. Even when junior posts are for open and competitive tenured positions, as in France, the recruitment process demands close home contact due to the need to present a joint researcher + laboratory project. The majority of junior research positions, irrespective of the level of formality of recruitment systems, require the junior researcher to be more or less personally known to the senior researcher before the researchers application for the post. And in that sense, some of the Russian roulette of gaining a research post is narrowed. If you dont know the research group back home beforehand, then your chances of getting the job are not that good so dont bother applyingunless you want to get to know them and have a better chance next year. There are, of course, good rational / scientific arguments for this occurring: see Section 3.4.1. Recruitment at a senior level can see a reversing of roles. Many research recruitment systems, such as the German Max Planck Institutes have a tradition of formal, worldwide search for the top-level tenured positions. Other recruitment systems are financially driven to find the best senior researchers. The UK system, following the introduction Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), has created a strong market for high-achieving senior researchers. The problem then becomes, as one research director put it, The higher up the ladder, the choosier they become. The package, which has to be offered to attract such star researchers, who usually already have tenure and their own laboratory, can then be quite costly. Tentatively we might suggest a recruitment cost profile of researcher career trajectories in a Market Driven Research System and a Conservative Research System (Figure 2). In each case the make or break threshold is around the middle thirties. This makes a research career highly time critical. Where we locate mobility within this system is therefore important for both researchers and their employers.

Here see particularly the report of the High Level Group on Barriers to Mobility, European Commission, DG Research, Brussels, 2001.


Figure 2 Recruitment Costs in Market and Conservative Research Systems

Top Researcher in Market System

Top Researcher in Conservative System

Ordinary/Weak Researcher Conservative System


Ordinary/Weak Researcher in Market System


35 Age


3.2.5 Exiting Research What about those that do not make it to a tenured position? The tenured portion of most national research career structures is very narrow. Many post-docs have little chance of accessing such positions. Most national research systems offer few permanent academic positions and scant career planning, relative to the quality of people and the unavoidable exit of many post-docs from public research systems. While of course there have been some improvements in the systems23, there is much still to be done in terms of clear and early signalling, even at an individual level, as to research career possibilities or the lack of them and in terms of preparing researchers for entry into other work areas and professions including non-research functions. One of the key problems is the age of exit from non-tenured public research. Exit in ones 30s, worse still in ones early 40s, can be difficult, since mainstream industry tends to recruit at the new graduate, masters and PhD level - essentially while the individual is still relatively young. There are suspicions of the different value systems of public research solidifying in older possible recruits. There were few indications

For example the Royal Societys Concordat for Research Management, 1996


from researchers interviewed that exit mechanisms were well structured. The French fully-tenured university and research institute system tends to reject people early if it does not accept them forever. But links with and mobility into French industry are apparently problematic given what one researcher termed the monopoly due to the dominant position of the Grandes Ecoles in all recruitment to industrial research the tracks separate even at the start of higher education. For different reasons, this early weaning is in the UK and Irish systems seen as providing an easier move to industry since the PhD is finished at a relatively young age and even after a 2 year post-doc the individual is only in their mid 20s and still of interest to industry. Another possibility is illustrated by a German institution that we interviewed, which had a strong record in high-growth spin-off companies based on its post-docs. Yet another institution consciously used its research work with industry as an exit mechanism for researchers, as well as an employment mechanism for its undergraduates. The risk here is that the increasing number of post-docs and the tendency in some countries to give tenure at an older and older age increases very much the risks of careers in research. It is well known that after the age of 30, chances of starting a good career in industry are low. 3.3 MOBILITY OF EU RESEARCHERS Turning now to the core issue of the report. Mobility is not new. The international travel of Europes researchers has strong antecedents in the peregrinatio academica of medieval Europe. It is not new from the individuals perspective and possibly less innovatory than we might think from the institutional development viewpoint. The global dimensions of the peregrinatio are more recent. But what really is new is the formal level of organisation, finance and economic concern for the longer term outcomes associated with such mobility. 3.3.1 Outward Mobility

Motivation For post-docs seeking a position abroad, the core motivation is a mixture of career enhancement and self/scientific development. As one researcher returning from Harvard summarised it, experience in a good laboratory, with good facilities and a good publication record in notable journals and a chance to join a Club of Excellence. But researchers have other considerations in choosing their potential host. Choosing a particular specialisation that is weak in the home country can make one very employable, should one plan on returning home. Spotting a fast expanding field also gives one better employment opportunities - jumping on a hot topic, as a Spanish researcher called it. Less opportunistically, one may choose to develop complementary skills to those of the PhD, with a view to a more complete research expertise. New PhDs also recognise that in many high-level research institutes, perhaps more so than universities, top-level research abroad is a near-formal requirement for eventual access to a tenured post.24 Institutes such as the French INSERM, FORTH in Greece

Interestingly this seems to be less a requirement in the UK system.


or the German GMD (the National Research Centre for Information Technology), indicated that researchers would be most unlikely to become tenured without good experience abroad. All, or nearly all, principal researchers in the case study institutes in the Finnish or Flanders had experience abroad. Two years abroad was a requirement for recruitment in the Spanish electronics institute studied. International mobility may not be so much an option as a necessity, at least for a career in specialist research institutes. More prosaically, it may simply make access to domestic post-doc research funding easier: raising research credits as a Flemish researcher called it. But there are other reasons for going abroad. In smaller EU Member States, there may not be the critical mass or level of specialisation in the research area, as mentioned by Greek, Finnish and Irish researchers. In France, the 1982 Law on Research outlawing short-term contracts effectively precludes post-doc activity in public research. You have to go abroad. And then there is a mix of personal reasons, ranging from peer pressure since everyone else is doing it to simple adventure and even escaping ones parents. No researcher saw difficulty in sourcing the necessary initial funds for mobility. For the most part the initial one or two years abroad are funded by the home research system. Longer periods tend then to rely on the host funding, or occasionally, within the EU, switching to the Marie Curie fellowships. Mobility to the United States Referred to nearly as an additional qualification, such was the perceived benefit of such a period, was the BTA. The Been to America is an undeniably important factor in European research. All national reports, all research institutes and universities make reference to the strength, dynamism and competitiveness of the US system. It is seen as a factor not just in issues of EU research mobility, but also in wider research policy. The large majority of the 80 or so senior researchers interviewed for this report had undertaken post-docs in the US. The scale and richness dazzles many researchers. Johns Hopkins alone receives over $500 million per annum just from the US National Institute for Health (NIH), never mind the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Howard Hughes or other State, Federal or private funding. The NIH provides research institutions in Boston alone (not MIT or Harvard across the river in Cambridge) with over $1 billion per annum in research funding. This large scale, highly competitive but reliable funding permits successful institutions and individuals to build up research teams with the highest quality facilities and back up. The open competitiveness at an individual and institutional level in the USA also means that there is a strong concentration of the best people and best facilities in the best institutions. The winners win big but those that dont win, dont get too much and have to rely on local state resources. In this system, winning institutions, cannot and do not tolerate researchers who do not bring in the research grants. Individuals can rapidly lose their research team and place in an institution. Tenure, even in Harvard, is given only to a small, reliable, world class few. Non-tenured professors, never mind non-tenured associate or assistant professors are a fact of life. As Harvard Medical School reminds its researchers: This is a School not a Home. This institutional


openness is echoed in the principle that one should not have a post-doc position where the PhD was awarded nor a chair following on from post-doc in the same university. The US system is hugely attractive to EU researchers at the PhD and post-doc level. Increasingly, most if not all EU graduating students speak English. Where national research systems are weak, both the student and the university may promote a PhD abroad as being in the best interests of the student. While the larger EU Member States (France, Germany and the UK) will host some of the PhDs, ease of entry to the US and financial support for the best students also makes it attractive. At post-doc level, a host of national support structures encourage a postdoctorate abroad. The renown of leading US researchers and research institutions as well as meetings at conferences and visits, even short research periods to the USA have all developed during the PhD. The means of access, financial and bureaucratic have become known, and supported by cultural links and the PhD supervisors network support and knowledge of the US system, it becomes relatively easy for the good PhD to move to the USA. The speed at which good young researchers can achieve autonomy of research is also attractive. The US is an open system that, for economic reasons, welcomes foreign-born scientists and engineers. The parochial attitudes that some EU researchers see in their own and other EU countries are rare. For the NSF, The large foreign component of US human intellectual capital is linked to the ability of US higher education to attract, support and retain foreign science and engineering graduate students25. Some 30% of PhDs in the US are foreign born. At an individual institutional level, there are explicitly open recruitment policies and larger turnover of researchers. Fitting in is relatively easy. So, initially, at least the US system is strongly attractive, with the promise of worldclass research, early research autonomy and continual openness of research institutions. And so it is according to all researchers. However, researchers go to the USA with a variety of longer-term intentions. Most go with the intention of returning to their own country some, the far-sighted, even with fully developed plans for return to their PhD institution. Mobility within the European Union The EU is a complex and highly differentiated research space. Differentiated obviously by language, social and cultural traditions. But differentiated too by different systems of funding research, different expectations of researchers, different levels of bureaucratic and even cultural openness to non-national researchers. German researchers expressed concern about possible xenophobia hampering the development of the German research system in an era of global mobility. There are, however, very definitely sub-regions of the EU, which work more easily as integrated areas for mobility, though the relationships can also be interpreted as the need of smaller research areas/ countries to be a functioning part of a larger unit.

Johnson J.M. & Regets M.C., (1998) International Mobility of Scientists and Engineers to the United States Brain Drain or Brian Circulation? Issue Brief, Nov 10th 1998. NSF, Division of Science Resources Studies.


Austria has strong links to Germany and Switzerland. An Austrian researcher may wait in Germany for a post to open in Austria. Similarly, though there are indications that it is changing, a Finish post-doc may wait in the richer Swedish research system before returning to a post in Finland. Irish researchers wait in the UK. From discussion with researchers The main destination of scientific researchers seems to be the top universities of the UK. This is explained by UK researchers as the quality of the research system. However, for some of those outside UK, it is explained by its relative openness and the English language, though of course there may be a virtuous circle at work. In Germany, the major spender of R&D within the EU, researchers are deeply concerned as to the attractiveness of its research system to mobile researchers. The Max Planck Institutes offer first-class conditions of research along with a high degree of independence for young researchers. There is little tenure and 5-year positions are constantly opening, yet relatively few EU and very few US nationals apply, for what is research in world leading institutions. Similar concerns were expressed in the ICT Research Institute. The explanation was essentially cultural: Germany is very homogeneous and provincial in many respects making it difficult for foreigners to integrate. The potential difficulties of family integration and the need to know the language were also cited. Ironically, since it refuses to countenance French nationals in post-doc positions, France is particularly open to non-French post-docs. It is very striking that none of the interviewees had undertaken a post-doc position in Southern Europe, save an Austrian who spent 2 years in Milan (to be near her family) and an Irish person who had spent a similar period in the JRC at Ispra in North Italy. By and large, the limiting factors in outward mobility to other EU Member States are neither financial nor bureaucratic. The key factors are cultural, particularly language, and the lack of world-renowned research institutions in certain Member States. 3.3.2 Return Mobility

Motivation The savage loves his native shore, though rude the soil and chill the air. James Orrs 19th century poem goes straight to the human heart of the return mobility of researchers, whether from the US or other EU countries. Biological, physiological, psychological patterning has occurred in early years. Nearly every researcher believes that his/her home country possess a better quality of life, is a better place to bring up kids and is perhaps the only place their partner, who has suffered two or more years abroad, will live. They might also miss their friends and lovers and their parents are getting old. They want to make a contribution to the society in which they grew up. They want to make a difference. The overwhelming motivation for return is personal and cultural.


The motivation of institutions to bring researchers back is somewhat different. For the most part expressed through senior researchers recruitment policies, it rests, in the shorter term, mainly on access to new knowledge and techniques for the laboratory. This may be expressed immediately as the introduction of a new technique or the starting up of a new, hopefully internationally competitive, research group. The networks and reputation (as expressed in scientific publications) of the returning researcher will also contribute to the overall kudos, finance and role of the institution in international research. The international visibility of a research-led university or research institution is becoming vital in its survival it may obtain local finance, but if it cannot now attract good, if not the best, PhD students and post-docs what is there to spend the money on? The personal networks of the returned researcher are conduits for other student and researcher flows as well as new research and finance. Ensuring Return Mobility The majority of interviewees went abroad with no intention of remaining in the USA or in other EU countries and no interviewee seemed to regret having returned home. But mostly these were successful researchers successful not just at research, but successful at having been able to return home to, by and large, quite good, often tenured, research positions. How did they do it, when many others fail? As we have seen, the best solution is to go abroad to a world-class institution and copiously publishes in the best journals and returns an internationally renowned researcher. And this is quite correct in a simple market model of the research game. But for many, it is not nearly sufficient. Researchers abroad confront a number of potential problems. When is the research post coming up? What is required at a technical level and at an administrative level? How best to provide the information of the researchers qualities to those who will make the selection? Universities and research institutes face mirror problems. Despite a certain cynicism among some researchers, institutions do want good researchers and Stanford, Cambridge, Pasteur and Max Planck along with publications in Nature, Science, Cell and IEEE do carry weight. How to reach interested researchers in time, so that they can plan ahead? By the time a post has made its way through formal university channels and into the academic press, time may be short. How to know that the researcher is well motivated? That the person has got just the right skills? And if it is for a tenured job, will the researcher fit-in for the next 20 or 30 years? As one researcher observed, They may look good on paper, but be dogs in the lab. Answers we found were: A high proportion of researchers in all countries returns to their old undergraduate or PhD labs. These are the home birds as one director of research pejoratively observed as he tried to build a world-class research institution. The researcher has usually kept in touch with the home institution while abroad, visiting when home, and indicating interest in a position. The


institution knows the researcher as competent and one who will fit in and make a contribution, at least for a number of years. In some cases, the institute had contacted the researcher when the job was opening up. An important variation of this is where the researcher had gone abroad to learn or research in a technique or area that would be specifically useful to the home research and a tacit or even formal agreement had been made that the researcher would be brought back. A more arms-length approach was, about a year before wishing to return, to make a tour of potential research institutions to discuss possible openings. This was seen as a common way to reintegrate into the home research community. If the research institution found you interesting, they would somehow find the money to support a position for at least a year. Much greater co-ordination with the home institution was required when there were formal entry procedures. The French concours system for universities requires 1) Qualification general approval as a suitable candidate - through the Committ Nationale de Universit (CNU) and 2) Final selection by a local panel of an institution-backed research project, to which the individual researcher is attached. It also requires the researcher abroad be on excellent terms with the director of the home lab, and be ready to fit proposed research into the labs needs. Needless to say this is not a simple trick, particularly for those who did not train within the French system. And not a system for assertive young researchers who wish to start their own research group in new cutting-edge fields. Other, less complicated, funding structures across the EU require good, extended co-ordination between the researcher abroad and the home research institution. In Flanders, personal FWO (Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek the Flemish Science Research Funding Council) funding needs good synchronisation and management with a receiving university to express interest in the research and be ready to receive the researcher. Some countries are now providing funding structures that permit an easier, less encumbered route back. These operate by: 1) opening up its research system to researchers abroad or by 2) providing special funding to assist researchers abroad (sometimes targeted at their own nationals) to move into the research system: see Section 3.4.2.

However, in conclusion, for the vast majority of EU researchers abroad, the totally open research post advertisement in Nature or a cold entry into an open competition seems a highly unusual way back into a career in their home research structure. Each country has its particular return mechanisms corresponding to the very different national research structures and regulations. But underneath each system is the need for most researchers to have some personal contact with and understanding of their proposed home lab. While competitions do favour the technically best it helps to know the judges and the unwritten norms that must be observed in order to pass through the selection procedures.


Obstacles to Return26 But there are hindrances, complications and barriers to return which may in the end dissuade the researcher from either returning or attempting to return. Remember that we only interviewed those who successfully returned. Money and anticipatory socialisation. In the US, the penury of doctoral studies finishes and post-doc salaries are reasonable. In Europe, the penury often extends well into the post-doc period and only really ends with tenure. Returning post-docs, even returning to tenured positions, face a drop in salary. All researchers were well aware of this, many even before they left their home lab. All had readied themselves to accept it. They did, however, think that it affected some or many other researchers decisions not to return to Europe. Cost of Living. Money (salary) is one thing, cost of living another. There were some indications that expectations of net disposable income might be a stronger factor than money. For example, the costs of living in London and of accommodation in Dublin were seen as problems. Partners. Researcher partners tend to be other researchers who also need research jobs. A most telling example was that of a French and UK couple returning from the USA. They did not consider France, which was seen as more closed, with the necessity of a joint proposal with a laboratory. They both applied as individuals within the UK system. In France, the researcher has to apply to be part of a group and then promotion depends on his relationships within the group the current system leads to stagnation. Smaller towns can also present a problem for a partners job opportunities. Administrative Issues. The view of a Spanish researcher was characteristic. Other obstacles with respect to the general administration (taxation, social security, etc.) were of minor importance and could be solved comparatively easily The two main issues for the high level researchers 1) the attractiveness of the research institute and 2) the openness of the entry system are reviewed in Section 3.4.1. Lock-In, Lock-Out Mechanisms For researchers abroad, locking mechanisms also occur, where issues of attractiveness or difficulties in re-entering the home research system cease to operate as simply influences and the individual becomes locked out of the home system or locked into the host system. Being locked out can arise when the individual abroad goes to a weak institution and/or does not publish. Their attractiveness to the home research system drops dramatically, and their PhD work can be forgotten. Loses touch with the home research system, and loses touch with the requirements for re-entry. Simply becomes too old for entry into the various competitions and misses the various windows of opportunity that arise. A possibly less traumatic realisation for the researcher is that of being locked in to the host system. This can occur, for example, when

See also the Report of the High Level Group on Barriers to Mobility, DG Research, Brussels, 2001.


Senior positions are obtained which cannot be replicated in the home country. It can be as difficult to go down the career ladder as up. Financial rewards from or financial commitments to the host country become very large. Partners and children view the host country as home.

Both forms of locking mechanism are correlated to the length of time passed in the host country. Return Programmes There a many and significant European equivalents to the Austrialian, Canadian and Chinese schemes mentioned above (Section 2.3.2). Austrias Erwin-Schrodinger Scholarship to return, The Belgian APART, ZAP Zelfstandig Academisch Personeel - Independent Academic Personnel. The German Emmy Noether Programme providing for two years abroad and 3 years support back in Germany which gained very strong praise as an integrated programme, The Academy of Finland ( has for some time provided 3year fellowships, which could be used either in Finland or abroad. This outward mobility was then developed to a position that provided 6 months return finance but it was very unlikely to obtain a longer-term research grant straight away. Now the criteria have been changed so that it is easier to get the grants without having founded an own research group. In the British Isles the Wellcome Trust supports post-docs abroad with a final return year. Telethon Foundation Career Project ( in Italy was praised for its recognition of research abroad as an important part of development and the criteria used are based on scientific achievement only Telethon offers high salary, career progression based on merits and scientific excellence, independence in carrying out research on a theme / project decided upon in agreement with the management of the Foundation. The Ministry of University is now also financing an University hiring as a full professor either an Italian researcher who was been working abroad and wants to come back in Italy, or a foreign professor. The grant amounts to approximately 70,000 year for 3 years to cover research expenses of the professor. The overall amount available for grants is about 5 million. New Greek programme of the Ministry of Development, Programme of Foreign Researchers Accession in the Greek Research and Development System which substitutes the same Ministrys Programme of Offering Careers for Greek Speaking Scientists Living Abroad


Table 5 Some Forces in Outward & Return Mobility Attraction of Host PHASE I OUTWARD MOBILITY Scientific Excellence, Facilities Good publications prospects Career Development Adventure & Freedom Quality of Post-doc/ PhD / Publications Lack of knowledge / contacts. Finance presents few problems for good PhDs Formal / Informal requirement for experience abroad for tenured positions Need to stay close to home labs / institutes for job openings Family / Personal Commitments PHASE II RETURN MOBILITY Home / Family / Friends Longer term career prospects Poor contacts / Closed research structure. Poor publications abroad / Research in inappropriate area. Few / inappropriate research openings Poor research facilities / low salary levels Bureaucratic / Administrative issues are important but not determinant. Poor career prospects for non-national Too competitive / insecure research system Better research prospects / better pay / better facilities New Friends / New Partner

Barriers to Host

Home Push Home Pull

Attraction of Home Barriers to Home

Host Push Host Pull

Spanish Ministry of Education Reintegration Contracts are currently providing project-length contracts for up to 3 years. Currently, a Ramn y Cajal programme has been developed to permit universities to hire researchers who have spent at least 18 months away from the university. It will be open to post-docs who are abroad. Human Frontier Science Programme ( provides a wide variety of research supports to European as well as Canadian, Japanese and US researchers including an additional one-year funding for repatriation of researchers back to their own country.

These individual reintegration programmes are well respected by researchers. But, as one researcher observed, There are (return) programmes but not policy or planning, meaning that there should be a broader national policy, which integrated outward and return mobility into a development programme for university and national research.


Table 6 Checklist: Making Research Mobility Work for You Only go to the top institutions. As an Austrian research director warned, pay particular attention to the research record and quality of the institutions you want to collaborate with. If you can not go to a top institution, think twice about going, save for adventure or to a tenure post. Otherwise career-wise, it might be better to stay home. Select the research topic carefully. A major change in field may cut down your rate of publishing. Possibly also select the research topic with a view to returning home. A French research director councils, When the quality of the of research abroad was not very high or without much value added to the research groups where posts are available, it will be very hard to again find a job Go immediately after finishing the PhD for 2 to 4 years. Start looking to come back during the penultimate year Publish as much as possible in the top journals. Be careful of changing research institutions it can cut down your rate of publishing. Keep in touch with the home institutions, go to conferences, and become know internationally in your area. Get a job before you go and arrange secondment or a sabbatical. This makes return mobility much easier! As for verbal promises of return to your home lab: Dont quite believe that the resources and lab space will be there.the politics of a university moves on, and so may your old supervisor. EMERGING ELEMENTS OF BEST PRACTICE


As we have seen in Section 3.3.1, the US has become a truly international research area, with recruitment on a global basis. Within the EU: Some Member States are moving quickly in this direction, probably based on cultural affinity to the US. The more independent Research Institutes seem to be moving more quickly than the universities probably based on more open recruitment and the absence of a teaching load in the local language. ICT sectors are moving more quickly than the Life Sciences based on competitive pressures from private sector recruitment. Applications for research posts within the EU and advertised on the Net now include sizeable groups of Chinese, Indians and East Europeans as well as EU citizens and sometimes no domestic nationals. The issue is now far wider than recruitment of ownnationals: they are sometimes not available home or abroad. 3.4.1 Institutional Attractiveness The core message from researchers and research directors in building EU research is to build world-class research institutions. This will create high quality, sustainable mobility. Year on year, post-docs from around the world compete to get into Harvard or MIT you dont have to encourage them. The various forms of national or EU schemes which buy research teams or researchers back from abroad are generally seen as marginal and not sustainable


unless the much greater challenge of building the world class institutions is confronted - and the support policies put in place. A narrow focus on the mobility of the individual researcher star or otherwise is seen by research directors as ineffective and misguided. Researchers made this point from a number of angles: A concerned German researcher noted It is rather the overall attractiveness as a place to researchers in ICT and Biotech, independently of country of origin, which is regarded as most important. The attractiveness of the German research centres is declining, indicating a lack of integration and standing in international research and teaching. Consequently, the issue of attracting researchers back is not so important. Another researcher noted, Performance targets are not the right way. You need to improve the attractiveness (scientific, financial, cultural) to get the best people to Germany. This implies that you need top research organisations with international reputation. Specific return schemes and programmes can be helpful in some cases, but are of secondary importance An Irish research director emphasised that, for Ireland, The objective must be to develop a system, which creates and supports on-going leading-edge research. This requires an institution-led policy, entailing structural changes in funding and running of research institutions, rather than simply a researchled policy which generally promotes good research. An Austrian researcher urged the development of centres of excellence rather than super-star based systems. Currently the Austria lack of world class, IT research establishments is being met by the Competence Centre Programme Kplus. A UK research director made it plain: There are two things that tend to dominate peoples choice: 1) Where they want to work the physical environment, the laboratory, the facilities and equipment, and 2) The colleagues they will be working with. Other things tend to be secondary. Our experience is that strength attracts strength, so if you (the institution) are already known for being excellent in a certain area, then its logical that other people will want to come and join you. The central message of this report is Attractive Institutions rather than Attracting Individuals: reinforcing existing world-class institutions and building new centres of excellence which researchers will fight to come to, rather programmes to entice researchers or to help them overcome the barriers of closed or semi-closed research systems. This is not a message we expected and were geared-up to explore. Two examples will help us to illustrate the point: The French INSERM at the level of the institution New Irish research system initiatives at the national level. Action at Institutional Level The overall development of attractive research institutions is an issue of national research policy, but individual institutions can do much on their own account. Most impressive was a French Institute coping with the particular challenges of French research policy yet developing its own policy. 48

Table 7 Factors in Total Attractiveness

Good Positions for Researchers Good Laboratories Good salary and benefits. Clear and attainable career prospects, High status and research freedom World wide reputation, State of the art equipment and facilities, Early research responsibility, Opportunities to launch new research projects and directions Soliciting the best applications from abroad, Clear communication of opportunities offered, Transparency of recruitment procedures, Nature and complexity of application forms, Length of time of competition, Preparatory work needed with laboratory, Requirements of physical presence Keeping touch with their own best PhDs Making contacts with other potential candidates

Avoiding Barriers

Networking Abroad

The INSERM believes that for researchers to be able to work in global research networks, and for the benefit to their research institution, there is a quasi obligation to undertake post-doc research abroad. Yet, the French system presents certain difficulties. Almost all French PhDs willing to do research are directly and systematically put on the world market for post-docs. The 1982 Law on Research requires recruitment into the civil service just after the PhD forbidding short-term contractual positions in public research labs. Without world class attractiveness, the French system is a machine to produce brain-drain. (see Table 7). There are policies to improve each of the factors. INSERM monitors and analyses the pattern and application rates for its jobs. Action at a National Level Currently, Irish research expenditure is expanding rapidly through two main programmes 1) The Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) and 2) The establishment of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) These two programmes have taken radically different approaches they are under the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Trade and Enterprise respectively. The PRTLI has concentrated on initial capital investment followed by a switch to recurrent investment. The SFI has concentrated on offering large incentives to attract top-level researchers / research teams to work in Ireland. The differences in approaches gave much concern to researchers: Concerns included: The unconnected nature of the SFI. It acted in parallel to the university research system without using its resources to engineer university reform. The short-time horizon, 5 years for projects, which would discourage really good teams from applying. The lack of clarity as to the longer-term future of researchers in such teams. The major message from Irish researchers was to develop an institution-led rather than a simple research-led (as in the SFI) approach in science policy if there was to be sustainability and genuine world-leadership in research. Research takes place in institutions with career structures, recruitment policies, funding structures. It does not 49

take place in research groups isolated from a wider community of support, and it certainly does not take place in isolated, individual stars, no matter how good they are. Stars and research groups do help, but they dont have critical mass or sustainability. Attractiveness through Structured Co-operation: A further approach to improving the attractiveness is through structured co-operation with the world leaders. The two examples below have very different approaches. The Media Lab Europe is essentially brining the world leader to Europe to develop locally and to work with local researchers; the ICSI is based with a world-leader and rotates European researchers through the institute.

The ICSI at Berkley

The International Computer Science Institute, ICSI, ( was inaugurated in 1988. Its current international sponsors include Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Finland. German support of the Institute is provided by a government-industry consortium and organised by a sponsoring association the Forderverein (, Spanish support of the Institute is provided by the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnologia ( Swiss support is organized by the Swiss Association for Research in Information Technology (SARIT) ( In a new program, Finnish support is provided by the National Technology Agency of Finland ( The Institute also receives support from a variety of US and international sources.

The Media Lab Europe

Media Lab Europe ( is a university-level research and education centre in Dublin. It aims to recreate the innovative and entrepreneurial model of the MIT Media Lab ( Joint projects are funded with the Irish universities. Outside the public research system, it addresses the two problems in Irish research: 1) Meeting market salary levels in the media industry and 2) Providing the international name to attract post-docs from US and around the world. Those who do not make it into the Lab in MIT are offered the possibility of a Dublin base. It is expected to pay for itself by spinning off companies and attracting foreign investment.

Links to India & China

Very large numbers are now applying from China and India for all levels of research posts within Europe The importance of developing structured links with their home institutions was underlined by a number of researchers. Presently, outside of the Indian Institutes of Technology, researchers are unsure of the meaning of both Chinese and Indian qualifications. This leads some research leaders to simply discard applications from those sources although others claim that journal publications are a sufficient meter of quality. It is important that such European ignorance is overcome and the benefits of cooperation accrue to all regions. This said, there is a definite trend to develop structured relationships, particularly at the moment with India:


INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique) has developed internships for Indians as a part of an explicit policy to secure a long term flux of high quality applications of young researchers with an international experience and standing The German efforts to develop software and IT links with India are well known, and are paralleled by the efforts of the British Council to encourage Indians to undertake PhDs or post-doc studies in the UK. At a much more restrained level, an Indian IT company with its front-office in Dublin has been the apex of a triangle of increasingly structured co-operation between two Irish and Indian universities.

3.4.2 Current Operational Programmes It is of course not possible to immediately transform all EU research institutions into world-leaders, which will attract researchers from across the world. Indeed, trying to do so could well seriously dilute the resources needed to consolidate and advance existing centres of excellence. It is a matter of targeting and prioritising extra resources. In the interim, policies and programmes to support and encourage the mobility of researchers (non-nationals and returning nationals) to Member States can serve a useful purpose. The associated programmes have been reviewed in Section 3.3.2. But even here, there is some concern over general policy. A number of more radical researchers called for a general policy, which opens up and makes transparent the normal domestic research grant structures to competition from researchers based abroad with the proviso that the research is undertaken in the particular Member State. They believed that this approach would be far more effective in bringing (or bringing back) high-level researchers from abroad. As one Finnish researcher remarked Just structure normal domestic research supports so that they can be accessed by researchers abroad (transparency and timing). You dont need special programmes Some attempts over and above simply advertising or inviting applications through personal networks were indicated. FORUM USA, a French Government initiative to inform researchers of the opportunities in France held large research fora at Caltech, Stanford and MIT. At the other end of the scale, individual visits by university presidents to Silicon Valley and the Boston area, hosting receptions for researchers help to maintain contacts. It is important to note that issues of administration, taxation, work permits and visas, social welfare, health insurance even pensions are not mentioned as major issues, rather as inconveniences within the EU, between the EU and USA, and even for nonEU nationals coming in as researchers. These are small beer in comparison to the major forces affecting the attractiveness of EU research locations and should not be permitted to cloud the larger picture save for visas and work permits for the spouses of non-EU nationals. 3.4.3 Reforming Careers Structures Associated with institutional reform and institutional attractiveness is the nature of career structures, where researchers point to the need for changes in recruiting and retaining researchers as well as the basic career structure.


Restructuring The Waiting Room At a time, late 20s / early 30s, when career mobility is diminishing and personal / family responsibilities are increasing, post docs are asked to accept long periods of uncertainty. As one researcher phrased it in industry you have a career, in research you just wait to be called. In the ICT sector potential researchers do not accept this, and many or most of the best leave for industry. This may be a trend of the future in the Life Sciences. A number of areas of reform were suggested for exploration by EU and national policy makers. More junior group leader research positions, say for five years, but offering a high degree of research autonomy. This was seen in many research systems as The Missing Link, particularly in systems with a strongly hierarchical structure. More such positions would re-energise research Post-doc contracts for a longer period, again say five years, enabling longer term research and better publishing. Increasing the availability, if not the number of tenured posts. Provide ways for those in tenured posts, often with heavy administrative responsibilities and other functions, to move on to other non-research posts in the university or public administration, where their expertise would be of great value in ensuring government policy was informed by and responsive to science and scientific research concerns. These moves would give tenured positions greater research vigour. Clearer signalling, sign posting and exit mechanisms. Not everyone is going to make it in public research. Early and formal alerting of PhD students as to the narrowness and precariousness of the career pyramid, allied to information and training which provides broader research and even enterprise skills would be helpful. These are already provided in some of the more forward looking Graduate School programmes. Similar clarity is needed during the post-doc period. Continuous assessment of both PhDs and post-docs was suggested. The development of parallel careers was suggested. Following the PhD or first post-doc position, research would be combined with work that would aim to apply the knowledge at a policy, industrial or commercial level. This would give opportunity to move over to the non-research or research application role in time. And of course salary levels for people on post-docs were seen as too low in comparison with tenured posts and especially professorships, particularly for those researchers that have developed substantial experience through sequential post-doctoral contracts. Resolving Gender Issues Equally balanced recruitment boards were seen as important. One balanced research board system regularly obtained the requisite female from Personnel. Opening up Recruitment Structures It is very difficult to open up recruitment systems, where the overall system is relatively closed. Spain has introduced a funding programme which requires the researcher to have been out of the recruiting institution for at least 18 months as a direct way of ensuring some mobility within the system. This may be a helpful approach. Some research institutes have a requirement for research experience abroad to be eligible for a tenured post. A similar requirement across universities would


be a powerful mechanism to open up the university as well as internationalise its research. Open calls that are specially targeted at attracting researchers that are currently outside of the system. The US principle of having to move institutions after a PhD for the post-doc and then not accepting a tenured position in the current lab might be too much for Europeans to contemplate. Developing EU level aspects Given the diversity of research and career structures across the EU, Framework Programme schemes need to be fitted nationally to 1) work effectively with the systems in place and 2) to catalyse change and encourage the opening of the systems themselves. The training element of EU Programmes might develop a coherent policy to improve the training structures within EU research institutions, perhaps along the lines of European Graduate Schools with agreed high standards of quality and support for PhD students. EU financed exchanges of research students would adhere to such standards. A Bill of Rights for EU funded post doc positions might be developed. It might be along the lines of the UKs Concordat for Research Management. There should be recognition that many post-docs will have to leave public research, even in the ICT area, and appropriate training and planning could be part of any large post-doc programme. Given the increasing importance of non-EU nationals in EU research, much stronger support could be given to rapidly develop structured relationships between the research institutions of the EU and those of India and China in particular. Similarly, for activities with the Newly Associated States and the Candidate Countries existing Specific Programmes might consider a more structured / institutional approach to co-operation. The development of Centres of Excellence should not necessarily reinforce existing centres but look to EU level needs and networks. Issues of developing sustainable, world-level institutional attractiveness should be addressed in conjunction with Member States to ensure a reasonable distribution of such institutions across the EU.




This is a first case study that cannot claim that it is comprehensive. But it is based, on a large number of information rich interviews that, despite the many differences, tell a remarkable consistent story about the reasons for and barriers to researcher mobility in Europe. In this final section we try to identify some key aspects of the lessons we have learnt particularly with a view towards identifying best practice on attracting and retaining researchers. The key message in this report has been the central importance of institutional attractiveness as part of creating more balanced and sustainable mobility patterns. By attractiveness here we do not only mean scientific excellence and prestige, although that is fundamental aspect. The other key aspect is to provide a field opportunity for researchers. Opportunity means transparent research career structures, open and flexible recruitment systems, the opportunities to pursue a research career and the scope to operate in international networks. 4.1 IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

Point 1: Institutional Attractiveness is a Cornerstone of a Balanced Mobility System We identified three approaches to developing the mobility dimension of a research system, possibly to research systems themselves. 1) Researcher-led where the emphasis is directly on obtaining the best researchers, often stars as they were called. 2) Research-led where the focus moves to developing high quality research groups or research areas. 3) Institution-led where the emphasis changes to creating research/researcher-attractive institutions, through changing funding and recruitment systems. The research suggests that research or researcher-led programmes on their own are unlikely to be effective, and certainly will be inefficient in establishing balanced and sustainable mobility patterns. They can only be effective and efficient in the context of integrated policies to develop institutional attractiveness in the context of institution-led policies. Point 2: Opening-up Closed Systems Personal contacts and networks in research will always be important but some research systems are more open than are others. The accepted wisdom is that open research systems that emphasise competition for posts from all comers are more effective in terms of producing high quality scientific research. Opening up the UK system is being achieved by the Research Assessment Exercise and the associated funding structures. EU programmes and their associated mobility networks, while helpful, are effective only at the non-tenured, transient, junior post-doc level. Perhaps the most important action here could be targeted at the critical point, in a researchers life when they first have 3 to 5 years of genuine research autonomy. This is the transition to a junior research group leader. Such positions are currently very scare and highly prized by researchers. They could represent a major potential driver 54

of research performance. These awards could be targeted at young research leaders (setting up their own teams) or groups of researchers (establishing a joint research initiative or centre) and should include money to establish a research infrastructure where needed. Point 3: Encouraging Openness for Regional Development Increasing levels of researcher mobility, global and within the EU, may exacerbate regional disadvantage. The long-term objective should be the development of worldclass institutions in these regions, and all actions should tend in this direction. This implies research strategy to permit the targeted research development of specific institutions (and, much more difficult, the exclusion of others). Many regions are developing or already have forms of Regional Innovation Strategy within which such targeting can take place. Within such strategies the opening up of research institutions in less favoured regions to make them more open to the wider scientific community seem to be important. Low attractiveness creates a negative feedback in which the quality of researchers falls and the centres become progressively closed to outsiders. In addition to such institutional reform, the attraction of junior research leader, funded with a strong international dimension, might act as a powerful development mechanisms for research institutions. Incentives along the lines of start-up grants for high potential researcher might have a worthwhile effect. They might be targeted at institutions that are active trying to establish a more open and dynamic research culture. Such international research groups within closed systems may provide the critical mass and continuity to catalyse the opening up of such systems. This may be more attractive than simply targeting the return of individual nationals from abroad. Point 4: Responding to Globalisation The internationalisation of science has been taking place over many years. In recent years its complexion is changing, signalled by the growing numbers of Chinese and Indian researchers in the US system. This has strong implications for the EU. To achieve a similar openness would require qualitatively different elements and orientations in national and EU research policy. Perhaps both national and EU-level research programmes should acknowledge these changes, if we are to draw full benefit from: 1) the increasingly globally distributed location of knowledge production (who would have thought 20 years ago, that major EU universities would have been visiting Bangalore); and 2) the increasing mobility of researchers themselves. Point 5: The Possibly Perverse Incentives of Mobility Schemes Our interviews gave some indications that outward mobility is already well developed. There are enough scholarships, studentships, fellowships, research associate and assistant and other positions available to support the mobility of good quality researchers. The risk is that extra funding will support the greater mobility of weaker researchers to mediocre institutions where publication opportunities are few. This might store up return mobility problems. Others have accused it variously of expanding the post-doc labour market, creating unreasonable expectations in junior researchers, using up a critical year or two of their early research career and damaging their employability.


The weaker researcher, in this savage labour market, may be better advised (in human life terms) to either stay close to the home lab or to move while they are still young into a position in industry or commerce. This points towards the need for strong quality controls and performance measures on mobility schemes in general and in particular for researchers and the centres that host them. From the interviews it was clear that just having been a grant holder of some schemes offers considerable prestige to researchers (e.g. Wellcome, Howard Hughes). Strong selectivity requirements are perhaps design features for effective mobility programmes. Point 6: Return Mobility Schemes Science is an elitist game. Researchers move to get an opportunity to work in the best places with the best people. Also in the disciplines we looked at a period abroad in a high quality laboratory is seen as an essential component of a curriculum. Researchers are, however, also extremely grateful for return mobility funding, particularly when they are well structured, leading to solid, preferably autonomous, research in which they can apply their new found skills from abroad. However, the match between the instrument and the research system is crucial. They can have perverse effects for example if they permit researchers to return to a precarious position of returned but not established. Also, mobility programme design needs to take account of the Missing Link in the career structure, which is to provide for research autonomy, for good researchers just after their first post-doc experience at an age of 27/30 years, possibly slightly older in some research systems. This would stabilise good researchers and help rejuvenate the more closed, hierarchical, research systems. Linked to strategies for developing institutional attractiveness (the first point above), this might imply an avenue of institutional development though encouraging promising young researchers as catalysts of new centres of excellence. 4.2 THE RESEARCH LADDER

Point 7: The Social Contract The precarious and poorly paid lives of PhDs and post-docs is astonishing, especially in comparison to the quality of the people concerned. With the increase of post-doc positions, research careers in most Member States are becoming precarious until a relatively advanced age with a high rate of attrition. The career structure often leads to a large Waiting Room full of post-docs on short term contracts, often with poor, if any, associated social welfare provisions. Few get out of this waiting room to establish an autonomous research path and a tenure-track career. For all the others, future prospects or exits from this uncertainty are unclear. Scientific research takes place more in the realm of a social contract than a legal contract. There are tacit rules of the game which non-tenured researchers must play in their apprenticeship to become full members of the elitist society of scientists. In return, they are promised in the vaguest terms - the possible glory of publication, acknowledgement and membership of the tenured and very little else.


The social and economic uncertainties will deter talented people from entering research as a career and will cause them to be risk averse when considering a period of international experience. This waiting room syndrome may explain a large part of the observed decreasing attractiveness of education in science and research careers. Even if there is still competition to become part of this community of scientific researchers, public sector ICT research is now showing some retention difficulties. The best and the brightest tend to chose careers not only with better salary but also with more explicit, reasonable and clear rules of the game and perspectives for their career. Clearer signals might help regarding salary expectations, provision for social welfare, a explicit statements about prospects of autonomy and tenure, and preparation for leaving public research. It might be useful for the EU and national research bodies to consider whether the social contract should be strengthened. In the UK, probably the EUs most open market for researchers, a move has been made with the Concordat for Research Management. It might be helpful for EU research policy to examine similar approaches, perhaps a peer-review across Europe, to develop more attractive contract and employment conditions for researchers. Features might be implemented such as explicit quality controls and performance targets not just on academic performance but in terms of the way in which entry and exit from the system is handled. Additionally independent advisory services for mobile researchers at national and international level might help people making the wrong choices. Point 8: Reducing the Risks One of the most constant findings in this report was the role of personal contact and direct knowledge of the researcher prior to recruitment. While many researchers are recruited through formal open competitions, even here informal and prior knowledge is often important. For the most part this is not simply nepotism and favouritism, though no doubt that occurs. It is a rational response to reduce uncertainty. The supervisor, the research employer acts in a world of bounded rationality and limited search. Also, hiring a person is always a risk. One researcher observed they may look good on paper but be dogs in the lab. For more senior posts that carry tenure there are often legal requirements that the process should be formal and open. But the risks that the institution carries if it makes a poor choice are much higher. In general, for more junior posts the search and recruitment procedures are weaker (and less costly). Thus for post docs there is a greater the need for personal knowledge and networks, in order to even get into the running. Typically, research leaders minimise risk in a number of ways, most obviously they hire someone they know will work and that they can work with. On this basis the local candidate can look very good. In some labs, the social contract has a certain local reality as a practice between professor and student. Researchers stationed outside the EU students can be particularly risky. There seem to be a number of ways in which these type of risks are lessened, permitting an easier flow of researchers between research institutions and, one assumes, more efficient research systems. The most common mechanism is the recommendation of one senior researcher to another on the good performance of the post-doc, their friendship may depend. In this context, the development of research networks across the EU has been effective in lowering both risk and transaction costs.


Efforts to draw together and support the development of EU web-based sites and tools to build upon existing national-level efforts such as might be helpful. Such systems however may work where there is knowledge of the worth of a Finnish PhD or post-doc research in INSERM in France. They may also help for people that want to return from abroad. But, they will not work easily for the increasing number of non-EU researchers that are interested to pursue their careers in Europe. Perhaps, to raise the possibilities for return from the USA and to enhance the potentially large flows of non-EU researchers into the EU, consideration of developing structured relationships with non-EU centres might be imagined. These could be in the form of reinforcing the existing structures of co-operation with United States (as the examples of ICSI, Media Lab) and even inclusion into research networks the more prestigious parent institutions in other countries such as China or India that could be sending researchers to the EU. Currently many excellent researchers are being ignored by EU research institutions simply through unfamiliarity with their parent institutions. An improvement in information systems / signalling systems could be useful in improving the efficiency of the labour market. For example, more explicit and transparent rules on recruitment and promotion moreover are known to be generally positive for women, as they provide a more objective basis upon which to make comparisons. Point 9: Economic Efficiency Efficiency is a concept, which doesnt always sit easily with scientific work. Research is inherently uncertain and its outputs are difficult to quantify, as is the utility of such outputs. Although not directly impacting on mobility, it was notable in the interviews that there is high attrition rate amongst female researcher in life sciences: apparently there are to begin with fewer female undergraduates in the ICT field. But in life sciences the majority of undergraduates are women and they represent very high proportions of PhD and junior post-doctoral researchers. But relatively few of these women seem to make it up the ladder to research leader and/or tenured positions. It indicates remarkable inefficiency and waste in research systems if so many junior female researchers are discarded along the way. The greater openness and fluidity of research systems suggested above might help to retain the best female researchers but further steps may be needed to reduce this profligate waste of the talents and expertise of this body of researchers. In fact all attempts to reduce the waste of talented researchers can only be to the good. At senior level there is concern that achieving tenure in universities transforms the best researchers at the height of their powers, at least in universities, into teachers and administrators. One of greatest concerns thrown up in our work on mobility is that it might encourage further brain waste: i.e. the exit of people from research into unrelated fields where their talents and expertise are not applied. This begs questions about the expectations on research careers and how explicit is the social contract that researchers accept when entering onto a track towards a PhD or post-doc. Most important is the need for a graceful exit from academic research into other fields of activity into research-


related roles in teaching, public administration, commerce or industry. Such intersectoral bridges need to be constructed as part of the work on mobility as the rules of the elitist game of science will never allow all the occupants of the waiting room to pass through to a permanent research career. And indeed, further along the career path, if research productivity declines it should be possible to pass through again into a new role at senior level in research administration or higher level teaching.


ANNEX: FIELDWORK GUIDELINES Guidelines for the structured interviews ESTO-JRC/IPTS mobility study

Recall we limit our investigation to two scientific sectors, which are ICT and Biotechnology. Furthermore, we focus on the return of expatriates in their country of origin for taking either permanent or tenure-track position in academic (or academictype) research. In other words, we are interested only, for each country we study, in nationals going abroad and coming back. The interviews concern 3 institutions (at least one institutional representative) and, for each institutions, 2 researchers. That makes 9 interviews in total. Each interview should be synthesised in a 2 to 5 pages note following the structure in three parts as described below. Comments can complement the interview note. In addition, for the sake of clarity of the note, you should you draw up a 2 to 3 page additional note (note n 10) explaining the national career development paths for researchers, looking particularly for transition points in careers, points at which tenure is achieved, formal decision making process, and paying special attention to the possible effects on researchers returning from abroad. This set of 10 notes is the delivery expected by each partner, the deadline being the 11th May at 18h00 (this is a strict deadline, since the meeting to shape the report will take place on Monday 14th). Targets for interviews 1. Type of case study - institutes/ research centre Three case studies in public research system, at least two being university based Cases selected from biotech and ict sector 2. Type institutional representative (at least one per case) Should provide background information of the centers Should be able to comment on the overall issues of researcher international mobility Should have an overview of developments in the discipline nationally Should be directly involved in recruitment for the research group / institute / institution 3. Researchers (two per case) The core part of the sample should be young researchers (i.e. less than 35 with 2-5 years post doctoral experience) having come back to their country of origin on a permanent or tenure track position. Some more experienced researchers might also be interviewed given that they might be contending for permanent full professorships from abroad All should have significant experience abroad and have returned in the past two years


Please pick at least one female researcher to interview for preference aim at a gender balance, as far as possible. The researchers should have been recruited back in the home country with a view towards establishing a permanent career in academic research in the home country (e.g. to a tenured university post, to a tenure track position or to a fellowship that provides a ladder to a permanent position) Orientations 1. Guarantees of anonymity in the final report should be given to interviewees. This will be achieved at the final report generation by making sure that remarks cannot be attributed to individuals or research centres. The list of research centres that cooperated though will be provided. 2. For all interviewees they should be questioned about the situation in their discipline as well as their direct experience at a personal level or in their own institute. 3. Case studies should be chosen as illustrative/interest. They cannot be representative. Questions for the institutional representative (recruiter) (at least one per case study) 1 Perception of the mobility issue - what is the recruiters perception and knowledge of the researchers international mobility issue (views on brain drain is it an issue in their discipline, country, for their own centre ; are they able to recruit and retain the best calibre researchers, are they typical in this in respect of their peers in the national biotech or ICT scene ; probe on these issues to see why they respond in this way) - at what levels in research careers are the issues most evident why ? 2 National policy context - what in their view is the official national position on researchers international mobility - is the recruitment of nationals that have been abroad an issue on the policy agenda explain e.g. are there explicit policy measures to attract people back get them to elaborate on the measures and any specific objectives that might be set by policy in the form of performance targets. Are there informal barriers to recruiting researchers from abroad? - are these measures effective ( what are the strong points and where are there gaps) 3 Approach to recruitment adopted at disciplinary and local level - get them to explain the general procedures for recruitment to the different entry points for returners in their discipline (committees, competitions, at what level organised, etc) - Are the local procedures the same? In what ways do they differ? - what has been their recent experience in recruitment procedures Quality and quantity of candidates Proportion of researchers applying from overseas (home nationals?) Did the selection committee have a particular attitude towards returning candidates? Some background information on the centre, number and type of researchers and recent recruits is here welcome.


Questions for the researchers (researchers having been recruited from abroad for permanent or tenure-track positions in the institute) (two per case study) 1. Biography - Background, age, sex, where from, where they took their degrees, - Career to date main areas of specialisation, research record, management, teaching experience - Experience abroad how long, in what role, why they went, - Return: why they wanted to come back, when they started to look for the chance to return, - What obstacles did they face Administrative (pensions, tax, etc) Income Contract structure Personal factors (family, job opportunities for spouse, Professional (research quality at home/abroad, opportunities to do interesting research, adequacy of infrastructure) - Did they find it easy to integrate into the research culture in your institute (what kind of reception did you receive?) - What were the key triggers of you decision to come home in the end? 2. Home institution - Do you think your experiences are typical of people in your discipline (e.g. ; other researchers in your research centre, and elsewhere in your discipline nationally) - Did your institution face any particular difficulties in bringing you back? Is this typical? Why? - Does your institution/research centre have any policy to attract back researchers that have been abroad? Is this a proactive strategy or is it more on a case by case basis? - Do you feel your period abroad is helping your career progression within the research centre why? - More generally how does recruitment work within your discipline. Especially is a period abroad a positive attribute for career development and progression or is there a risk of being locked out? 3. National policy - What is your perception of the national support that is given to support researchers that are mobile? Are their schemes to aid mobility and to aid the return of home nationals? Do these schemes work? Why? - Get them to elaborate on the measures and any specific objectives that might be set by policy in the form of performance targets. Are there informal barriers to recruiting researchers from abroad?