Not that long ago, many European governments were lamenting what became known as ‘brain drain', where the best and brightest scientists went abroad in search of funds, challenges and career growth. A new study suggests Finnish medical and health researchers are fattened up very nicely in foreign fields before returning to home pasture.
Researchers in the medical and healthcare fields who take up postdoctoral training abroad are well equipped to further their careers on return to Finland, according to a new report measuring the impact of targeted funding schemes on research fundamentals by the Academy of Finland's Research Council for Health.
|Mobile researchers bring home new skills for treating heart problems without surgery.|
The report, entitled ‘Strategic funding for enhanced research impact? Three examples from the field of health research', is part of the Academy's SIGHT2006 publications describing the state, level and impact of Finnish scientific research.
Mobility, it appears, is a valuable ingredient in furthering careers in this field of research. A period of international training, the Academy suggests, is by no means a career killer back home. It adds not only to researchers' knowledge, but also to their awareness and understanding of science policy abroad.
This could be of growing importance as more and more researchers collaborate on international projects, such as through the EU's Framework Programmes and international research co-operation.
Mobility also strengthens skills related to project leadership and administration, according to the Academy. What's more, through broader contact with fellows and peers, the experience helps create networks that benefit Finnish research overall.
Take paediatric cardiologist Jaana Pihkala as a case in point. She took part in a bilateral researcher exchange in Toronto from 1997 to 1999. At that time, Finland did not have a paediatric cardiologist specialised in the field of ‘interventional cardiology' – treating heart problems without surgery.
Toronto, on the other hand, hosted one of the world's leading units in this field, the Hospital for Sick Children. Pihkala jumped at the chance to do postdoctoral studies there. First, she investigated aortic function in laboratory animals and then progressed to clinical work in the second year. She was even involved in projects which developed new methods for treating congenital heart problems.
“After returning to Finland, I've been working as a paediatric cardiologist in the Department of Cardiology at the Hospital for Children and Adolescents,” she told the Academy. With her career firmly on track, today she is in charge of the catheter laboratory, where her Toronto experience has proven time well spent.
But she is not the only one to benefit. “My research and study period abroad has benefited the whole clinic and children suffering from heart problems,” Pihkala points out, adding that public funding unlocked this potential by supporting her entire stay abroad.
Copies of the impact report are available in Finnish only.
Academy of Finland