'IT IS IMPORTANT
to recognise that when researchers travel and work in another part
of Europe they are not only exposed to different ways of conducting
and managing research, and to different research equipment and infrastructures,
they are also exposed to different social and cultural experiences.
Their increased awareness of these - and their recognition of their
diversity across Europe - can be as important as their newly acquired
knowledge and understanding,' believes Halina Koslowska of the University
of Olsztyn (Poland). It is a view widely shared by participants
at a conference entitled An Enlarged Europe for Researchers,
which was held in Brussels in June.(1)
A scientific tradition
A Europe which includes the current 13 candidate
countries will have a 30% larger population, including trained scientists
and talented (future) researchers. At secondary school, there are
more students strong in maths in the Central European countries
than there are in the EU. What is more, these regions have a special
strength when it comes to women scientists.(2)
All the more reason, then, to be wary of the brain drain. 'The brain
drain is a significant phenomenon, essentially to the United States,'
explained one Romanian researcher. 'In Bucharest, the Canadian consulate
has opened an office specifically to recruit young graduates. Another
trend is to forsake the universities in favour of industry where
researchers are better paid - but rarely work on subjects linked
to their scientific education.'
A European career?
It is true that the 'American dream', facilitated
by a 'universal' language and an absence of red tape, can be very
attractive. For Vytautas Daujotis, of the University of Vilnius
(Lithuania), 'The standardised and very simple procedures for access
to US research institutions make it possible to find work there.
Whereas the diversity of cultures and scientific policies in Europe
sometimes present insurmountable obstacles to foreign researchers.'
The many legal, social and financial issues reflect the idiosyncrasies
of the national systems and, as Daniel Cadet (CNRS/FR) explained,
'There is an urgent need to think of the concept of a European career.'
Meanwhile Louise Ackers, professor of European law at Lancaster
University, drew attention to the obstacles to mobility facing many
married scientists, particularly if they have young children (child
care costs, schools, etc.). Listening to the conclusions of the
studies she has made of the subject, one realises how much easier
it is to work abroad if you are single.
Simplified procedures, an ambitious mobility
programme and new initiatives under the next framework programme
should all facilitate the movement of researchers. 'The structure
and organisation of research in an enlarged Europe will largely
determine the Union's future competitiveness, as well as its attractiveness
to researchers from all over the world,' pointed out Philippe Busquin.
The European Commissioner responsible for research drew attention
to a number of questions raised by the future integration of scientific
research in Europe, in particular 'the risk of divesting the candidate
countries of their infrastructures and best researchers, and thus
introducing new forms of the brain drain.'
To compensate for this, return grants (like
those that already exist under the Marie Curie programme) should
make it possible for researchers to return 'home' complete with
new knowledge and experiences, thereby promoting the essential transfer
Many Central and Eastern European scientists
can only conceive of exchange on a reciprocal basis. 'If we look
at the enlarged Europe, we must recognise that the partners are
not equal. But that does not mean one must think in terms of aid.
They are working together across the continent of Europe for mutual
benefit,' believes Halina Koslowska.
This 'bilateralism' is a key condition for
an integration which includes increased and continuous exchanges
between researchers. Dervila Donnelly, of the Dublin Institute for
Advanced Studies, sees the mobility of individuals as not only crucial
to scientific progress, but also beneficial to closer contacts between
institutions. It also permits complementarity between university
and industrial research.
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A Mobility Strategy for the European
This Communication, adopted by the
Commission on 20 June, highlights four fields of action
in creating favourable conditions for the mobility of
- information on the opportunities
available - thanks to a specific internet gateway
with details of posts, programmes, etc. - as well
as improved statistics;
- the creation of 'mobility centres'
providing researchers with practical assistance in
their efforts to set up abroad;
- more coherent support mechanisms,
at national and Community level - in particular based
on the exchange of good practices;
- an improved legal status
for researchers (visas, access to employment, social
What are the obstacles to the mobility
of researchers in Europe? Is the situation the same
in each country? What lessons can be drawn from good
practices in this field? After studying the problem
in various EU countries, a group of experts identified
a number of legal and administrative, socio-cultural,
professional and intersectoral obstacles facing researchers
seeking to work abroad.
The difficulties vary depending on
the length of stay and the initial status of the researcher
in his or her own country. Taxes and social security
(e.g. medical insurance, pension rights, maternity leave),
career opportunities and the recognition of diplomas,
and bridges between research and industry (creation
of spin-offs, intellectual property rights, etc.) vary
enormously between countries.
This useful document summarises the various obstacles
to mobility in the Member States and gives examples
of good practices in the various fields.
High-Level Expert Group on Improving Mobility of Researchers
- Final Report - 04/04/2001
There is also a virtual aspect to
the integration of European research. Thanks to the
GEANT project developed at CERN, a broadband telecommunications
network will link European universities and research
centres, enabling those working there to use the high
technology of the grid. The successor to the web, this
innovation should vastly increase the scope for cooperation