Human flows in science and technology




The mobility of Human Resources in Science and Technology (HRST) has become one of the main elements of knowledge societies. On the one hand, science feeds into knowledge transfer; whilst on the other, scientists require a training which is increasingly demanding and involves mobility to prestigious research centres. The movement of people is greater given the intensification of economic activities and the improvement of communication and information technologies. Also science has become a global phenomenon that relies on the feedback of networks, foreign talent and knowledge from other research teams. The mobility of scientists plays a double role in strengthening professional careers and providing mechanisms of acquiring new talent in R&D and innovation systems.

Although mobility and diffusion of knowledge has always been linked, the extension and complexity of the phenomenon has generated a significant change in the state of the question. Statistical data from the OECD and OIM (International Organisation for Migration) show its quantitative and qualitative importance which has implied the use of the term, “brain circulation”. Meanwhile, data indicates that each country and scientific culture (knowledge areas, public and private sector) have their own specific characteristics. Often this diversity is ignored and mobility of qualified personnel is treated as a homogeneous phenomenon. The ‘circulation’ of scientists, however, can only be counted if the scientists concerned return to their country of origin. Sometimes, however they do not return due to personal preferences, insufficiencies in the scientific structure of the country of origin or for other reasons. Even, if we consider only this type of leave-return mobility, the consequences for each actor, their professional trajectory and research centres is often extremely different.

The objective of this project wa to establish the impact of the inflows and outflows of highly skilled human resources on a) individual professional trajectories and b) on the science and technology systems of the sending and receiving countries. We maintain that both levels of analysis are interconnected – contributing firstly to the construction of scientists identity and, secondly, the science that is produced at a national level. The attraction and retention of talent personified in the most valuable researchers is one of the most important elements that supports the R&D and innovation system in the knowledge economy.

Start date: 1 January 2009 – End date: 31 December 2012.

Lead researcher: Ana M. González Ramos

Funding body:


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