Innovation: collaboration creed rather than mobility mantra

When it comes to mobility, Central and Eastern European scientists are among the champions. This has often resulted in an entire generational gap in their country’s scientific community. Now, some of the brainiest Eastern European scientists are doing research in the most dynamic research hubs in Western Europe, the US and Asia. And their home countries are left to pick up the pieces.

Central and Eastern European countries attempting to create new research hubs in Eastern Europe—de facto competing with the more established hubs—could find it extremely difficult. Stepping up to the plate may require a level of support that few countries can afford today. And brain drain reversal programme often demonstrate success commensurate with the amount of resources devoted to these schemes.

So what now? Should research and innovation be the prerogative of countries which have been able to attract international talents before others? Or is there another way?

Policy makers in Europe need to recognise that the mobility mantra comes with its own intrinsic limitations. Some in less research-intensive countries have already come to realise that attempting to reverse the brain drain is not a solution for them. Instead, reliance on increased research collaborations across Europe could become their new creed.

To recognise their contribution, it may be necessary to establish different ways of measuring success in research and innovation than merely focusing on country-centred metrics. It would make sense to account of the fact that research is organised through networks and increasingly communicated in the virtual world. And not just centred on a single location. Thus, it could be useful when evaluating research and innovation successes to focus more systematically on performance indicators providing recognition for highly networked scientists who may otherwise not be located in the most research-intensive hubs.

This may involve giving more weight to the level of international collaborations of these scientists’ institution and researchers’ own ability to foster connections. In doing so, we could provide policy makers with a more relevant measure of researchers’ contribution to a particular discipline, instead of giving undue importance to their location.

Featured image credit: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Chínmay

Go back to the Special Issue: Looking East

Sabine Louët

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