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European scientists in Canada : the transatlantic brain drain Drenker, Michelle Irene


This study focuses on the emigration of scientists from the European Union to Canada, and the resulting ‘brain drain’ for Europe. While brain drain encompasses a wide array of professions and industries, the scientific research community is relatively cohesive, highly internationalized, and affords an arguably significant level of mobility for successful contributors. The European Union has attempted to remedy this loss of ‘star scientists’ by implementing a variety of schemes and initiatives aimed at re-attracting and retaining top scientists in Europe. Through the creation of the European Research Area, the EU has made an effort to better coordinate scientific research and development across member-states. At the same time, the allocation of funding to reintegration grants provides economic incentive for scientists who have left to return to Europe. Both schemes aim to position the European research community as a key player in the global competition for scientific talent. These initiatives notwithstanding, a significant percentage of scientists who have left have Europe have no intention to return. The question arises: why are European scientists emigrating to North America, specifically Canada, and why do they remain there, despite the variety of policies and programs aimed to attract and retain the highly skilled workforce in the European Union? The question is examined through qualitative methods, including both policy analysis as well as primary data gathered from 20 in-depth interviews. The project provides a close-up perspective on the motivations and concerns underpinning the migration decisions of these ‘star scientists’, and the ways in which they navigate not only the research sector, but also the world.

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