Networking brains: How Horizon Europe can foster excellence in central European science

Research and innovation in central Europe is held back by the emigration of scientists and engineers. Rather than framing policies around encouraging their permanent return, the EU should help universities establish brain networks, in which modern communications enable scientists in the diaspora to contribute to research at home.

As a recent Science|Business article highlighted, central European universities are stuck in a Catch 22. To improve their standing they need to attract funding from EU framework programmes that award grants on the basis of excellence. But starting from behind, and with demand far exceeding supply, they find it difficult to compete with their counterparts in the west of Europe.

This difficulty drives – and is compounded by – the brain drain, which sees the best and brightest central European scientists and engineers take up posts in the world’s leading universities in the EU and the US.

There are endless debates about how to attract them to return. But as long as conditions in the countries of origin do not improve, this brain circulation is unlikely to be more than a trickle, and will not compensate for the size of the original brain drain, as is highlighted in the OECD 2017 report on global migrations and brain drain.

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