Ragab Saad Al-Sayyed
Senior Taxonomist, National Institute of
Oceanography & Fisheries,
The debate about the essential right of people to migrate from one place
to another is always mixed with emotions and, sometimes, falsities; e.g.
you can not depend on most available statistics; countries ( drained )
from their brains tend to maximize their loss, and those gained brains
give you false figures, that is � perhaps � because a significant portion
of the skilled workers and scientists they attracted had already changed
their original nationalities and became real citizens of new homes. And,
in some cases, you find it is very hard to differentiate between terms or
definitions; e.g. (a migrant) and (a citizen). In some places, a man can
acquire new home nationality after staying and working for five years; in
others, he is always a foreigner, even after staying 30 years serving the
host country, and he has to depart !. In addition to these small
complications, there are major variations from one region to another and
from a country case to another.
The October, 2003 session of the �Dialogue Forum of Bibliotheca
Alexandrina �(DFBA), was about Science and Scientists in Third World, with
special reference to Arab countries. The participant speakers tried to
answer a key question: Why investigators of third world countries do not
to return to their homelands after acquiring their PhDs from US and
Speakers gave reasons for these one-way PhD missions, I summarize them as
1 � Lack of scientific infrastructure (well-equipped laboratories, up to
date references and scientific journals, ..Etc.).
2 � Lack of fair promotion measures that take into consideration personal
activities and talent, at least.
3 � Low standard of living (insufficient wages and lack of real health
4 � Dependence of countries of origin on importing technologies rather
than establishing national scientific and technological bases.
5 � Slow or static and corrupt administration systems.
6 � Continuous political disturbances and conflicts and absence of
concrete active scientific research plans and ambitious national
developmental projects. These hindering conditions have prevailed for
about half a century.
Contributing to this same point, an Iraqi speaker said that in �Saddam�s
Era � more than 4800 highly qualified and skilled Iraqi physicians escaped
to western countries, mainly to the UK. He added that France attracts a
number of physicians from North Africa exceeding 13,000. Here, we can
refer to some numbers given by a professor in medicine among the
attendants; he mentioned that in 1990, the number of physicians who
emigrated out of their homelands was 250,000 representing 6 % of all the
world�s physicians, excepting China, and more than two thirds of those
distinctive migrants were concentrated in 3 developed countries : USA (
158,000 ), UK ( 41,000 ) and Canada ( 9,000). That was followed by a
Sudanese participant who wished to tell us that the Arabs� yearly spending
on weapons is 60 billion US dollars, while their spending for scientific
research does not exceed 600 million US dollars, a year.
Participants in that ( DFBA ) session discussed impacts of the problem on
underdeveloped or developing countries and concluded three major negative
1 � The shortage in scientific staff leading national economic and social
developmental programs; this, in turn, has direct negative effects on all
aspects of life. According to a regional official report, one third of
African skilled workers emigrated in the past few decades, and this costs
the continent about 4 billion US dollars, in addition to the deterioration
of ecosystems and environmental resources.
2 � Loss of funds spent on educating and training skilled experts. An
international report about global development in 2001, mentioned that the
emigration of Indian experts in the field of information technology (IT),
to USA and other developed countries, costs the Indian economy more than 2
billion US dollars/year.
3 � Brain-drained countries become unable to organize future projects and
programs to develop their educational institutions and research centers.
What is going on in the brain-gaining side ?
Introductory Note : on this side, losers and gainers intersect; Stop your
brain drain and drain the others� brains ! !
The fair observer can easily see that western countries are experiencing a
real dilemma, a truth that becomes clearer for Europe. Let us go directly
to the core problem: European Children !
At the beginning of the 20th century, the European population numbered one
third of the total global population; now it is about one tenth. The main
reason is the declining of European women�s fertility from 2.6 to 1.6
child for every woman in the last quarter of the last century. Recent
studies show that the number of Europeans in labour age is expected to
decrease in the first quarter of this century (1) . This dangerous
phenomenon drastically affects the nature and composition of the European
workforce and labour market and, hence, may result in a negative impact on
the European economy. This phenomenon is also expected to be accompanied
by a soaring of labour wages, especially for skilled workers, in addition
to some social complications. In the last decade of the 20th century, many
European countries worked hard to increase their women�s fertility, with
insignificant success. Thus, frankly, let us say that this is a
fundamental point in the running debate about the brain drain and gain.
All western countries have realized that they are in great need for a
French Measures :
The debate was intense and loud in France, between those who hate
foreigners for different reasons and experts who know the truth : the
French economy is vulnerable to a real crisis due to large gaps in the
labour market which must be filled with 142,000 migrants/year, in the
period between 2000 to 2009; to be increased to 148,000 migrants, a year,
in the next decade; and to 180,000 migrants/year, in the decade 2020-2029.
German Measures :
Some members of Germany�s scientific community are truly affected by the
continuous loud warnings of European Union officials that the brain drain
is on the rise and Europe�s knowledge-based economy is threatened. Of
these warnings, two reports issued in November, 2002 by the European
Commission, state that �the growth rate of investment in the
knowledge-based economy is declining and the R & D investment gap between
the EU and the US is increasing, in favour of the US �. The report�s net
result : a brain drain is going on !
Reacting to this, the German government is now taking some new measures
and changes in the laws regulating immigration, to compensate for gaps
existing in the German skilled labour force, and to search for ways to
face the clear decrease in the German population.
The European Union Measures :
The EU aims at increasing its overall R&D spending to 3% of the GDP by
2010, and that aim requires 700,000 additional researchers by the end of
this decade, according to the EU Ambassador to the UN, John Richardson.
Thus, Europe has to meet two needs : stopping her brain drain; and
attracting foreign brains. To fulfill these needs, the EU is implementing
some measures to enhance career development and promote scientific
research, everywhere in the continent. Of these measures :
1 � The European Young Investigator Awards. These 1.4 million US dollars
awards offer each of 25 winners up to 290,000 US dollars for up to 5
years. The awards are open for young scientists � wherever they come from�
says a European Science Foundation official.
2 � A scientific visa, proposed by the EC, opening all the continent to
3 � Mobility Centers is another EC proposal. Up to 400 centers to be
established throughout Europe, to help both European and foreign
scientists and their families, to settle in Europe (2).
A Canadian Contradiction :
Canada built an internet site ( Canada�s Brain Drain ), opposing the
Canadian Brain drain and calling for foreign experts to join the Canadian
workforce (3). It is clear that the site is directed mainly towards the US
attraction for Canadian brains, beginning with a meaningful Q & A :
Q. : What does the USA have that Canada doesn�t ?
A. : Thousands of Canada�s most talented young minds !
The site continues the counter-attack against the
US enticing Canadian brains, giving some statistical facts :
1 � The number of Canadian physicians who were admitted as permanent
residents to the southern neighbor in 1996 was 522, equal to the number of
graduates of 5 Canadian medical schools.
2 � In a TV survey, 1 out of every 10 survey respondents believes that
well-educated Canadians who remain in Canada are losers !
On the other hand, the news corner on the site underlines new steps by the
Canadian Government to facilitate immigration of skilled workers,
including businessmen. A newcomer should acquire 75 /100 points in the old
scale to choose migrants; now the ratio is 67/100.
A Half-filled Cup :
However, migration ( sometimes circulation or exchange ) of scientists, in
my opinion is not completely bad. Generally, migration is a natural human
right. It is also a natural phenomenon; every human being migrates when he
needs to fulfill certain needs. Electrons in atoms migrate from (low)
energy levels to (high) ones and from (donor) atoms to (acceptors).
Moreover, some creatures overcome natural boundaries ( e.g. salinity and
depth ) to migrate into, or invade, new environments, searching for richer
food resources or safer ecosystems.
In his speech at the celebration to announce the Alexandria Prize for
Creativeness, in the summer of 2002, Prof. Ahmed Zewail said that
scientists should have the right to move freely and stay in places where
they can work and innovate. He added that the migration of local experts
and researchers is not the problem, which is rather the absence of the
environment suitable for them to live and work. �Instead of letting genius
brains rust and die away in their own poor and unstable societies, they
should be free to fly to other green pastures to flourish and give us
beautiful fruits !�, Zewail said. The key issue, he concluded, is how to
keep in touch with them, to allow them to share in developing their native
homelands. And when he was interviewed in Al-Jazirah TV Channel, Ahmed
Zewail advised Arab countries to study how China had dealt with this
problem. He told the Al-Jazirah T.V. correspondent that you can find
Chinese scientists everywhere in US research centers; they do well for
themselves and, at the same time, keep loyal and in touch with their
people. They represent one of China�s most important resources(4) !
Zewail has an optimistic point of view. He says that the ( Have-nots ) can
make use of modest facilities in carrying out their own scientific
research programs which would be developed in the future into advanced
(1) � R. S. Al-Sayyed, European Children Sketch Their Continent Future !
(In Arabic). Al-Arabi Mag., Qwait, issue 403, June 1992.
(2) - A. Scott, �EU offers cash to entice young scientists,� The
Scientist, September 23, 2003.
(3) � http://www.Canada�s brain drain.com
(4) � Science, 304, 1266 ( 2004 ).
(5) � Ahmed Zewail. Voyage through time. Walks of life to the Nobel Prize.
The American University in Cairo Press. Cairo- New York, 2002.
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