Is it me, or did Janet explode by the old 300 world barrier? In any case, she brings up some good issues in her expansive post, and there is one thing I want to follow up in regards to the “brain drain.” Who is it good for? Who is being drained?
This is a definitely “US centric” question. As an American, and a mildly patriotic one (or, more properly, US-egoistic one) I do look at this question through the “but is it good for America?” lens. Some people might ask, “but is it good for the world?” (that is, brain drain to the United States). That depends, but in general, I think yes!
My father is an immigrant scientist. He came to this country to complete a Ph.D. and stayed on. I have uncles who are also immigrant scientists. This phenomenon is part of my own life. Is the United States (or England) better for their presence? I would probably say to some extent since they are taxpayers that don’t bring much negative social baggage (Islamic fundamentalism, anti-sociality, disease, etc.). Immigration has certainly helped them, and it has probably helped the nation to which they immigrated to to some extent…but what about the nation they left?
First, we need to keep this issue in perspective. Research suggests that the “brain drain” problem varies by “donor” nation as a function of size, that is, nations like India and China don’t feel a big hit because they are so populous, while African nations are literally drained. Some people would argue that this drain is a geopolitical issue since the native intellectual classes are simply being exported to the West. But, the reality is that I suspect failing states will fail no matter the presence of scientists, research facilities and grant monies simply aren’t part of the picture for someone with a doctorate in a failing state, survival is.
As an American it is to our benefit to drain other nations of their talent, but, the reality is that talent in many nations will simply go wasted if they don’t go abroad. It is true that email and what not ties together scientists from across the world, but in some regions email is simply not possible when you don’t know if your family is going to be able to have a roof over their heads. The emigration of educated classes does not help the situation of a failed state, but I would hold that it the first and foremost duty of an individual is to their family. On the other hand, nations like India and China can “spare” a little talent, so why not avail ourselves of it?