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«BRAIN DRAIN FROM CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE A study undertaken on scientific and technical staff in ten countries of Central and Eastern Europe April ...»

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A study undertaken on scientific

and technical staff

in ten countries of

Central and Eastern Europe

April 1997


Foreword Synthesis


Summary of Country Reports

Bulgaria Czech Republic

Estonia Hungary Latvia

Lithuania Poland Romania

Slovak Republic Slovenia

List of Authors (with addresses)

Migration - Europe's Integration and the Labour Force Brain Drain When communism collapsed many feared that the resulting 'brain drain' would both cripple the economies of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and finally result in a flow of scientific and technical expertise into undesirable weapon development.

A collaborative survey carried out in ten Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, however, has revealed that the brain drain was much less serious than once feared. It also shows that the EU programmes supporting science in Central and Eastern Europe have the potential to contribute towards greater stability and to encourage scientists to remain in their home institutes.

Social scientists recognized the need to help the former communist states through their inevitable period of transition and instability As an initial step, the BRAIN-DRAIN project was set up to monitor and analyze the movement of scientific staff in and from ten former communist countries. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The objectives were to study the loss of academic staff from academies of science, universities and research institutes;

to distinguish between academic groups which were more or less inclined to migrate according to professional areas of interest, age, ethnic background, level of qualification; and to collect information about working conditions and other motivations for leaving or staying.

The project was financed by the European Commission and carried out within the framework of COST.

The present publication contains a synthesis report on the studies carried out in the different countries as well as summary reports from the countries which participated in the project. Though the reports are different in size and structure, they still give a valuable overview on the situation of emigration and brain drain after the political and economic changes in Central and Eastern Europe.

Rainer Gerold Director DGXII RDT Cooperation with Third Countries and International Organizations Daniela Bobeva Project Coordinator Centre for the Study of Democracy Sofia, Bulgaria MIGRATION





The purpose of this report is to summarize the data concerning migration of scientists from ten transition countries. The report focuses on the individual characteristics of each country as well as on some of the general tendencies for the region as a whole.


1. The project was carried out by research teams from the following transition countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. Initially, Albania was included in the project, but the project coordinator left Albania and the contract could not start. Many difficulties were encountered in carrying out an international cross-country analysis on migration issues.

Although the countries included had quite similar backgrounds during the socialist period, they are now different. Migration as a phenomenon has a different economic, historical, cultural and ethnic background in each of those countries. In addition, the researchers involved in the project had varying scientific backgrounds: sociologists, geographers, economists, etc. Therefore, a common research approach and methodology was quite difficult to achieve. The other difficulty of the project was due to the fact that some of the contractors were given different tasks according to their technical expertise. The difficulties were increased by the fact that, in some countries, more than one institute was involved in the project. Fortunately, all these complications were overcome, thanks to the efforts and good will of all participants.

2. The main objective of the study was not to develop new concepts or to reexamine the theory of 'brain drain' but rather to evaluate the process and to analyze the

results. The main objectives were:

- Study the loss of academic staff from academies of science, universities and research institutes;

- Distinguish between academic groups which are more or less inclined to emigrate according to professional areas of interest, age, ethnic background, level of qualification, and to collect information about working conditions and other reasons for leaving or staying.

As a first step, the changes within the scientific communities of each country were described. The second step was to evaluate the loss of scientific personnel; _ losses not only due to emigration, but also including scientists who merged into the private sector, got fellowships, or became unemployed.

3. The teams were given freedom within the following methodologicalframework:

- Common basic terms were elaborated.

The project was based on the UN definition of migration. 'Emigration' accounts for 'any residing of a local person in another non-resident country for a period longer than one year1. Part of the intellectual emigration is external migration of scientists. In terms of the project the category of 'scientists' included persons with higher education, employed in all sorts of scientific institutions: higher educational establishments, institutes of academies of science, state-financed institutes, company financed institutes, profit and non-profit research institutions. It has been assumed that people professionally engaged in scientific activities are the main group susceptible to brain flow.

Not all emigration of scientists is 'brain drain'. Only cases in which emigration is connected with the continuation of scientific activities and research is considered as such. Many scientists have left their countries with the help of more liberal passport regulations in order to find better jobs, although not necessarily within the science field.

This kind of movement in most cases can be characterized as a waste of scientific potential, or 'brain waste'.

The active science restructuring, together with accelerating internal and external migration flows, led to a new categorization of these flows. New concepts were introduced, and assumptions were verified with regard to the internal movement of scientists in two main areas: a) Internal brain drain which is the lasting abandoning of science for the purpose of moving to private business or performing activities in any other area where scientific experience is being used; and b) Internal brain waste.

The international exchange of scholars, or brain exchange, has been studied separately, and is considered to include the variety of forms of short-term external migration (less than 1 year), work on joint scientific projects, part-time employment abroad, studies abroad, etc.

- Common questionnaires and codebooks were used.

* Questionnaire 1 was used for the potential migration survey (researchers working in research institutes at the time of the survey were interviewed with this questionnaire).

* Questionnaire 2 was used for the real migration survey (the heads of personnel departments filled in questionnaires for every scientist who had left their institute during the period 1989-1995, except for natural reasons -retirement, illness, death).

* Questionnaire 3 was used to investigate the assessment of the management of research institutes of the process of migration (directors/deans of research institutes were interviewed).

The 14 research teams were given the opportunity to include some additional questions to the common questionnaires, showing their particular interests.

- Common principles for sampling were used.

The main task of the project was to assess the loss of academic and research staff. In order to fulfill this task the real migration survey was carried out by the directors of personnel departments. This survey was rather difficult for the

following reasons:

- In most countries access to the personal records of the employees was limited.

- Some heads of personnel departments were newly appointed and did not know why the scientists left.

- Heads of the personnel departments did not know what happened to scientists who changed their positions several times.

- Some heads of personnel departments refused to cooperate.

Because of these problems, the principles of sampling were changed and each country followed a different approach. For example, Poland used a random sample; in Bulgaria all scientists who left the institutes were included in the survey, and in the Baltic countries a very low return rate was realized. These differences in sampling made cross-country' comparisons methodologically unacceptable.

The sample for the potential migration survey included only employees directly involved in research. Three groups of research institutes were included in the sample: Academies of Science, universities, research institutes owned by companies, NGOs and private establishments. Three main research areas were involved in the sample: natural sciences, technical-engineering and social sciences. This distribution helped to identify different patterns of migration according to different type of research institutes and scientific domains. All countries followed the recommendation to carry out the real and potential migration surveys in the same institutes.

The method of sampling was a combination of quota and random sampling. Differences among variables were measured in most of the countries by Chi-square (Person) test and Gamma coefficient.

The Directors (deans) of the same research establishments were interviewed. The questions related to brain drain issues, scientific exchange and the effect of all these on the development of the research institute. This survey provided important data on migration issues. A lot of non-standardized information was obtained and analyzed.

A common structure of the final reports was recommended to all project teams.

- Common data processing methods were used. All data was integrated into one file for all the countries, in which real and potential brain drain surveys were organized.

Comparative files were then prepared by the coordinator, in spite of the enormous difficulties encountered.

4. Although the research projects were based on the same structure, the reports became rather different. Each of them gives priority to different topics. We cannot conclude which approach is dominating - in some papers it was the demographical approach, in others a sociological or macro-economic approach. The process was as diverse as it is in reality. This is another substantial theoretical result of the project.

5. Only in Poland brain drain has been extensively studied previously. This is due to the fact that Poland experienced mass emigration of scientists already before the beginning of the reforms. The project contributed to the development of concepts on brain drain as well as to understanding this very specific historical period for science and society in general.

6. One of the most important results of the project was the huge amount of information which was collected. This information was difficult to be put in the countries' final reports. We do hope that this information will be further used for indepth analyses on more specific aspects of the brain drain issue.

7. Most of the participating countries had deficits in financing the project. However, the project teams succeeded to find alternative sources in order to carry out the survey.

8. All teams were asked to develop and suggest hypotheses, but only two countries met this request. The co-ordinator gave each team the opportunity to test their own hypothesis. At the same time the following general hypotheses were supposed to be


How did the macroeconomic situation in different countries influence the brain drain process?

It was assumed that the countries with a higher standard of living and a better economic and social situation as well as with stable and favourable conditions in science would have less migration (both real and potential) problems. That is why a statistical analysis was carried out. The cross-country comparison was a very important opportunity for the teams.

Is brain drain a natural result of opening up borders and science in post socialist societies, or is it mainly due to the difficulties connected with the transition?

The inclusion of Slovenia in the project provided an additional opportunity to verify this hypothesis. Slovenia had opened borders already before the transition. However, Slovenia experienced a real wave of brain drain only at the beginning of transition. This means that the deep economic and social transformation from planned to market economy contributes to the emigration of scientists. The difficulties linked to reforming the society and science increase the readiness to emigrate.

Are the countries different in their real and potential migration patterns?

It was expected that brain drain might have some common features in postsocialists countries, but increased differences became apparent.

Is brain drain still a problem in post-socialists countries or is the mass emigration of scientists due to active scientific co-operation?

The brain drain process, typical for the beginning of the reforms, has now been replaced by an intensive research exchange in the form of fellowships, joint research projects, short-term visits, part-time jobs, etc.

The survey did not confirm the hypothesis that brain drain is mainly seen as negative for the research institutes. Assessment of the process was more positive than expected, in all countries under investigation.

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