Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Drained Brains

Economist Ahmed Tritah published the results of an interesting study on the brain drain phenomenon, the migration of European scientists to the USA:

The study is based on American census statistics dating from 1980 to 2006 and examines the education, experience and labor quality of the migration flow across the ocean. In brief, he finds that the people who leave are over-averagely well educated and skilled compared to the population at the source country, and that the loss hurts. Not so surprisingly, he also found that countries which increased their spending in Research and Development experienced lower rates of expatriation to the United States.

It is unfortunate the available data ends 2006, since a lot has changed since and I would be interested to see newer statistics. The European Research Council and Germany in particular started many initiatives to counter the brain drain and it's been sufficient time one could see first effects.


  1. On the other hand, the very last and repeated professional opinion about science state in the States is huge over-production of scientists (which certainly includes European influx). And that might rather imply that what is usually called “brain drain” by mainstream establishment (with a clearly discerned and quite selfish underlying intention of local profits increase) can be closer to ... Europe getting rid of expensive ballast or rubbish. :) With the expected result of falling US economy. :) Yes, you did it, Bee, ruined the biggest imperialist economy! :) OK, joking, but every joke has a part of truth... No progress of science anywhere, so why accumulating scientists without progress? And then it's evident that it's always the world that pays for that “American” science (of any national origin)... And then, without joke, it's rather something like exponentially inflated expenditure for all non-productive spheres of activity (including science often closely related to military expenses, etc.) that really ruined the old great USSR... So take care, you brave young capitalists, it's your turn to die now... And note that until the very last moment, everybody in that falling system believes without doubt that nothing really serious can happen to their great world, no, never, not to them... Until they feel their ceiling on their shoulders, all those brave adherents to progress without real progress...

    It's all not about you, Bee, you're beyond statistics. One slightly strange feature, however, is that you so thoroughly avoid working in your dear and powerful motherland, Deutschland über alles, so full of scientific motivation and its inflated ambitions, on the background of missing jobs in the world... You could already be a professor there, with all those guarantees... And what you are now, just a brain drain... A blogging drain though... :) People always go west, your German replacement is talking Russian or Chinese, and you cannot return any more. Unless something transcendental, but transcendental is probably impossible in Germany, they won't sleep well while trying to explain the inexplicable. :) Nowhere to run any more.

  2. It's interesting that you know much more details about the career path of my wife than I do. Do you, Andrei, ever feel embarrassed about what you wrote?

  3. Andrei, Jesus man what is your problem with Bee? Give it a rest. You seem like an intelligent guy, why are you doing this?
    Can't you make your point without these personal attacks?

  4. Presumably the psychotics/creatives remained in Europe, while the congenial/conscientious had the necessary patience to clear the immigration hurdles. So Europe should have had a scientific explosion 1980-2006. :)

  5. Hi Bee,

    My own thoughts on the brain phenomena are I think it depends on what brains are being drained. If for instance if it be scientists involved in research of the more immediately practical side of things, such as geneticists, chemists, biologist and so on, this certainly has impact on a country. Yet if its theoretical physicists, it doesn’t matter much where they end up working, since what they discover is so general in nature it rapidly becomes simply a part of science’s basic understanding. Also, if you take into account that fundamental discovery often takes some time before it becomes of practical benefit, then who ends up cutting them a pay check doesn’t make a heck of a lot of difference from a national economic perspective.

    This recently became more poignant for me in reading Howard Burton’s book, when he describes his first talk with Mike Lazardis . Mike complained to Howard that even companies like his own still made a business out of exploiting what stands as being primarily 19th century scientific discovery . Upon reading this it struck me that more than likely any new and earth scattering discovery, if made today, won’t have its full depths be plumbed until the 22nd and 23rd centuries. So actually what you are now all struggling to succeed at will form to be the birthright and benefit of those generations of the future. I wonder in their wildest dreams if Faraday and Maxwell could have ever imagined a Blackberry? :-)


    P.S. Another thing this brings to mind is a scene from the movie made of Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff’, where they portrayed a meeting in the late fifties between some bureaucrats from the USSR and the US . They each were bragging about the progress of their own space programs and as to why. A USSR representative claimed they had the edge resultant of having so many German rocket scientists, with the response from the US delegate boasting they had even better German rocket scientists :-)

  6. 'Andrei's posts act like a brain drain, so painful are they to read.

    I can't quite figure out if its lack of rational content, latent crackpot/anti physics establishment vibe coming through, or perhaps the stream of conscious and excessive prolixity.

  7. Hey Andrei,

    Take it easy! Your fury is getting worse!

    It's difficult to get when you are making a "joke" (be it funny or not) or when you are serious: this would be easier to disentangle in a personal conversation, but we are at comment section in a blog.

    I can understand your fury towards the system, also I believe I can infer to a certain extent what differs and what matches between the points of view of Bee and you, but if I may, I would suggest you to express yourself in a little more objective way and leave your fury against Bee at another place. You may disagree with her and vice versa, you may think she is part of the system that you so much repudiate, but yet, a civilized conversation is possible.

    Bee does want to help to change the system, but you must understand that anyone that has this desire try to do it according to one's own evaluation and interests. This is unavoidable for anyone. But she's a reasonable person, quite above the average in this respect, so that you can be sure to have a reasonable exchange of ideas and even, perhaps, find common denominator, if only you change your tone and concentrate less on attacking her. You can be an acute critic to her by using another language.


    PS. And just a curiosity. Is it just an impression, or Bee appears to be directing herself to a politics career some day?

  8. Hi Christine,

    Not sure how you got that impression. I don't think I have the necessary politeness and patience to make a successful politician. I certainly have an interest in politics however, though primarily on the academic side of things. Best,


  9. Europe and west Asia (Pale of Settlement) historically imposed jackbooted State compassion vs. freedom, socialism vs. capitalism, and chronic degeneration vs. vigorous growth. The US in turn abandoned individual achievement for legislated diversity. At least 30 million "undocumented immigrants" with average 90 IQ are vigorously breeding to quash any advantage obtained from legal immigration of the Severely Gifted.

    Gresham's Law works above the shoulders as well on the hip. Obamanation seeks further mandatory confiscations of wealth to fund an absurd Federal healthcare system of such ponderous expense and deficient quality that the Angel of Death will demand staffing.

    China is protected from external intelligence by its impossible tonal spoken language and dismal logographic written language. Intellgence ceded its kingdom to the Officially Sad. It will be stone knives and bear skins by 2050.

  10. Christine: “It's difficult to get when you are making a "joke" (be it funny or not) or when you are serious”. Thanks for a compliment. :)

    So apparently you didn't get it either, not this time. Somewhat disappointing, for your case. You should know that it's all too small to have any strong feelings at all about it. You don't consider us being two-state devices (“joking”-“serious”), kind of “intelligent transistors”, do you?! Just talking, exchanging ideas, hoping to find something not completely stupid, failing :) (I like Uncle Al's idea of “Officially Sad”: I tend to interpret it not only as implied reference to particular “population groups”, but also as a brief description of this entire dominating level of “official”, exclusively welcome and indeed desperately sad unitary pseudo-intelligence). Here, for example: do you think Uncle is “furious” or “joking”?

    I don't adhere to your separation between “personal” communication and blog exchange. When you write something here, is it from your part, or ... from whom?! Are you cheating on others? :) Do you mean there's a reduced “standard personality” within you/anybody that should serve for “official” communication on blogs? I don't have that, sorry. And the complete version is reserved for where? Home, sweet home? Consider Universe as our home, my friend! (And take into account extreme scarcity of intelligent life cases, especially on this planet. :) )

    It's true that there's that old biblical wisdom, don't cast your pearls before swine... But now, that is a really furious attack, the Bible! Even if it's considered as Officially Glad in the country of Officially Sad...

    Anyway, hiding in any kind of shell seems so unreasonable especially now. Even if we exchange all our terrible secrets, all major mysteries and questions and critical choices may remain without clear solution... Therefore, unabbreviated version for me, please. As to all those ambitious fools pretending they possess key secrets of being, which others cannot even dream about and therefore must pay them more and more and more... Just smile, Christine, their entire world is but a joke... Take it easy, you too.

  11. "I don't adhere to your separation between “personal” communication and blog exchange. When you write something here, is it from your part, or ... from whom?! Are you cheating on others?"

    You did not understand. It is simply the fact that the tone of written language not always represent the intended tone, which usually (but admittedly not always) can be disentangled in a personal conversation.

    Also, have you noticed that you tend to overinterpret one's statement? It is like if I sneeze here you will conclude that there is a thunderstorm in Alaska.


  12. I always knew that a Brazilian thunderstorm Christine is much stronger than anything they might have in Alaska. :) So sneeze carefully, please, with a fragile world like this you never know... :)

    And real life easily exceeds any exaggeration, in real time. Read the next post for a living example... Another way to “change the system”: sea, sex and sun, what else? :) And such a convenient “common denominator”, actually for any activity. Pity that I cannot profit from it. Too serious, you know, always trying my “problem solutions”, instead of talking about possible and future problem solutions that may or not emerge one day. That is what the true, really advanced science is all about. You see how I am changing in a positive direction: now criticising only myself, the ugly duckling.

  13. Phil Harmsworth6:40 AM, July 13, 2009

    I beg to differ with Andrei on the 'over-production of scientists' in the US. In fact, the number of science graduates has declined steadily over the past 10 years in the US, UK and several other countries. (Even the ardent proponents of globalisation, such as Thomas Friedman, are getting worried about the US falling behind.)
    Taking the long view, I agree with Phil W, but it would neverless the good if at least some of the emigrants returned to help mentor the next generation ...


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