Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Barriers to science migration...

by Salman Hameed

Couple of weeks ago, Nature had a feature story on the internationalization of science. It talked to experts and also conducted a survey of 2,300 readers to assess the changing face of science. Two things struck out for me. First, here is a figure that shows: a) Green: Which countries have the greatest scientific impact today? b) Purple: Which countries will have the greatest impact in 2020, and c) Blue: Would you consider relocating there?

(click on it to enlarge the figure)

Couple of quick things that stand out immediately. The promise of China is quite obvious. Interestingly, I have seen a couple of recent sci-fi films, where the hi-tech "future" is not the US, but in China (Looper) and in South Korea (Cloud Atlas). Second, India also features quite prominently. However, when it comes to relocation, US and Europe still rank very high, with China and India quite low. What is interesting is this following figure that shows incentives of migration (left) as well as the barriers (right):

While the incentives are relatively obvious - better life, salary, and research funding - I think it is interesting that the biggest barrier seems to be "Authoritarian political system and restricted freedom". And this is an interesting example of how science and the freedom of expression gets linked together. In fact, I would weigh the availability of creative space quite heavily in thinking about 2020 science as well, and I don't think that China will become a science superpower in the next 8 years (it may become a military one...). However, Soviet Union did manage to create substantial science within a restrictive system, but it also failed ultimately. Just some food for thought.

While reading this I was, of course, thinking about Umair Asim and the blasphemy mess in Pakistan. I wonder how Pakistan would stack up if we asked international scientists if they wanted to relocate there?

Read the full article here (you may need subscription to access it).


Akbar said...

When a Swedish astronomy blog published their fears about astronomers in Pakistan for their existence in a dangerous country back in 2011, I literally laughed inside out. Unfortunately, they were right. Here is the link to the blog.

The short article about Pakistani astronomy translates as:

"Pakistan astronomy

It happens as everyone knows much now in the Muslim world, some seemingly positive, some directly frightening and dark medieval. Personally, I am slightly scared of events in Pakistan. All that can be described as a western liberal, enlightened and humanist seems to live dangerously - if they do not run into silence as they are murdered. Additionally hailed killers of fundamentalist mobs.

How is Pakistani amateur astronomy? The Pakistan Amateur Astronomers Society conducted demonstrably a lot of outreach, as well as in Karachi Astronomers Society. Their educational activities and public show reminds me a lot of our own work, for example ASTB.

Had our amateur international IUAA got lift, had one of its most obvious tasks were to support this kind of compounds. What makes IAU?

And what happens in universities in Pakistan? I have followed a lot of what social critic and physicist Pervesz Hoodbhoy - head of the Physics Department at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad - think of it. He is not among the most beloved among the Taliban and Islamists, and among other things he told me about how some physics courses turned into pure Koranenstudier. These are the students that the next generation will be in charge of the keys to Pakistan's nuclear weapons ..."

Salman Hameed said...

Wow. A bit prescient on this point.