German Group Starts "Brain Gain" Effort

August 2004 Deutsche Welle

Von Hardy Graupner (sp)

Around 7,000 German graduates and researchers work in the US, gathering valuable skills in a competitive environment. Few see hope of advancing their careers back in Germany. A German group is trying to change that.

Intense international competition for the best brains in science and research represents a significant challenge for German society. There is nothing out of the ordinary in young graduates wanting to test their mettle abroad.

And because of the seemingly endless opportunities, a large number head to the United States where there are close links between industry and the universities.

But now, a non-profit group called German Scholars Organization (GSO) with offices in San Francisco and Berlin is in the middle of a large-scale campaign to turn “brain drain” into “brain gain” ultimately for the benefit of German society.

"Germany major recruiting base"

Professor Eckhard Schröter, a member of the board of GSO, which was founded in San Francisco in 2003, told DW-RADIO why the initiative was so important.
"It is extremely important for modern industrialized societies to enhance the knowledge base of their economy. It flows from this that the mobility of researchers and top academics is decisive in this competition among major industrialized societies," Schröter said.

"And Germany actually is a major recruiting base for top-notch academics and researchers," he pointed out. "American universities and research institutes are among the major hosts of German scholars and academics of all disciplines but primarily in the most productive and innovative sciences such as biotech and nanotechnology."

"Out of sight, out of mind" mentality

The GSO wants to try and counter the “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” mentality that German scholars abroad have to grapple with when they return home.

Contacts to institutions or companies in Germany are, more often than not,lost very quickly when they leave the country. This makes it very difficult to find a job on returning to Germany.

A pivotal part of the GSO’s return project is a web-based career centre where German institutes and companies can place their vacancies and US-based job seekers can apply for these positions. And according to Schröter, many top-notch scholars do indeed want to return to Germany.

"If you look at survey data, there are at least 80 to 90 percent of respondents who tell us that they have an interest in returning to Germany or to Europe if there is a professional option in terms of their career advancement," Schröter said.

Promoting transatlantic relations

The GSO has also started organizing conferences in the US to bring together scholars and representatives from German firms and institutes.

Eckhard Schröter admits that the project is still in its infancy, but insists first results are encouraging. And he makes a point of emphasizing that the German Scholars Organization is not criticizing the scale of academic exchange between Germany and the United States.

"Quite the contrary, that would give a totally different spin to our organization. We are definitely in favor of international exchange," Schröter said.

"What we want to do is very much promote transatlantic relations - that is at the very heart of our organization. But we have to make sure is that this exchange does not turn into permanent immigration."


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