1.2.2007 | Von:
Jessica Guth

Why is everyone talking about mobility?

According to the European Commission, "human resources are, to a large extent, the key of research efforts, excellence and performances. The number of researchers and their mobility are two important aspects of this issue." [1]
Peter Werning bringt der sudanesischen Ärztin Fatima Musa (r) die deutsche Sprache im Rahmen eines Patientengespräches am 29.11.2011 in einem Notfallraum des Städtischen Klinikums in Braunschweig näher. Ein spezieller Sprachkurs hilft ausländischen Ärzten und Pflegern im Braunschweiger Klinikum den teils verwirrenden deutschen Begriffen auf die Spur zu kommen.Sudanese doctor at work in a German hospital. (© picture-alliance/dpa)
The European Commission's focus has mostly been on the need to increase Europe's competitiveness and the creation of a European Research Area that could establish itself as a global player in scientific research.

Germany echoes those sentiments in the context of its own position within the global marketplace: "International cooperation in research and academia means an increase in the visibility and desirability of Germany as a location for world-class research." [2] Whereas European-level debates have given little consideration to the benefits of mobility to the individual scientists, Germany phrases its recruitment strategies much more in terms of what mobility – and of course the country – can offer scientists. Germany presents itself as a country offering a high quality of life, excellent conditions for research and good career opportunities. In other words: "Just the right combination for bright minds."[3]

Scientists generally regard mobility in a positive light and accept the likelihood that it will be a part of their career trajectory. The exchange of scientific ideas, sharing knowledge and benefiting from other approaches to "doing science" were amongst the most cited reasons why scientists value mobility in the context of their work. "Soft skills" gained through working in a different cultural context include improved language skills, increased ability to work independently and a greater sense of confidence in one's own abilities, whether scientific or personal. Here the scientists seem to confirm the policy rationale of the European Commission, which promotes mobility because it is a "well-known and effective way of training skilled workers and disseminating knowledge" and "permits the creation and operation of multi-national teams and networks of researchers, which enhance Europe's competitiveness and prospective exploitation of results." [4]

However, there is some evidence to suggest that mobility is not always viewed so positively by the individuals involved. While the scientific benefits are generally agreed upon, the personal cost of mobility can be high. Mobile early career scientists often work extremely long hours and, more often than not, live their lives more or less within the research institute rather than integrating into the wider host society. The science community offers a sort of safety net, which supports foreign scientists but which also, indirectly at least, discourages integration outside the institute and encourages long working hours. From a personal point of view, therefore, mobility in the scientific field can be extremely challenging.


See European Commission (2003).
See DAAD (2002).
See DAAD (2002).
See European Commission (2001).



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