The debate surrounding the need for highly-skilled personnel in Germany, and in Europe in general, is often carried out in the media and in public discussion.
The competition for well-qualified staff has long been discussed in terms of "brain gain" and "brain drain", in other words the impact on sending and receiving regions. This policy brief aims to add a new perspective by introducing the views of one specific group of the highly-skilled: early career and doctoral
While it is clearly important for the EU and the individual member states to consider mobility in terms of attracting highly-skilled researchers and increasing competitiveness, mobility cannot occur in a "science bubble", detached from an individual's experiences and surroundings. What is missing from the discussions at national and supranational level is an examination of the experience of those who have been mobile and who have sought research opportunities abroad. Scientists clearly have an understanding of the importance of mobility to science as a whole, but their own mobility is much more likely to be shaped by considerations related to their ability to work effectively and successfully in their chosen field, as well as by their familial and personal contexts. The traditional cost/benefit approach to migration and mobility theory has to be challenged and mobility "triggers" examined. Mobility triggers refer to impetuses, events, persons or contexts that make mobility a workable possibility and a reality for a particular scientist.
These triggers as well as the legal frameworks influencing the competition for talent, or rather the players within that competition, provide the focus for this policy brief. After an outline of the rationale for scientific mobility at the European, national and individual levels, the brief considers the legal frameworks designed to attract foreign scientists to the EU and Germany, highlighting the difficulties in quantifying the flows of these scientists. The brief then examines the factors affecting the mobility of early career scientists. It looks first at the effects of national and European law and policy and then moves on to an examination of some common mobility triggers, such as networks, undergraduate mobility and family contexts. Finally, the policy brief offers some suggestions on how knowledge of these triggers could help Germany increase its inflow of highly-skilled people such as early career scientists.
Jessica Guth is a research fellow and PhD candidate at the Centre for the Study of Law and Policy in Europe at the University of Leeds. In addition, she was the 2006 London School of Economics T.H. Marshall fellow and spent her six-month fellowship at the Migration Research Group (MRG), Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).