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Les migrations scientifiques internationales



  • GAILLARD Anne-Marie, freelance.
  • KRISHNA V.V., Centre for Policy Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


This forthcoming number of STS proposes to revisit the question of the international migration of the highly skilled since the publication of the STS special issue « International Mobility of Brains in Science and Technology in 1997 (Vol. 2 n° 3, July-December 1997).

In the late 1960s, brain drain came to be used regularly to condemn the flight of high skilled people from the developing countries to the « rich » countries. In this context, the United Nations defined the term brain drain as a one-way movement, or an exodus, that only covered migratory flows, from the developing to the developed countries, and only benefited the industrialised countries. The perception of brain drain has changed since then. Today substitute words such as ‘mobility of brains’, ‘exchange’, and ‘circulation’ are readily used. The ‘mobility of brains’ is also increasingly understood as ‘belonging to an international scientific community’ in a context in which world science and the global economy are continuously shaping our societies.

As already illustrated in the above-mentioned issue, the brain drain issue has been re-emerging in a changing context since the late 1980s and early 1990s marked by a return of highly skilled people and scientists to a number of countries, new flows of well educated scientists, and renewed or new modes of scientific collaboration which do not necessarily require translocation. Two important options have been extensively analysed and discussed in the 1997 special issue using, among others, case studies from Argentina, Colombia, India, South Africa, South Korea and Uruguay : the return and the S&T diaspora options. Since most of the case studies (notably related to the diaspora option) were observed in their development phases, it is timely to conduct follow-up studies to assess their sustainable contribution to the internationalisation, structuring and strengthening of the respective national scientific communities. The last two decades were also characterized by an increasing denationalisation, trans-nationalization and privatisation of scientific and technological activities implying radical changes in professional values and models notably with regard to collaboration, mobility and exchange of information. Participation in international specialized research and knowledge networks involving different innovation stakeholders in scientific and industrial environments has also increased making national networks less attractive.
The main focus of this special issue is on ’brain return and circulation’. With regard to ‘return from migration’, contributions should highlight the main reasons or drivers explaining the return. Is it the social/economic/political development of their country of origin ? Is it the improvement of the local/national research eco-system including reward system ? Do personal/family considerations play an important role ? To what extent were the policies developed at the national level (e.g. incentive collaborative or return programmes ; S&T diaspora option ; others) central and efficient in the decision to return ? Are the returns long lasting and definitive/one way migratory movement or is the underlying logic one of ‘circulation’ ? In what ways and forms ‘circulation’ manifests and operates ?

The first part of the papers should give a brief overview of research, higher education and industrial relevance or employment prospects of graduates. Secondly, they should outline, analyse and evaluate public policies related to brain drain, return and circulation. S&T mobility trends during the last two decades or so would be highly appreciated. Third part could be devoted to empirical section and analysis covering one or all of the above issues.

The special issue will include case studies from the following countries : Argentina, China, India, Morocco, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain.


Brain drain, Brain gain, Brain Return, International Scientific Migration, S&T Diaspora, Circulation.


Asia, Maghreb, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia


April 2013 - December 2015

Jacques.f.gaillard chez


Publication : Special issue Science, Technology & Society (STS) : Return from Migration and circulation : is brain drain over ?