Reversing Brain Drain

Reversing Brain Drain Reversing Brain Drain

In the past 10 months, 596 non-resident Iranian experts and researchers have been registered on website (website of the Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran National Elites Foundation) to facilitate their return to the homeland and contribute to economic and scientific growth.

“So far, 76 researchers have returned home, of whom 25 are graduates of the world’s top 10 universities,” IRNA quoted Ali Morteza Birang, international affairs and technology exchange deputy at the Vice Presidency for Scientific and Technological Affairs, as saying.

“The objective is to make our top professionals and elite return home by providing suitable facilities for scientific and research activities.”

He announced the launching of website and said, a wide range of information and advice can be found on the website, to help non-resident Iranians deal with their doubts on issues like military service and employment.

The INEF was founded in May 2005 after approval by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council. Its main purpose is to recognize, organize and support Iran’s elite talents. The current head of the foundation is Vice President for Science and Technology, Sourena Sattari.

Foundation members include those who have exceptionally high intellectual capacity, academic aptitude, creative ability and artistic talents, especially contributors in promotion of global science and highly cited researchers.

They are considered as the most promising researches, inventors and artists of Iran, and young members are regarded as leaders of Iran’s future science, culture and art. Currently, only 13,000 people have INEF membership.

Birang further said the 596 registered experts will be provided the necessary resources and facilities on their return. Among them, the 76 who have come back have already started working with universities and research centers, and some are also active in knowledge-based companies.

The facilities include postdoctoral services, access to important laboratories in the country and provision of research grants. For now, the services will be provided to the returnees for a year, after which it will be extended on request.

‘We are planning to pay an annual research grant of $14,000 to each. Also a sum of $5550 will be given as travel and accommodation allowance,” Birang said.

On the measures to facilitate experts’ scientific cooperation with knowledge-based companies, he said, “We provide annual funds to the tune of $28,000 to knowledge-based companies that cooperate with the scientific community and experts. The companies also enjoy tax breaks and their exports are exempt from customs duties.”

 Military Service

“If an applicant has not completed the mandatory military service, the INEF will introduce him to the appropriate authority in the Armed Forces where he can do research work and apply for exemption from conscription,” the official said.

Last year (ended March 21), around 2,000 academic elite in the country carried out research projects in lieu of military service.

Many of the country’s reputable universities such as Sharif University of Technology, University of Tehran, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Amirkabir University of Technology, Tarbiat Modarres University, Isfahan University of Technology, Shiraz University and Shiraz University of Medical Sciences are involved in scientific research in conjunction with Iranian academics based overseas.

The flight of human capital, particularly highly trained and qualified Iranians to developed countries is a major concern as it has proven highly costly for Iran.

Statistics from the Migration Policy Institute published by the website indicate that nearly 67,000 Iranians left in the 1970s and another 281,000 in the 1980s. That became a cascade in the 1990s, with another 2.1 million leaving. The International Monetary Fund often puts Iran near the top of countries losing their academic elite, at a cost, estimated by government officials in 2006, of $40 billion each year. World Bank figures show Iran’s net migration to be 300,000 from 2010 to 2014, said an article in Christian Science Monitor in March.

Meager funding for R&D is one of the reasons for the brain drain over the past four decades. Allocation of sufficient funds for research and providing scholarships and loans for higher education can help curb the flight of skilled human resources.

 Training for Diplomats

Last year, a MoU was signed between the Foreign Ministry Affairs and the Vice-Presidency for Scientific and Technological Affairs. It calls for organizing training program for ambassadors and diplomats to interact with the research community at the global level.

Birang said the ‘national document on science and technology diplomacy’ will be notified in the near future. It is proposed to the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution and if approved “a separate office will be created to manage its affairs.”