Australian Researchers’ Mobility Portal

Thursday 19th July 2007

“I will be happy if people see knowledge in this decade as they saw coal and steel 50 years ago — as a commodity to be prized, as a building block for societies, as a creator of jobs, as a driver for the economy,” EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik told an audience of young researchers in Serbia.

The Commissioner laid out how the movement of knowledge, in all directions, is central to Europe’s goal of becoming a world leader in science. While ‘brain drain’ can cause problems if the researchers involved are unwilling to return home, ‘brain gain’ should not be the focus of efforts, he suggested.

“Europe needs a fluid sharing of knowledge and a seamless mobility of researchers who would be attracted by research institutions that compete and cooperate and that have access to world class research infrastructures,” said Mr Potočnik. “This would be a Europe of research that is open to the world and able to assume the role of responsible global leadership in science.”

When researchers leave their country, it is often “magnified and portrayed in a purely negative light,” said the Commissioner. In reality, the movement of knowledge is exactly what Europe needs, he claimed. A focus on brain gain leads to an ‘inward-looking attitude to a research system’ — the opposite of what the Commission would like to achieve with its research policy. Instead Europe should aim for ‘brain circulation’, said Mr Potočnik.

The Commissioner spoke of a desire to create a single labour market for research, making knowledge the ‘fifth freedom’ of the EU.

But the movement of knowledge should also involve countries from outside of the EU. Speaking in Novi Sad, Mr Potočnik told the Western Balkan countries that they should not wait for EU accession before increasing their involvement in the European Research Area (ERA). “The time is now,” he said.

“Since research by definition oversteps frontiers, there is a need for greater cooperation, not only at regional level, but also with European networks,” said the Commissioner.