2003 September 12 Friday
Europe Produces More Scientists But Employs Fewer Researchers

The European Commission (EC) of the European Union (EU) is worried that Europe produces more scientists but has fewer researchers.

In relative terms the EU produces more science graduates (PhDs) than the United States but has fewer researchers (5.36 per thousand of the working population in the EU compared with 8.66 in the USA and 9.72 in Japan). In order to achieve the objective of raising Europe's investment in research to 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), as decided at the Barcelona European Council meeting in March 2002, the EU will need 700 000 extra researchers.

There is therefore an urgent need to improve the image of researchers within society, attract more young people to scientific careers and foster researchers' mobility across Europe and back from other regions in the world. There are still some major obstacles to overcome, including in particular difficulties in cross-sector mobility such as moving from university to private business careers, and in addition the problems encountered by researchers attempting to embark on careers in universities outside their own countries.

The European Commission lays out a series of recommendations:

  • the launch of a “European Researcher's Charter”, for the career management of human resources in R&D;
  • a “Code of conduct for the recruitment of researchers” at European level;
  • the development of a framework for recording and recognising the professional achievements of researchers throughout their careers, including the identification of tools aimed at increasing the transparency of qualifications and competencies acquired in different settings;
  • the development of a platform for the social dialogue of researchers;
  • the designing of appropriate instruments in order to take into account the necessary evolution of the content of research training and
  • the development of mechanisms to ensure that doctoral candidates have access to adequate funding and minimum social security benefits.
  • But there is no indication that these recommendations address the question of why the difference exists in the first place. Increased funding for basic researchers will probably help. But while the United States government spends a great deal on basic research a lot of R&D workers in the United States are employed in private industry and the same holds true in Japan. The EC recommendations provide no indication that the EC bureaucrats have bothered to figure out the relative importance of the various reasons why the United States and Japan have more R&D workers as a proportion of their populations. Lots of obvious questions could be asked. Here are a few of them:

    • What industries employ most of the researchers? Is there a structure to European universities that works against a greater amount of research being done?
    • Are there important differences in how grant applications are judged?
    • Does America's larger amount of venture capital make a key difference?
    • If so, then why does Japan employ even more researchers as a percentage of the population than the US by the measure they are using?
    Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 September 12 01:02 PM  Europe and America

    Jake said at September 14, 2003 5:01 PM:

    Brain drain is the real reason the EU’s research goals are not being met. Scientists from all over Europe are coming to the US because of more opportunities and lower taxes.

    Randall Parker said at September 14, 2003 5:27 PM:

    Jake, Can you quantify that? What percentage of European Ph.D.s are working in the US? Surely some are. But 10%? 20%?

    Also, when they do come, why do they come? Can't find a job in their home countries? Higher pay here? More funding for research? What is the ranking of those reasons?

    My guess is that your answers on this are like my answers: guesses.

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