Migration and globally distributed knowledge networks: scientists, their careers and implications for development

Tim Turpin, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Richard Woolley, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Jane Marceau, University of New South Wales
Stephen Hill, University of Wolongong

This paper concerns the transfer of technology embodied in the tacit knowledge and practical skills of scientific and technical human capital (STHC) through mobility and migration. The mobility of STHC creates flows of innovative capabilities embodied in individuals’ accumulated scientific and experimental capitals that are their professional practical know-how. The paper contends that international research training (PhD) and early career research positions (post-docs) are mobility mechanisms that enable the acquisition of globally competitive science and innovation capabilities and the building and integrating of distributed knowledge networks (DKNs). These networks ultimately influence choices for work location, migration. Using data from a survey of 10,000 publishing scientists this paper examines the diversity of patterns of international movement of scientists between Asian .countries, Europe and North America. The rate of return of those who train overseas to their ‘home’ location is found to be relatively high, but varied between different countries of origin – with potentially important implications for policy makers at the national level. The paper also considers the relationship between doctoral and post doctoral research training, the distribution of international research networks and the conduct of trans-national collaborative research. It is argued that post-doctoral positions are particularly influential on the formation of respondents’ trans-national research networks and subsequent research collaborations. It is argued that while these distributed networks often emerge from temporary geographic co-location they endure and transcend national boundaries forging important knowledge conduits between Europe and Asia, irrespective of current work location.

Presented in Session 78: Education