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'Top researchers heading to US'

Some of the brightest brains in France are heading for the United States and are not coming back, a report says.

SOME of the brightest brains in France are heading for the United States and are not coming back, a report says.

Sparking fears of a new transatlantic brain drain, the think-tank Institut Montaigne says figures for the number of academics leaving for the US are proportionally much higher than 30 years ago.

The report said that, in 1980, academics made up only eight per cent of all French émigrés, but 27 per cent in 2006.

Based on a survey of professors and researchers who studied in elite schools such as the École Normale Supérieure and the École Polytechnique, Ioanna Kohler’s report, Gone for Good?, says the people “who leave France are the best, the
most prolific and the best integrated on an international scale”.

It also highlighted the potential scale of lost research by revealing that 70 per cent of the scientists who went to the US to get a doctorate did not come back.

At the study’s launch in the US, Ms Kohler pointed to the US-French Richard Lounsbery Award for “extraordinary scientific achievement in science and medicine” and said the last three winners were French, but all taught at colleges
in the US.

Her interviews with scientists in the US had shown that money was a major reason for moving, but they also cited the top American universities’ ability to contain “a critical mass” of leading scholars, as well as having researchers from different countries.

Ms Kohler said that also pointed out US universities pay top scientists handsomely, whereas there is a more even pay scale in France.

One scientist, Rava da Silveira, a physicist who teaches neuroscience at the École Normale Supérieure, said that, when he moved to France after nine years in the US, his salary was cut by about two thirds.

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