Motivations in East-West doctoral mobility: revisiting the question of brain drain

Jessica Guth, Bryony Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Science is conducted in an increasingly international domain but it is highly questionable whether scientists have equal chances, both professionally and personally, as opportunities and working conditions vary enormously. Drawing on new empirical research with Eastern European scientists, this article explores the professional motivations of Polish and Bulgarian doctoral scientists who have 'gone West'. We consider the relationship between doctoral training, mobility and labour markets within the broader context of science careers. Conditions that create a 'migration potential' are coupled with doctoral candidates' own professional motivations for moving. Moves are found to be economically driven - not just in the 'traditional' sense that moves are made to earn more - as expenditure on research and development influences the number of positions available and their attractiveness to doctoral candidates. Eastern European doctoral scientists share the same rationales for moving as mobile scientists in other studies: for example, moving to prestigious centres or to access international environments. Although socio-economic factors shape attitudes towards mobility, the actual moves themselves were often down to 'chance' encounters or opportunities, although contacts also played an important role. Our findings indicate that, despite a net loss of researchers, scientists do regularly return to their country of origin for professional reasons and often maintain links there, even at early stages in their careers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-841
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Doctorates
  • Eastern Europe
  • Migration Motivations
  • Mobility
  • Science Careers


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