Monday, December 07, 2009

Where do physicists work? 

These physicists were born in 32 different countries. They studied for their first degree in 30 different countries; they did PhDs in 22 countries; and they are presently located in only 16 countries. Hence the data show a kind of 'funnelling' effect of approximately 50% from birth: people from 32 nations now reside in half that number. flows of physicists between first degree and the present day demonstrate that top scholars head to countries with high levels of R&D spending. Switzerland and the US are the world's large importers, per capita, of elite physicists. CERN in Switzerland must play some role here ... [A]mong elite physicists a current affiliation in the US is associated with a 13%�19% higher h-index [a measure of higher citations of research by physicists]. This may be a genuine productivity difference, or reflect some form of pro-US citations bias, or some mixture of the two.
Source: Hunter, Oswald and Charlton, "The Elite Brain Drain", published in The Economic Journal [2009] (ungated copy). As worker mobility is lowered more high-quality researchers move to places where their talents are more highly rewarded; in this case it's not only money but also access to better facilities and higher probability of publications that others read.