Talent Attraction to Lithuania
On the picture: Participants at the final conference of the MoBiLi-project in Vilnius where talent attraction and talent retention was discussed intensely. In the middle former ScanBalt chairman Bo Samuelsson serving on the advisory board of the MoBiLi project.
Picture published with permission of MoBiLi.
Movement of scientists between countries, so called ‘brain circulation’, may have significant positive impact on any countries development. Unfortunately, for economically underdeveloped countries it often ends up in an irreversible ‘brain drain’. Politicians in Lithuania often mention this problem, but little is done. Hypothetically, the solution is simple – raise the salaries and funding to the level of leading countries and the drain will transform to circulation. In practice, however, the state cannot afford it. Thus no rational scientist will go to work in a country where a professor earns less than a postdoc in Western Europe.
Fortunately, there are scientists who are determined to make a change in their home country and try to return to work there despite obvious hardships. As an example, we would like to mention a project MoBiLi (http://mobili.ibt.lt/, Molecular Biotechnology in Lithuania, carried out by the Institute of Biotechnology, Vilnius University, 2009-13). It was a FP7 Regpot project that was designed to attract three group leader (26,400 Eur/year before taxes) and six postdoctoral (21,036 Eur/year) level scientists to work at the institute and establish independent research groups. Out of 69 received applications, 58 (23 Lithuanian nationals) were accepted as relevant, 18 interviews were conducted and 8 offers were made. Today, near the end of the project, six researchers remain at the institute and have permanent contracts, all of them Lithuanian nationals.
Lithuanian scientists unfortunately recover only about one third of the funds through FP7 grants from the contribution that the government is paying to the EU FP7 money pool. This is largely due to low funding and low competitive capabilities of our scientists. Therefore, relatively poor Lithuania is supporting science in better developed countries. Furthermore, salaries to scientists from FP7 and other EU sources are paid according to regional average salaries. Often, in countries such as Lithuania and Germany, salaries differ several times even in joint projects. This makes it very difficult for Westerners to move and perform research or even establish independent laboratories in Eastern Europe.
Therefore, returning expatriates is the only and very important hope that the situation will change to the better. Interestingly, the MoBiLi recruitment work-package totaled 0.41 mln Eur and the recruited scientists already attracted 2.4 mln Eur in grant money from state and private sources to the university. Despite the drawback of the project that there were no successfully attracted foreigners due to the above mentioned reasons, the project is a huge success for us and could serve as an example how significant could be the changes brought by returning scientists.
The authors thank former Chairman of ScanBalt Bo Samuelsson for serving on the MoBiLi International Advisory Board.
About the authors:
Vytautas Smirnovas, Ph.D. from the Department of Physical Chemistry, Dortmund Technical University, Germany. He returned to Lithuania in 2011 and currently works at the Department of Biothermodynamics and Drug Design and leads a team that studies amyloid-like fibril formation.
Daumantas Matulis, Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Minnesota. He returned to Lithuania in 2005 and currently heads the Department of Biothermodynamics and Drug Design and leads over 40 scientists and students. His research interests are in the biophysics of molecular interactions and the application of biophysical methods in drug design. Daumantas is ScanBalt contact person in Lithuania.