PPMI has recently finalised the study on mobility flows of researchers in the context of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). The study was implemented in partnership with the Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services and the Austrian Institute of Technology.
The study, launched by the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission, aimed to understand how the MSCA can contribute to a more balanced brain circulation between countries and regions in the European Research Area.
In line with the Commission’s policy priorities, the study’s final report provides a detailed analysis of the structure and determinants of researchers’ mobility flows under the MSCA and recommendations for a more balanced brain circulation across the European Research Area. The analysis of mobility trends reveals that inflows of MSCA researchers are concentrated in a handful of EU and Horizon 2020 associated countries, with 12 regions across Europe attracting 30% of all MSCA fellows. It also shows that MSCA mobility patterns resemble the general patterns in international scientific mobility, which suggests that the MSCA do not exacerbate the problem of imbalanced research mobility in Europe but merely reflects pre-existing trends. A large-scale survey of MSCA researchers found that the main individual determinants of researchers’ mobility are the opportunity to work with leading scientists, quality of research infrastructure and the training offered (the latter was particularly important for early-stage researchers, i.e., PhD students).
The MSCA helps to effectively retain European talents, attract foreign researchers to Europe and encourage European researchers to return to Europe. Looking at long-term fellowships for doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, the EU27 received 74.6% of all such researchers, with the United Kingdom accounting for a further 17.4%. Over 90% of third-country nationals went to the EU27 and the United Kingdom. Of all the researchers who lived outside the EU27 and the United Kingdom, 79% returned to the EU for their MSCA fellowship.
The study implemented a deep analysis of the impact of the Widening Fellowships pilot and found that this scheme significantly increased the number of incoming researchers to widening countries and helped widening countries improve their mobility flows and become more attractive. For example, the Widening Fellowships led to a 56% increase in the number of grants to widening countries, bringing down the incoming researcher deficit in the widening countries from 113 to 24. The scheme also has a lasting effect - almost 60% of widening fellows were planning to stay, or have stayed, in the host country after their fellowship.
One of the objectives of the study was to explore the possibility to reintroduce return grants under the MSCA. Based on the above findings, the study does not recommend this. Instead, it provides recommendations to enhance the quality and attractiveness of the less advanced research and innovation systems and their capacity to attract and retain researchers. The study concludes that the EU Member States (and especially widening countries) should take the lead in implementing national reforms that enhance the conditions to attract excellent researchers.