Tue, Nov 23, 2010 - Page 6 News List

French fear ‘brain drain’ to the US as academics leave

NY Times News Service, PARIS

Academics are increasingly leaving France for the US, which carries the risk of a “brain drain” in France, a report this month by an independent study group said.

The group, the Institut Montaigne, found that academics constitute a much larger percentage of French emigres to the US today than 30 years ago. It found that between 1971 and 1980, academics represented just 8 percent of the departing population; between 1996 and 2006, they represented 27 percent.

“The acceleration of French scientific emigration to the United States is recent and worrisome,” said the report, called Gone for good? The expatriates of French higher education in the United States.

Of the 2,745 French citizens who obtained a doctorate in the US from 1985 to 2008, 70 percent settled there, the study found.

The number of French scientists who leave for the US remains limited, but the exodus of the most talented scientists could hurt the economy, the report said.

“Those who leave France are the best, the most prolific and the best integrated on an international scale,” said the report, which surveyed about 100 French researchers and professors who studied in France’s top universities and elite schools.

Many of France’s best biologists and economists are now in the US. According to a study in 2007 by the Ecole des Mines, four of the six top French researchers in economics had left for the US.

“Biology and economics are poorly recognized in France,” said Thomas Philippon, a French economist who began teaching finance at New York University Stern School of Business in 2003.

Two of France’s best-known economists — Olivier Blanchard, who is also the IMF’s chief economist, and Esther Duflo, winner of this year’s John Bates Clark Medal — teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and obtained their doctorates there.

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