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Sorana Toma, Maria Villares-Varela and Mathias Czaika conducted a global survey of 4,600 Indian-born researchers to detect the major patterns and drivers of their geographical and career mobilities

This paper examines the major patterns and drivers of interlinked geographical and career mobilities of Indian-born researchers and scientists. Based on a global survey of 4,600 Indian researchers and 40 in-depth interviews, this study provides evidence on the internationalisation of careers and the diversification of destinations of Indian-born academics. The survey indicates that about a third of all Indian researchers have some international study or professional experience at some stage of their career. Prime destinations are still the US, Canada, and the UK, but outside these ‘academic core’ destinations some new European and East Asian destinations are emerging and are expected to play a more prominent role in the future.

Mobility of Indian researchers is mainly driven by an intrinsic motivation to internationalise their scientific careers, but has also to do with the status quo of the research environment in India. Moving abroad enables researchers to acquire expertise in a field of research that is not sufficiently developed back home, and provides exposure to research facilities and personnel deemed better and more qualified than those back home. In this respect, international study and work experience are often perceived of as providing professional merits which are instrumental in career progression upon return to India. This happens through the acquisition of tangible – specialisation, access to new networks and funding – and immaterial resources: ‘know-how’, quality and reputation of degrees and work experience, new managerial skills.

This study also sheds some light on the role of destination countries’ immigration policies, which seems to play a minor role in the mobility decisions of Indian scientists. However, even if researchers do not really take migration policies into account in their decision making process, we cannot conclude that their international mobility is barrier-free. Immigration policies and rights to work may affect the mobility of scientists rather indirectly by influencing the recruitment decisions of employers and departments in destination countries, without the candidates themselves being aware of these criteria.

Read the working paper

Read more about the Drivers and Dynamics of High-Skilled Migration project