Panel Paper: Reverse Brain Drain: A Study of Indian Scientists and Engineers in Academia

Friday, November 9, 2018
8229 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Meghna Sabharwal, University of Texas, Austin and Roli Varma, University of New Mexico

Historically, scientists and engineers from developing countries have stayed in the United States rather than return to their home countries. However, the numbers of U.S. trained Indian scientists and engineers returning to India has recently surged. According to a study conducted by Michael G. Finn (2014), the five-year stay rates of India born U.S. trained PhDs in science and engineering (S&E) on a temporary visa status dropped from 89% in 2001 to 79% in 2009. Over the past decade, the foreign-born population of the U.S. higher education faculty has grown dramatically. S&E departments across the country have come to rely on the expertise of India-born faculty, and losing them in the form of 'reverse brain drain' may pose challenges to the scientific enterprise in the United States. We studied why some Indian faculty in S&E return home permanently after acquiring higher education and work experience in the United States. Data for this study comes from in-depth interviews with 83 returned Indian faculty members in S&E working in Indian institutions of higher education and research institutions across the country. Better career prospects in India namely ample funding available for research, less competition for grants, ability to work on theoretical topics, and freedom in research objectives emerged as the key factors that prompted return. Government programs and increased research funding in India have improved job opportunities and security in the country for scientists and engineers, who are deciding more frequently to leave faculty positions in the United States to return home. With very little scholarly work on return migration of academic engineers and scientists, this study expands the understanding of high skilled migration in a globalized world.