Editor’s note: This article is part of a package of five articles about the obstacles that researchers in Arab countries face. Readers can access all of the articles on this page.
Although the vast majority of researchers in Arab countries want to emigrate, Arab universities and research institutes can fight back, says one research administrator. The American University of Beirut’s department of medicine has developed a strategy to lure back Lebanese faculty members who live abroad.
Kamal Badr, a professor of medicine at AUB, says that “if you create the right atmosphere, people will come back.”
Badr was involved in an initiative that sought to persuade Lebanese doctors and scientists who lived abroad to return to Lebanon to work at the university. He has published his findings in a book chapter, which he says could be used as a starting point for other universities or even governments that want to repatriate their skilled diaspora.
“It’s doable if you really want to,” he says. “But no one said it’s easy or cheap.”
An Al-Fanar Media survey found that 91 percent of researchers working in Arab countries would like to emigrate, with Europe or North America being the most desirable destinations. (See a related article, “Most Arab-World Researchers Want to Leave, a New Survey Finds.”)
In trying to recruit the diaspora back, says Badr, the first step is to study the problem. “You need to do an analysis and figure out where your targets are and what it would take for them to come back,” says Badr. He and his colleagues surveyed 286 Lebanese-trained physicians living in the United States, asking questions about their willingness to return and work in Lebanon. More than 60 percent were open to the idea.
The nationality of a spouse turned out to be one of the most important factors driving potential repatriation—a Lebanese physician who had a Lebanese-born spouse was more likely to consider coming back to work in Lebanon.