Establishing oneself as an independent investigator is not easy, and this is especially true for young scientists in Europe. The good news is that in many European countries, substantial reforms and improvements have begun to reverse the brain drain. The bad news is that because of the economic slowdown, science funding is often being squeezed, and this always affects people at the junior end.

Germany's Max Planck Society (MPG), for example, recently announced dramatic cuts to cope with a decreased annual budget. Not only will the society close several research departments and an entire institute; members also decided to cancel 15 (almost one-third) of their independent junior research groups at the end of their five-year grants.

When spending must be reduced drastically, it is certainly easiest to cut the lowest members of the hierarchy. But becoming a group leader at a Max Planck Institute (MPI) is one of the most...

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