LONDON—Stanford University wanted to create a program in organic geochemistry. Simon Brassell, a young research fellow at Bristol University, was looking for a better career opportunity.
Unfortunately for Europe, it was a good watch: Brassell is now an associate professor of applied earth sciences and geology at Stanford.
That combination of plentiful resources overseas and tight budgets at home has meant a continuing brain drain of the region’s scientific talent.
Some 6,800 researchers left Europe for the United States between 1982 according to one study, and it is often the brightest and most ambitious who depart. A period of post-doctoral work overseas has long been seen as a natural career progression for young research scientists; today’s problem is to get them back once they’ve finished their training.
The European Commission plans to spend $200 million over the next five years to...