Nitpicking TOI and ‘reverse’ brain drain
God forbid, we don’t expect much from the
TOIlet paper Times of India. But one would think they’d possess a basic sense of geometry. This story about hiring of European professors at IIT, starts off with a gem of an unintended double negative:
Call it brain drain reversal of 360 degrees.
Err…..360 degrees will really bring you back to the same position. Oh, wait a minute: its 360 degrees of the reverse – so its all right, I guess. Also, I thought reverse brain drain was the returning of qualified professionals to their own country – this sounds like a brain drain for the European countries 🙂 ! Well, this is just nitpicking and isn’t really the worst offense comitted by the TOI.
Coming to the gist of the article:
To overcome the scarcity of quality faculty, India is looking forward to recruiting professors from abroad, primarily from European countries. And what could be a better place than the IITs to kickstart the process.
I am always a little skeptical when I hear claims like this. So let us ask – why would well qualified faculty from European (at least the western European) countries want to work in India full-time? Sabbaticals, I can understand – but working in a totally different culture and a different language (the article mentions French researchers) seems daunting. Generally, the major considerations for most scientists/engineers while looking for a suitable faculty position are: intellectual environment, research facilities, quality of students and monetary rewards both for salary and grants. Different people emphasize different criteria in their final decision. Now, there is no question about a great intellectual environment and good students in the IITs. The article also says that remunerations are similar to European countires based on purchasing parity. But the clincher seems to be:
IITs offered a comprehensive package to European faculty who had shown interest in participating in research being conducted by int ernational (sic) firms opening R&D centre and also in meeting the requirement for teaching staff in India.
So it seems they all want a piece of the Google/IBM/Microsoft’s India based research center pie! Well, I have nothing against IITs trying to attract faculty of high calibre from the global marketplace. This is how the United States got their edge in scientific and technical research. But too often, I have noticed a deference towards faculty from US/Europe just because of their skin color (a sad aspect of the colonial hangover – but true nonetheless). I just hope the goverment’s, and therefore the tax payer’s money will not be used for salaries of opportunistic mediocre caliber faculty from Europe who are coming to India just because they did not get a job in their own country.
Additionally, I am a bit surprised at the statement about the scarcity of faculty in India. The evidence is anecdotal, but I personally know of quite a few people, brilliant ones, who have completed PhDs in the USA and would like to return to India. These students would really jump at a job in the IITs (I also know of someone who did get a job at IIT-Mumbai but was forced to leave due to severe lack of research facilities).