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Brains flock back home

At last, brain drain in reverse gear.

Indian academics with “impressive” track records in foreign institutes are flocking back to universities and other centres of advanced research in the city.

Calcutta University (CU) recently got a taste of the trend when it received applications for an assistant professor’s post in the biochemistry department from more than 80 scholars working in US, UK and German institutes.

“Several former students of the university credited with pioneering research abroad are now expressing an interest to come back. They find our research projects more challenging,” said Dhrubojyoti Chattopadhyay, the dean of science at CU.

His views were echoed by Sanatan Chattopadhyay, who admitted that “better scope for advanced research in Indian universities” had prompted him to quit his teaching job at North East England University of New Castle Upon Tyne and join CU’s electronic science department.

“I was a faculty member in institutions of the US, UK and Singapore for more than eight years. The facilities and remuneration there are much better than what Indian universities offer. But for a scholar, the primary concern is to carry on advanced research, for which facilities are fast improving here,” Sanatan Chattopadhyay pointed out.

Koustabh Panda, who has joined CU’s Dr BC Guha Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology from Cleveland Clinic (US), said: “There has been a marked improvement since our student days in the way research projects are approved here. Also, scholars no longer have to wait for years for grants.”

The hungry tide has also reached Jadavpur University (JU) and the Central government-run Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB).

“The Indian scientists from abroad who are willing to join JU also want to provide funds for research,” said pro vice-chancellor Siddhartha Dutta.

IICB has recruited at least eight researchers from abroad over the past year. “All of them want to work here for the rest of their career,” said a scientist who himself has joined IICB from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Officials attribute the trend partly to the Centre’s decision to raise the salary of research scholars, especially those working in bio-sciences. For instance, the remuneration of junior scholars will soon be hiked from Rs 15,000 to Rs 24,000 per month.

“This is peanuts compared to what scholars get in the US and the UK. But post 9/11, there has been an abrupt drop in the number of projects approved in the two countries,” said a researcher, who has spent years in a US university.

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