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  • Sociology – not finance – drives the brain drain


In 1954, Abdus Salam left his native Pakistan for Europe, poised on the threshold of a great scientific career. Later he would gain international acclaim, both for his groundbreaking discoveries in theoretical physics – for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1979 – and for creating the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) and later the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in Trieste, Italy.

Salam was determined to help counteract the continual migration of young gifted scientists from the South to the North – a key factor behind the establishment of the ICTP, which he hoped would create an environment allowing third world scientists to avoid the choice that he was forced to face as a young man.

Overcoming this dilemma spurred the creation of ICTP’s flagship programme, the Associateship scheme, which allows developing world scientists to make short visits to the Centre, enabling them to conduct research in an institutional setting that is equal to any in Europe. Importantly, this allows such scientists to continue their careers without having to leave their own countries.

In this article, Mohamed Hassan, executive director of TWAS, reflects on the achievements of Salam's institutions, and how they have contributed to building a culture of scientific excellence throughout the South. He concludes that only by building scientific capacity can the needs of both scientists and societies be served.

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