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Keys to attracting scientific talent in the health sciences

A Study by UC3M and the UDIMA


Social capabilities (working conditions and other benefits) can be decisive in the return of scientific talent. This is one of the main conclusions of a study carried out by a team of researchers from  Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Universidad a Distancia de Madrid (UDIMA). This research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Claves para la atracción del talento científico en ciencias de la salud

The study was prepared with the collaboration of a total of 811 researchers, 293 of whom belong to health fields (147 young researchers in Spain, 114 Spanish scientists abroad and 32 from scientists that have returned to Spain). It concludes that there are a series of variables that indicate the incentives of young researchers and scientists from the field of health sciences to leave and to return.

In the case of Spanish scientists abroad, the results show that, along with salaries, the most decisive variables are basically centered on differential advantages of the destination sites, specifically,  research career, training, funding and institutional prestige. However, in the case of scientists who return to the country, these decisive differential advantages are less influential. More important are aspects linked to social capabilities (working conditions—vacations, number of hours of work—and complementary benefits—parental leave, job insurance, and quality of retirement pensions, among others).

From this it can be affirmed that “Spanish health organizations can influence the return of their scientists,” according to the researchers of the study. Thus, the implementation of attractive policies that combine differential advantages with an intensification of social capabilities can end up being decisive not only for the return but also for the permanence and stability of Spanish researchers.

These policies can materialize in public-private collaboration initiatives, which would make it possible to obtain resources from companies (payments for social insurance or day care centers, for example). Moreover, among other measures, the labor integration of researchers in hospitals and companies or entrepreneurial support can be furthered with the goal of promoting new lines of research.

The conclusions of this study have implications for the improvement of national public health services, as adequate mobility of researchers allows rapid incorporation of new knowledge in clinical practice to improve the quality of life as well as the life expectancy of citizens.

In addition, the results of the research could be useful for more effective and efficient management of health services. These results could also help in the development of new drugs, vaccines, medical devices or equipment with the possibility of improving diagnoses and treatments of patients and becoming a new source of wealth and employment.

Funding for this study comes from research projects carried out by the Dirección General de Migraciones del Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social and Novanca/Caja Rural. The organizations that collaborated in the dissemination of the questionnaire to scientific groups are the following: Fundación Universidad-Empresa (FUE), Federación de Jóvenes Investigadores, Colegio Oficial de Físicos (COFIS), Federación Española de Biotecnólogos (FEBiotec), ARATECH, Centro de Innovación de la Universidad de Oviedo, Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom/Comunidad de Científicos Españoles en el Reino Unido (SRUK/CERU), Científicos Españoles en la República Federal de Alemania. (CERFA), Asociación de Científicos Españoles en Japón (ACE Japón), Españoles Científicos en Estados Unidos (ECUSA), Asociación de Científicos Españoles en Suecia/Association of Spanish Scientists in Sweden (ACES/ FSFS), Spanish Research in Australia-Pacific/Investigadores Españoles en Australia-Pacífico (SRAP/IEAP), Científicos Españoles en Dinamarca/Spanske Forskere i Danmark (CED) and Científicos Retornados a España (CRE).

Bibliographical reference: Aceituno-Aceituno P., Melchor L., Danvila-del-Valle J., Bousoño-Calzón C. (2017), “Cumulative Advantages and Social Capabilities in Scientific Mobility in the Health Sciences: The Spanish Case.” PLOS ONE 12(3): e0173204. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0173204

Claves para la atracción del talento científico en ciencias de la salud