How to stop the brain drain?

15. November 2023.

How to solve the problem of young scientists leaving Serbia? In the new, special episode of the video series “Garden of Physics” – through the direct, personal experiences of researchers – we present the obvious solution that the Institute of Physics Belgrade came up with – to provide conditions for research and create an oasis of excellence for the part of the young researchers to return to.

Along with the downward trends in demography, the “brain drain” is considered one of the biggest social problems in the Republic of Serbia, because of which the country remains without the most valuable human resources year after year, even though it has previously invested in their education for years. Various estimates speak of tens or even hundreds of thousands of young professionals leaving the country.

The Institute of Physics Belgrade has been working on solving this problem for a long time. “For 10 years, more people have been returning to the Institute than leaving.” The number of people leaving has increased, but the number of people returning is growing a little faster than that,” says Dr. Aleksandar Bogojević, the Institute’s Director.

“I returned to the Institute of Physics primarily because I wanted to return to my country, to live there, and I realized that my career here will not suffer in any way and that the working conditions here are just as good as abroad”, says Dr. Jakša Vučičević, who returned from the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Saclé near Paris, and then won the prestigious European ERC grant.

“I made the decision to return to Serbia because my heart is in the right place here and nine years abroad was enough for me. I broadened my horizons, gained experience and saw how science works at more developed faculties, and I thought it was time to return,” says Dr. Nataša Adžić, who returned to the Institute from the Faculty of Physics of the University of Vienna.

“Working at the Institute of Physics is a privilege. It is an environment where all the conditions for doing scientific work exist, and it is a place that I consider my scientific home”, says Dr. Saša Dujko, who returned from James Cook University in Australia.

The Institute of Physics Belgrade, an institute of national importance for the Republic of Serbia, employs more than 200 researchers in its 25 laboratories, most of whom spent part of their education or career abroad. Their return is crucial for the top-quality research and numerous international and domestic projects that the Institute’s researchers win.

“It’s always good to be close to family and friends, that was one of the first things that mattered to me. The only option for returning was the Institute of Physics”, says Dr. Bojana Višić, who returned from the Weizmann Institute in Israel.

“The beauty of the Institute of Physics is that it provides a high degree of academic freedom, and what I need as a theorist is administrative support. There is better administrative support at the Institute of Physics than I have seen in the West”, says Dr. Igor Prlina, who returned from Brown University in the USA.

“During my stay on postdoctoral studies in Lisbon, I saw that other research institutions around the world, at least in the context of the theoretical research I am engaged in, are no better than the institutions we have here in Belgrade,” says Dr. Marko Vojinović, who returned from the University of Lisbon, Portugal.

“No matter how well I fit into German society, I felt like a foreigner there. I wanted to go back to my home, and the Institute is my home”, says Dr. Sonja Predin, who returned from the Institute of Informatics in Hof, Germany.

Garden of Physics, episode 33 – Special
How to stop the brain drain?
AUTHORS: Slobodan Bubnjević, Marija Đurić and Jovana Nikolić
SCENARIO: “Science through stories”
PHOTO: Detail of the stained glass window in the Institute of Physics, Bojan Džodan
CAMERA/DRONE: Zoran Veljanovski, Bojan Marojević, Bojan Živojinović
EDITING: Bojan Živojinović (Two Tech Solutions)
PRODUCTION: Institute of Physics in Belgrade, 2023.