Monday, May 14, 2012

Meeting Report: Coordinating, Learning and Sharing Best Practices Among Scientific Diaspora Networks

From left to right: Marcelo Vinces (AAAS S&T Policy Fellow. NSF), Wael Al-Delaimy (UCSD), Nicholas Farrell (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Cardinal Warde (MIT).

Meeting report
Coordinating, Learning and Sharing Best Practices Among Scientific Diaspora Networks

A report from the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, February 18, 2012

The large scale emigration of scientifically trained individuals to other countries while seeking better opportunities is often referred to as “brain drain”, but this negative connotation obscures the great untapped potential that these diaspora science networks hold as viable and ongoing resources for their countries of origins.  Though there are many efforts among scientific diaspora communities to engage productively with their homelands to improve the scientific capacities of these countries, there has been to date very little in coordination of efforts, in relating best practices in these engagements, or in highlighting what works and what doesn’t.  This panel aimed to catalyze a conversation about how best to leverage existing efforts among disparate scientific and technical diaspora networks, to highlight models for engagement, and to foster greater communications between different diaspora networks that have much to learn from each other, as well as with governmental and non-governmental bodies that aim to strengthen the role of diasporas in capacity building in their countries of origin.

Our session followed up on a previous session on scientific diasporas by highlighting the activities of three emerging scientific diaspora networks: the efforts of the Caribbean scientific diaspora to establish a Caribbean Science Foundation, of the Arab scientific diasporas and their activities amid the newfound opportunities in the wake of the Arab Spring, and the new initiative by the Irish scientific diaspora for forging greater ties among the diaspora and with the science establishment in Ireland.  The session gave a global snapshot of how scientific diasporas have been acting to promote development of science and technology in the country of origin while remaining active contributors to innovation in their adopted countries.

This session covered an issue that cuts across all disciplines of science and engineering, and that is part of the international dimension of the scientific endeavor. The session and its proceedings aim to educate a wide spectrum of scientists, engineer, educators, policy makers and journalists who were in attendance on the quiet diplomacy and ongoing development projects of disparate scientific diaspora communities and to lay the groundwork for a sustainable network that will serve to catalyze future endeavors by this largely untapped talent. By raising the profile of these networks at an international scientific conference, we hope to enable productive partnerships between these networks and the US government, universities, non-profits, and policy-making bodies.

Many, if not most, root causes of poverty around the globe can be addressed with access to and investments in science and engineering. Problems in agriculture, medicine, education and infrastructure that underpin poverty require resources but also talent that can solve them. For this reason, the net flow of highly-skilled talent from developing countries to wealthier countries (also known as “brain drain”) has been considered by many as detrimental to the development of poorer nations and regions. The same holds true for more developed countries that experience net flow of science talent to other countries. But technically trained talent living abroad, also referred to as the “scientist diaspora”[1], continue to remain a valuable resource for their countries and regions of origin, while continuing their critical contributions to science and engineering in the United States.

Members of the scientific diaspora in the US serve as important bridges between their native and adopted countries and cultures. Often, diaspora scientists and engineers undertake activities in their countries of origin that benefit the local communities through enhanced education and entrepreneurial opportunities. The scientific diaspora thus remains an integral part of science and innovation in the US while contributing to S&T capacity-building in their home countries or regions, and there is growing interest in the scientific diaspora for even greater involvement of this kind.

However, a common platform for the scientific diaspora communities to be able to leverage and optimize their engagement, scarce resources, to publicize their activities, and to learn from each other and share effective practices is sorely lacking. For this reason a session on the topic at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) was held in February 2012 in Vancouver, Canada.

The goal of the session “Coordinating, Learning and Sharing Best Practices Among Scientific Diasporas Networks” was to raise the profile of these independent development activities at an international conference that is attended by a wide spectrum of participants that represent all fields of science and engineering, education, government, policy bodies, non-profits and the private sector, and which receives extensive press coverage. The goal is not only to raise the profile of ongoing activities among a selection of scientific diaspora networks, but to initiate a conversation about what steps are needed to establish a clearinghouse of information that will enhance such activities, and to produce a document for wider dissemination beyond the confines of the conference. Our goal is for this session to serve as a launching ground for a sustainable coordination of information for the purpose of optimizing scientific diaspora engagement with countries and regions of origin.

Scientific diasporas and public policy
The Department of State, in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) recently organized a Global Diaspora Forum[2] which focused on US-based diasporas and provided a forum for diapora communities to develop partnerships. During the forum the different arenas and ways in which diasporas contribute to foreign policy and development were highlighted. These included: Investment and Trade, Philanthropy, Volunteering and Community Service, Innovations, Health and Medicine, Agriculture and Rural Development, Disaster Response and Humanitarian Relief, Entrepreneurship, Education, Remittances and Mobile Money, Media, Youth Leadership, Sports, and Science and Technology. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the Forum to give recognition to the valuable contributions that diaspora communities make to the US economy while doing much work independently and in parallel to the US government in areas such as development and diplomacy.  Secretary Clinton used the Irish diaspora in the US as an example of a community that played an absolutely essential part in the resolution of conflicts in Northern Ireland. She challenged participants to not only continue such activities, but to maximize their impacts by developing partnerships with the US government when necessary, but more importantly, with each other, in the form of intra-diaspora collaboration and learning.

Scientific Diasporas and Science in the US and abroad
The United States has traditionally relied heavily on foreign-born talent to complement US-born S&T talent, counting on such luminaries from Europe such as Einstein and Fermi as examples, and Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, as one contemporary example. US scientists and engineers born abroad play a major role not only in the national scientific output but also in national innovation output[3]. Among patents for biotech-related inventions, for example, 31% of the lead inventors were foreign-born, and this number is likely higher if 2nd generation members of diaspora communities are accounted for.

While contributing significantly to the US economy in terms of innovation and discovery, the science and engineering diaspora of the US concurrently plays different roles in their countries and regions of origin, in the form of “scientific remittances”. Just as immigrants in the US send back huge amounts of money to poor countries of origin (a critical flow of money parallel to and in excess of US foreign aid to these countries), members of the scientific diaspora in the US serve as conduits of cultural, social, human and intellectual remittances to their countries of origin. As such, there is enormous potential to foster beneficial relationships between governments and diaspora networks, and between networks, to maximize the benefits to diasporas, their adopted countries and their countries of origin.

In regards to the scientific diasporas, one way they serve as bridges of knowledge is by enhancing international scientific collaborations. Science is by nature a global endeavor, and with cultural connections abroad, scientists and engineers in the diaspora have much to offer in negotiating the cultural and organizational idiosyncrasies that exists even in science in different nations. Maintaining ties with colleagues in both the US and in the country of origin can thus contribute to research partnerships, and strengthening of science policies and practices. Another way is to serve as access to the kind of knowledge and information that are necessary for developing countries to build capacity for their industries and workforces. Scientific diasporas are also a resource for much needed human capital in poorer countries: acting as mentors, teachers, serving on thesis or peer review committees. All these activities do not require members of diaspora communities to move back to their birthplaces. Rather, they are activities that can be done either at a distance or involving short visits. They can thus mitigate some of the detrimental effects caused by “brain drain”.

Overview of session
The session was 90 minutes long, and started with a brief introduction by the moderator, followed by talks by the panelists (12-15 minutes each), and ending with a 30 minute question and answer period, during which members of the audience offered substantially to the discussion. Materials for the session will be handed out at the start.

The session panelists were Professor Nicholas Farrell (Virginia Commonwealth University), Professor Wael Al-Delaimy (UCSD) and Professor Cardinal Warde (MIT).

Professor Farrell related efforts launched at the previous AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington DC to establish an Irish scientific diaspora society.

Professor Al-Delaimy spoke about the Arab scientific diaspora network, the Society for the Advancement of Science and Technology in the Arab World, and the new opportunities that have emerged for involvement since the events of the Arab Spring.

Professor Warde shared his experiences leading the Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation, particularly in the essential role of diaspora scientists in establishing the Caribbean Science Foundation. 

Session proceedings
Introduction by Marcelo Vinces (AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, NSF)

Nicholas Farrell, The Wild Geese Network of Irish Scientists – The First Year
The Wild Geese Network of Irish Scientists is an all-Ireland professional network that aims to enable connection, communication and collaboration of the Irish scientific, technological and engineering Diaspora.

The Wild Geese Network turned precisely one year old, as it was founded at the previous AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

The Network is a registered non-profit 501.c.3 with 400 members worldwide through LinkedIn.

One asset of the Network has been in providing a census of the Irish scientific, technological and engineering expertise and achievement worldwide, something that has been difficult for embassies to assess on their own. Other achievements and aims include:
- Enhance trans-Atlantic collaborations
- Facilitate engagement of Irish scientists and engineers abroad
- Disseminate information on funding and employment
- Promote and highlight achievements
- Complement the aims of the Global Irish Economic Forum
- Provide a discussion forum (via LinkedIn) with broad participation

Future plans of the Wild Geese Network:
- Establish regional chapters (eg. in Boston)
- Launch a website
- Careers program session at Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) in Dublin, City of Science 2012. Satellite event is planned for members worldwide to attend online.

What we’ve learned:
- Naming the network is important. Investing some thought into setting up a brand and logo is fruitful.
- Advantages
            - Embassy and agency support and contacts are crucial
            - Very cost-effective viral initiative
            - Organizational status is important. So are regular events.
            - Constructive mix of senior and junior members, diverse involvement of industry and biotech with academia.

- Challenges
            - Sustainability – we have a committed volunteering network that requires financial and personal     resources. Challenges include raising money to defray costs, managing a global network and website, adapting as membership and needs change, and identifying deliverables, both tangible and intangible ones.
Wael Al-Delaimy, The Arab Spring: A Sunny Forecast for Diaspora Scientists
The Arabic world has a long history as a cradle of science and mathematics. The first science institute was founded in what is today Iraq in the year 786, the first university in what is today Morocco (841), and the first modern hospitals were established in what are today Egypt and Iraq (874 and 982). The founders of many branches of modern science and mathematics were from the Arab world: modern chemistry was founded by Jabir Ibn Alhayam and Al-Kindi (Iraq, 722-873), modern algebra (itself an Arabic word) by al-Khawarzmi (Iraq, 850, his name the source of the word “algorithm”), optical sciences by Ibn al-Haithem (Egypt, 1011) and the discovery of blood circulation happened in Syria centuries before it occurred in Europe (by Ibn al-Nafis, 1242).

The illustrious history of Arabic science contrasts sharply to the modern situation in the Arabic world, where investment in science trails far behind the rest of the world and the literacy rate has dropped to 56%. Exacerbating the grim state of Arabic science is the fact that 1.5% of the Arab population is in the diaspora, with one-quarter of these being highly skilled professionals.

The Arab Spring, which saw the toppling of undemocratic regimes by ordinary citizens has brought the promise of change not just to the Arab world but to the whole world. The recipe for these unexpected and dramatic societal upheavals include a young educated generation with an ambition to prosperity but with few job or career options, and access to the global village via the internet.

The Arab Spring brings new opportunities for the Arabic scientific diaspora to participate in rebuilding science in the Arab world. Some of the challenges faced by post-revolution science include:
- Outdated curriculum and teaching methods
- Lack of research infrastructure
- Lack of advanced technical skills
- Lack of research funding
- Lack of business-academic initiatives
- Lack of appropriate academic leadership
- Political instability

Opportunities that exist in the post-revolution Arab world include:
- Decentralization
- A genuine focus on science advancement
- Freedom of expression
- Openness towards collaborations with outside scientific entities
- Evaluate the status of the scientist
- Better use of available resources and transparency
- The diaspora

The Society for the Advancement of Science andTechnology in the Arab World (SASTA) was founded in 2009 out of the mutual interests of Arab expatriate scientists and academics living abroad to engage more effectively with the Arab education, science and technology community to create a positive impact in the Arab world. The organizational model SASTA ensures that members are:
- Well trained expatriates
- First generation immigrants
- Dedicated to the cause
- Independent
- Unselfish volunteers
- Chosen through a highly selective process (aiming for quality rather than quantity)
- Supported by international entities

The objectives of SASTA are to be met by:
- Developing and maintaining a comprehensive database
- Establishing partnerships with universities, NGOs, professional societies and industries in and outside the region.
- Developing programs to help train local students and scientists.
- Acting as an independent non-partisan scientific body on issues related to science and its advancement in the Arab world.

SASTA is currently pursuing projects at different levels:
- Individual level: Young Arab Graduate Network (mentorship, travel support)
- Institutional level: Adopt a University program (Memoranda of understanding and research exchanges)
- Governmental level: The Moroccan Initiative (statewide approach to curriculum and research strategies)
- Regional level: Arab League (complementing regional science and technology initiatives)

Cardinal Ward, Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation
The Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology andInnovation (CADSTI) is an international body of professionals who have an interest in the development of the Caribbean region. CADSTI recognizes that there is a vast talent pool within the larger Diaspora whose skills go untapped by the Caribbean community. Structurally, CADSTI is organized as a network of branches in various cities throughout the Diaspora. One of its goals is to facilitate the networking that will bring resources from the Diaspora to the Region for the mutual benefit of all parties.

CADSTI is primarily composed of (but not limited to) members of the scientific and engineering diaspora of the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean (though there are members and activities associated with mainland countries like Belize and Guyana, and non-English speaking countries like Haiti). These are small countries where the primary source of income if tourism. Most skilled people leave for better opportunities elsewhere and remain in the diaspora. Tourism-based economies such as those of the Caribbean countries are badly hit by economic downturns such as the most recent one. Members of the scientific diaspora of the Caribbean wanted to do something about diversifying these economies to make them more resilient and less dependent on one industry. CADSTI grew out of recommendations from a meeting supported by UNESCO and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that suggested that the formation of a scientific regional body would be beneficial. CADSTI is now about 4 years old. The first 2 years the organization faced numerous challenges.

- To facilitate economic and social development of the Caribbean region by mining and harnessing talent in the diaspora.
- To connect and catalog the Caribbean scientific diaspora.
- To mobilize resources in support of regional organizations (especially the Caribbean Science Foundation).

The model for CADSTI
- Regional branches
- CADSTI governing council has both diaspora and regional leaders from academia, industry, and government.
- Focus is on the CSF
- Learned some from Israeli diaspora for how to organize from a distance with a widespread population.
- CADSTI holds an annual workshop in the Caribbean. The 1st was in November 2011 in Barbados.

The Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF)
The CSF was launched by CADSTI on September 21, 2010. CSF headquarters are located on the Barbados campus of the University of the West Indies. Its main mission is to assist with the diversification of the economies of the Caribbean region by harnessing science and technology for economic development. 
The focus is on assisting with STEM-based education reform, and stimulating technology-based entrepreneurship by funding S&T projects in new and existing small enterprises on a competitive basis. This latter activity is modeled somewhat like the US National Science Foundation SBIR program (Small Business Innovation Research).      
For sustainability, CSF intends to fund small companies, most of which will fail. Dividends from CSF invested companies are expected to pay back CSF in the long run.
Some initial CSF projects include the CSF-SAGICOR Sustainable Caribbean Communities Project (SCC)

Needs and challenges for the scientific diaspora
Currently, there are very few opportunities that allow for specialized discussions on how scientists and engineers in diaspora communities can optimize their activities at home and abroad. Systematic research and information-sharing addressing the needs of scientific diasporas is sorely lacking. Such information is necessary for the success of any future policies aimed at engaging scientic diasporas. The session at the AAAS Annual Meeting aimed to continue the momentum of recent conversations on the topic of scientific diaspora engagement.

Some questions addressed at the session included:
- What types of scientific research projects are amenable to international collaborations that can make use of existing ties between the scientific diaspora in the US and scientists and engineers abroad?
- What are the barriers that exist for such international collaborations to occur? What are the existing funding opportunities for them?
- What are examples of successful goals and accomplishments of scientific diaspora networks? What lessons can be generalized about what works and what does not among diaspora activities? What are successful models of engagement?
- What are the needs for scientific diaspora networks to best share and obtain information about and for their activities? What resources are already in existence and which are missing?
- What roles can governments play as partners? What roles can be played by non-government organizations? By universities? By the private sector?
- What are the desired needs and necessary ingredients for a sustainable dialogue by scientific diaspora networks?
- What tools are available for assessing the activities of scientific diaspora networks?
- What role do women in the scientific diaspora play in the various initiatives discussed? What can be done to increase the involvement of women?
- networking between diasporas
- open vs. closed membership? Eg. Wael’s closed model (assured commitment and reliability) vs. Ciencia Puerto Rico’s open model (unexpected collaborations and intitiatives)
- country-specific vs regional
- workshops held in country or region of origin
- resources for scientific diasporas
- challenges? Eg. Wael’s 3 types of diasporas: 1. Those who left the country and have no interest in the country or region of origin; 2. Diaspora who are interested in region of interested but not particularly committed; and 3. The minority few who are extremely committed. The challenge is to identify and recruit the latter for scientific diaspora organizations. This is why SASTA has a closed membership model.
- buy in eg. ask org. board to contribute financially before having them do fundraising
            Eg. have regional branches

Some additional resources for the scientific diaspora

International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA)
IdEA is an innovative platform for public-private partnerships designed to engage diaspora communities, the private sector, and public institutions in a collaborative process. The goal is to support the development of diaspora-centered partnerships that promote trade and investment, volunteerism, philanthropy, diplomacy, entrepreneurship, and innovation in countries of origin.

Diaspora Matters Toolkit
Diaspora Matters is a consultancy firm based in Dublin, Ireland which Kingsley Aikins, former CEO & President of The Worldwide Ireland Funds, established to advise individuals, companies and Governments on strategic methods for engaging with diaspora communities. Diasporas Matters has developed a toolkit that can be downloaded for free on the webpage.

Scientific Diaspora book and toolkit
A book called “Scientific Diasporas As Development Partners: Skilled Migrants from Colombia, India and South Africa in Swizterland – Empirical Evidence and Policy Responses” was recently published in which Editors Gabriela Tejada and Jean-Claude Bolay capture the latest in data, research, policy and theoretical frameworks concerning scientific diasporas. Dr. Tejada has also developed a toolkit called “An action-oriented tool-kit to assess good practices of skilled migrants and scientific diasporas”, available as a free down on the webpage.

Cardinal Warde, PhD
Professor of Electrical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Engineering

Dr. Warde is considered one of the world's leading experts on materials, devices and systems for optical information processing. He holds ten key patents on spatial light modulators, displays, and optical information processing systems. He is a co-inventor of the microchannel spatial light modulator, membrane-mirror light shutters based on micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), an optical bistable device, and a family of charge-transfer plate spatial light modulators.

Dr. Warde grew up on the small Caribbean island of Barbados. After finishing high school in 1965, he boarded a plane for the United States, where he would receive a bachelor's degree in physics from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1969. His passion for physics continued into graduate school at Yale University where he earned M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in 1971 and 1974. While at Yale, Dr. Warde invented a new interferometer that would work near absolute zero temperature in order to measure the refractive index and thickness of solid oxygen films for his Ph.D. research. This experience stimulated his keen passion for optics and optical engineering. Immediately after earning the Ph.D., he joined MIT in its faculty of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1974 as an Assistant Professor.

Dr.  Warde's research activities are focused on the development of optical neural-network co-processors that are expected to endow the next generation of PC's with rudimentary brain-like processing; transparent liquid-crystal microdisplays for display eyeglasses and novel cellular phones; membrane-mirror-based spatial light modulators for optical switching and projection displays; and spectro-polarimetric imaging sensors for remote-sensing applications.

In addition to his research and teaching duties, Dr. Warde is also an entrepreneur: in 1982 he founded Optron Systems, Inc., an incubator company dedicated to developing novel electro-optic and MEMS displays, and light shutters and modulators for optical signal processing systems. Then in 1999 he co-founded Radiant Images, Inc., a company engaged in the manufacture of transparent liquid-crystal VLSI microdisplays for digital camera and camcorder viewfinders, portable telecommunications devices, and display eyeglasses.

Dr. Warde has also dedicated himself to working with Caribbean governments and organizations to help stimulate economic development in the Caribbean area. As such he lectures frequently throughout the Caribbean at scientific and government meetings on the role of technology and education reform on economic development. He also serves, informally, as a scientific advisor to the Government of Barbados. In addition, for the last ten years Dr. Warde has mentored students in the Network Program of the New England Board of Higher Education. The goals of this program are to motivate and encourage minority youth in the six New England states to consider majoring in science and engineering and to pursue careers in these fields. He has been recognized with a number of awards and honors for his work, including the Renaissance Science and Engineering Award from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1996.

Wael Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Chief of the Division of Global Health, University of California, San Diego

Dr. Al-Delaimy graduated with a medical degree from the Mustansyria University in Baghdad, followed by a graduate diploma in Community Medicine from the University of Baghdad and a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Otago, New Zealand. He worked as a research fellow and research associate at Harvard school of Public Health in Boston, followed by a tenure scientist position at the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer based in Lyon. Currently an Associate Professor and chief of the division of global health at the department of family and preventive medicine and a member of the cancer center at the University of California, San Diego.

His current research in Epidemiology and public health is multidisciplinary and focus on chronic diseases of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory illnesses and mental health. His pioneering work has been in the development of novel biomarkers for the first time to measure nicotine in toenails, as well as hair. He leads research evaluation of the State of California Tobacco Control program. He is also involved in research ethics and chairs the international society for environmental epidemiology ethics committee. At the university of California, San Diego he is Chief of the division of Global health and member of the Campus Global Health Initiative Steering Committee, the campus Committee on Undergraduate Internship and Research, and The University of California wide Education Abroad Advisory Committee in Public Health. He is a Board Member of the Society for the Advancement of Science and Technology in the Arab World (SASTA), which aims to advance the interests of Arab expatriate scientists and academics living abroad to more effectively engage with the Arab education, science and technology community and make a positive impact in the Arab World.

Nicholas Farrell, PhD
Professor, Department of Chemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University

Professor Nicholas P. Farrell is a graduate of University College Dublin. He obtained his PhD from Sussex University and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Simon Fraser University and The University of British Columbia. He is currently professor of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). His research interests are in the broad area of bioinorganic chemistry. Specifically his interest is in the medicinal uses of inorganic compounds and his work has included development of antiviral and anti-parasitic drugs. His major research is on platinum-based anticancer agents, which are an important part of the anticancer drug armamentarium. The first genuinely structurally novel platinum drug to enter clinical trials in thirty years (BBR3464) arose from his laboratory research. He has received continuous funding for over twenty years from the American Cancer Society, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health for his research. Professor Farrell has written or co-edited three books in the area of platinum anticancer agents and medicinal inorganic chemistry. He is the author of over 200 refereed papers and review chapters. He and his collaborators have received over sixty patents worldwide from his inventions. He was honored as Distinguished Research Scholar of Virginia Commonwealth University for 2003-2004. He was instrumental in development of a graduate program in Chemical Biology at VCU. He was the Chair of the first Gordon Research Conference on Metals in Medicine and in October 2003 chaired the Ninth International Symposium on Platinum Compounds in Cancer Chemotherapy, a meeting which unites chemists, biochemists, pharmacologists and cancer clinicians. Having begun his independent research career in Brazil, his laboratory has hosted and continues to host many international scholars and major collaborations have involved scientists from Australia, Brazil and The Czech Republic. Professor Farrell is fluent in Portuguese and speaks Spanish. He is interested in helping build scientific expertise and collaboration amongst developing countries.

Most recently, he pursued his interest in science diplomacy as a Jefferson Science Fellow in the U.S. Department of State. And staying true to his Irish heritage, he was instrumental in the founding of the Wild Geese Network, a community of researchers with roots in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

Session chairs
Marcelo Vinces, PhD
AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, National Science Foundation

Marcelo is a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation (NSF).  He joined as a Fellow in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) at the NSF after 4 years as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium, where he used brewer’s yeast to study the biological function of highly mutable repetitive “junk” DNA sequences.  He received his PhD in Molecular Microbiology at Tufts University in Boston, writing a thesis on transcription factors that regulate the morphological switches of the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans.  He pursued his doctoral degree after completing studies at Cornell University.  When not studying yeast in the lab, Marcelo has pursued his interest in education and outreach, particularly to underrepresented groups, and in catalyzing greater international cooperation in research and education. He is founder and member of the Scientific Diasporas “Affinity Group” of AAAS S&T Policy Fellows. Marcelo was born in Ecuador, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he grew up speaking Spanish and English. He has since picked up some French, Dutch, and German.

Pallavi Phartiyal, PhD
Program Manager, Union of Concerned Scientists

Pallavi recently joined the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, MA as a Program Manager. Previously she was Project Director with the Research Competitiveness Program at AAAS, where she managed the review and guidance of multi-institutional, state-wide programs focused on research infrastructure, capacity and competitiveness.

She is interested in international science policy issues and organized previous symposia on US-based science and technology diaspora as enablers S&T strength in their homelands, and on the role of federal agencies in capacity building in developing countries. Pallavi is also active in professional development of young scientists through review of their scientific findings and career counseling.

Before her time at AAAS, Pallavi worked at Research!America, a public education and medical research advocacy organization, where she researched private and public funding for prevention research, attended legislative events and hearings, and wrote news briefs. Pallavi’s academic research spans multiple disciplines.

She obtained a Ph.D. degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where her research focused on understanding the assembly and trafficking of cardiac potassium channel proteins involved in maintaining cardiac rhythm. Her doctoral work, which led to a patent application, was supported by the American Heart Association pre-doctoral fellowship. She completed her M.S. degree in Agronomy at the University of Missouri-Columbia. For her master’s dissertation, she cloned and characterized enzymes involved in sulfur assimilation in soybeans. She obtained her B.S. degree in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry from India. Pallavi has published original research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, presented her work in international meetings, and reviewed manuscripts for scientific journals.

[1] B. Séguin, P. A. Singer, A. S. Daar, “Scientific Diasporas”, Science 312, 1603 (2006).
[3] Y. No and J. P. Walsh, “The importance of foreign-born talent for US innovation”, Nature Biotechnology 28, 289-291 (2010).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Session on Scientific Diasporas at the AAAS Annual Meeting, 2012

Coordinating, Learning, and Sharing Best Practices Among Scientific Diaspora Networks

Saturday, February 18, 2012: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room 121 (VCC West Building)
Vancouver, Canada

The large-scale emigration of scientifically trained individuals to other countries while seeking better opportunities is often referred to as brain drain. However, this negative connotation obscures the great untapped potential that these diaspora science networks hold as viable and ongoing resources for their countries of origin. Although there are many efforts among scientific diaspora communities to engage productively with their homelands to improve the scientific capacities of these countries, there has been to date very little in coordination of efforts, in relating best practices in these engagements, or in highlighting what works and what does not. This panel aims to catalyze a conversation about how best to leverage existing efforts among disparate scientific and technical diaspora networks, to highlight models for engagement, and to foster greater communications between different diaspora networks that have much to learn from each other, as well as with governmental and nongovernmental bodies that aim to strengthen the role of diasporas in capacity-building in their countries of origin.


Marcelo Vinces, AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, NSF
Pallavi Phartiyal, Union of Concerned Scientists


Dr. Nicholas P. Farrell, Virginia Commonwealth University
Wild Geese Network of Irish Scientists: The First Year

Dr. Wael Al-Delaimy, University of California, San Diego
The Arab Spring: A Sunny Forecast for the Diaspora Scientists

Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation: Driver of the Caribbean Science Foundation

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The magic of diasporas

A recent article in The Economist:

Immigrant networks are a rare bright spark in the world economy. Rich countries should welcome them.

"fears that poor countries will suffer as a result of a “brain drain” are overblown. The prospect of working abroad spurs more people to acquire valuable skills, and not all subsequently emigrate. Skilled migrants send money home, and they often return to set up new businesses. One study found that unless they lose more than 20% of their university graduates, the brain drain makes poor countries richer."

A Bicontinental Biologist's Project: How to Rejuvenate Russian Science

From The Chronicle of Higher Education, a story of a scientist in the Russian diaspora, and how he used connections in both countries to improve Russian science, and some of the hurdles he encountered.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome to Scientific Diasporas

Welcome to the Scientific Diasporas blog, a source of news, resources and information for self-organized communities of expatriate scientists and engineers working to develop their home country or region, in science, technology, and education.

Scientific diasporas constitute an important resource for countries of origin. We hope to offer a platform for sharing ideas and raising the profile of S&T diaspora networks that often work in isolation. This website aims to increase collaboration and sharing of best practices among diverse communities and forms of engagement.

For the first post here, we offer a policy article published in Science magazine in 2006 that nicely articulates the promise of scientific diasporas, and what can be done to optimize their activities.

Scientific Diasporas
by Béatrice Séguin, Peter A. Singer and Abdallah S. Daar.
Science 16 June 2006

Source: & Science magazine