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A Swiss Network of Scientific Diasporas to Enforce the Role of Highly Skilled Migrants as Partners in Development

Annual Call for Projects 2006


This research and action-oriented project, funded by the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN), is centred around the current international debate on migration and development. The research team's objective is to provide a better understanding of the potential of highly skilled migrants as agents of development, by focusing on their participation in the production and circulation of knowledge. Considering knowledge as a core catalyst in the struggle against poverty, this project examines the potential of highly skilled migrants from developing countries living in Switzerland to favour development in their countries of origin through the practice of brain gain mechanisms that have been shown to offer promising possibilities for effective North-South and South-South cooperation. By creating sustainable strategic synergies among academic institutions, international organisations, the private sector and NGOs, this project intends to establish a Swiss Network of Scientific Diasporas for the circulation of knowledge. It is expected that the Network will serve as an innovative mechanism providing long-term structured support to highly skilled migrants within diaspora communities, linking them to their countries of origin in a systematic and institutional manner.

Data collection on diasporas, often with a focus on gender dimensions is one of the main objectives of migration and development studies. Accordingly, the increasing volume of highly skilled migrants from developing countries present in Switzerland has offered significant research opportunities for an examination of the professional activities of these migrants and a monitoring of the contributions they make to their countries of origin. However, the role of highly skilled migrants in the production and diffusion of knowledge that benefits their countries of origin has remained relatively unexplored or unappreciated until now. Nor has the participation of migrant women in furthering development been fully understood.

The research team will study cases of highly skilled Colombian, Indian and South African migrants in Switzerland, and consider three brain gain mechanisms: scientific diaspora networks; strategies of investment in research and experimental development; and North-South research partnership programmes. The project will analyse how these strategies have operated up to now in Switzerland and their potential impact on development in the country of origin. The three national groups selected have shown themselves to be of key importance for current Swiss scientific policy (the case of India and South Africa) and Swiss development cooperation policy (the case of Colombia). Moreover, these three highly skilled migrant national groups have an important presence in different professional sectors in the Canton of Geneva and they are also well represented among the international students at the public institutions of higher education in the cities of Geneva and Lausanne.

The research will examine:

Employing theoretical, empirical and prospective perspectives in three different research phases, this project uses qualitative research methods, based on surveys, questionnaires and in-depth interviews, as well as of biographical research methodologies.

The project is intended to yield the following results:

  1. Collect data and contribute knowledge-based evidence regarding the professional or academic situation of highly skilled migrants in Switzerland and the function of brain gain mechanisms operating between Switzerland and developing countries;
  2. Build a research methodology that could be used for future studies on migrants as development partners;
  3. Contribute to the policy dialogue on migration and development and on scientific cooperation policies through the creation of an action-oriented tool kit with best practices and best scientific development cooperation policies;
  4. Establish the Swiss Network of Scientific Diasporas for the promotion of exchanges or programmes that encourage co-operation and knowledge circulation using a development impact approach.

The project is coordinated by the unit Cooperation@epfl of the Vice-Presidency of International Relations at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in close collaboration with the International Labour Office (ILO) and the University of Geneva. By providing a strong research component, the project team offers a valuable synergy of competences, disciplines and approaches, bringing together representatives from academic institutions in Lausanne and Geneva, international organisations, as well as NGOs and representatives of the private sector.

The grant provided by the GIAN for this project totals SFr 224,402

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Project Team

Mr Guillermo Arbelaez , Principal Member, DePapaya.org .

Prof. Marie-Claire Caloz-Tschopp , Principal Member, Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences (FPSE) , University of Geneva (Unige) .

Mr Marco Pecoraro , Principal Member, Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies (SFM) .

Dr. Carlos Andrés Peña , Principal Member, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) , Novartis Pharma AG .

Related Links

> Global Network of the Scientific Diasporas

> Diasporas Network

Related News

Related Conferences

A Swiss Network of Scientific Diasporas to Enforce the Role of Highly Skilled Migrants as Partners in Development – Conference and debate “Experiences from the Columbian Diaspora” – 23 June 2007, 10 am, Auditorium of the Beaumont Hospital, Lausanne
Further details about the programme available on www.acis.ch. For registration, please contact acis.ch@hotmail.com.
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Scientific Diasporas in Switzerland: Main Findings, Good Practices and Policy Implications - Final Workshop, International Labour Office (Geneva), 26 October 2007, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
The final workshop of the GIAN-supported research project "A Swiss Network of Scientific Diasporas to Enforce the Role...
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Research Output

Highly Skilled Migrants from Developing Countries in Switzerland and their Potential for the Development of their Countries of Origin
(available in German only)
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Highly Skilled Migration from Developing Countries
(available in English only)
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