The Globalization of Health Research: Harnessing the Scientific Diaspora

Anand, Nalini P. JD; Hofman, Karen J. MD; Glass, Roger I. MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819b204d
Globalization of Health Research

The scientific diaspora is a unique resource for U.S. universities. By drawing on the expertise, experience, and catalytic potential of diaspora scientists, universities can capitalize more fully on their diverse intellectual resources to make lasting contributions to global health. This article examines the unique contributions of the diaspora in international research collaborations, advantages of harnessing the diaspora and benefits to U.S. universities of fostering these collaborations, challenges faced by scientists who want to work with their home countries, examples of scientists engaging with their home countries, and specific strategies U.S. universities and donors can implement to catalyze these collaborations. The contributions of the diaspora to the United States are immense: International students enrolled in academic year 2007–2008 contributed an estimated $15 billion to the U.S. economy. As scientific research becomes increasingly global, the percentage of scientific publications with authors from foreign countries has grown from 8% in 1988 to 20% in 2005. Diaspora scientists can help build trusting relationships with scientists abroad, and international collaborations may improve the health of underserved populations at home. Although opportunities for diaspora networks are increasing, most home countries often lack enabling policies, infrastructure, and resources to effectively utilize their diaspora communities abroad. This article examines how some governments have successfully mobilized their scientific diaspora to become increasingly engaged in their national research agendas. Recommendations include specific strategies, including those that encourage U.S. universities to promote mini-sabbaticals and provide seed funding and flexible time frames.

Ms. Anand is advisor, public-private partnerships and legislative affairs, Division of International Science Policy, Planning and Evaluation, John E. Fogarty International Center, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Hofman is director, Division of International Science Policy, Planning and Evaluation, John E. Fogarty International Center, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Glass is director, John E. Fogarty International Center, and associate director, International Research, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Correspondence should be addressed to Ms. Anand, Division of International Science Policy, Planning and Evaluation, John E. Fogarty International Center, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Building 16, Room 211, 16 Center Drive, MSC 6705, Bethesda, MD 20892-6705; telephone: (301) 402-7348; fax: (301) 496-8496; e-mail: (anandn@mail.nih.gov).

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges