In recent years, the EU has taken steps to promote European researcher mobility (European Commission, 2001ab). Despite increased attention to highly skilled mobility in research and policy circles, its corollary—return mobility—has been relatively sidelined. However, return mobility is essential for the promotion of balanced growth in an enlarging Europe since ‘the personal networks of the returned researcher are conduits for other student and researcher flows as well as new research and finance' (Casey et al., 2001, p. 6). Nonetheless, it has been acknowledged that after a period abroad mobile researchers can potentially become ‘locked out' of their home country or ‘locked into' the host country. Using empirical data from the MOBEX1 study, this article attempts to explain some of the complex processes involved in scientific return mobility. It details the kinds of barriers that exist to returnees and contemplates the consequences of non-return for science communities. The article also reports on the Italian scientists' call for their national system to change: in the interviews they appealed for a more international environment, for greater opportunities for researchers, for experience abroad to be valued and for more meritocratic progression channels to stimulate return.
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