Project description

Our theme is the brain drain in Spain. The crisis began in our country in 2009. Investment in research fell considerably. This meant that many researchers had to go abroad to remain in science: The most common complaints among scientists were precarious contracts, inbreeding in the profession or lack of opportunities according to the Fugados project, which we made in our newspaper in 2015.
The Spanish government does not know how many researchers leave or how many come because the National Statistics Institute (INE) is not obliged to collect them. In the absence of official data, El Periódico de Catalunya had access to two large databases of two of the most important portals for researchers in the world. ORCID (13 milion users) and ResearchGate (12 milion users). These are platforms where researchers register voluntarily to share their curriculum vitae, academic articles and, in the case of ORCID, to obtain an ID to be accredited. ORCID is used by many Spanish researchers precisely to obtain this ID, so the sample, although still random, became more representative.
We used that data to focus on Spanish profiles and see if we had any indications, as we thought, that there was indeed a brain drain in Spain. For there to be a brain drain, it is necessary for researchers to have less input than researchers leaving, something that had not yet been demonstrated.

What makes this project innovative?

The innovation is to do research with data that is not in official statistical institutions but in databases of network platforms. While we know that the sample is not representative, we have had access to the largest databases of researchers available. The Spanish government, which does not have data from researchers leaving, obtains its mobility data from a survey with a much smaller sample than ours.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

We received a call from the press officer at the Secretary of State for Research to ask us where we had obtained the data and we gave it to them, but they did not want to reply. We have two databases that reinforce our hypothesis that there is indeed a brain drain in Spain. It was the most popular science story and it was one of the most watched in the newspaper on the day of publication. This work has enabled us to establish a good relationship with others researchers to further investigate this issue.

Source and methodology

Journalist Doran Bohannon published in May 2017 a file with the data he used to write an article in Science magazine with ORCID's public profiles in XML and JSON. He also published an archive of the ResearchGate researchers' movements. We use this data, which is broken down into two CSVs: the affiliations and the profiles. We cross-check the data to obtain the complete information. The members do not give their nationality, and we had to assume that it was the place where they obtained their first degree. In the case of ORCID, it is easy to verify because with the ID you can access the person's public profile. In the case of ResearchGate, we spoke directly with them so that they could give us the movements of the Spanish researchers. ResearchGate confirmed to us that there were strong indications that this phenomenon had arisen in Spain, because the movements from the inside out had increased.

Technologies Used

Open Refine, R, Tableau, Google spreadsheet,Illustrator

Project members

Michele Catanzaro, Clara Lima


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