Moving policy forward: brain drain as a wicked problem

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Journal Article
Globalisation, Societies and Education, 2009, 7 (1), pp. 41 - 50
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The mobility of scientists and the concerns surrounding `brain drain' are not new. Even in the Ptolemic dynasty, the first king set out to attract and influence the movements of scholars to shift the centre of learning from Athens to Alexandria. Yet after all this time, there is still much policy discourse and debate focused on attempting to define, redefine and solve this ancient problem. I argue that the continuing circularity of the debate supports the proposition that the policy issue of brain drain would value from being reconceptualised as a `wicked problem, in order to move policy forward. Drawing upon a historical documentary analysis of the issue from 1990 to 2007 and interviews with current policy-makers, I propose that reconceptualising this issue will enable actors to collectively and explicitly recognise the fundamental and conflicting perspectives inherent in this social problem that cannot be resolved. This reconceptualisation provides a platform from which policy-makers can pursue a range of policy responses, attentive to the different perspectives on this issue, rather than spend more time and resources in futilely attempting to achieve a single definitive position and policy response.
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