Brain gain! Initiative to coax scientists back to Poland proves to be a hit

The ‘Polskie Powroty’ (Polish Returns) programme has so far seen 42 academics return from working abroad to bring their knowledge and research back to Poland. Science in HD

A government funded programme that pays for Polish scientists doing research abroad to return home has begun recruitment for the third year.

The ‘Polskie Powroty’ (Polish Returns) programme has so far seen 42 academics return from working abroad to bring their knowledge and research back to Poland.

The scheme, which is co-financed by Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA) and National Science Centre (NCN), provides funding not only to cover the cost of the research but also remuneration for the scholar and members of their project group, resettlement costs for the returning scientist and their family as well as money for adapting and organisation of the workplace and research facility.

Kinga Kamieniarz-Gdula, a molecular biologist working in the field of gene regulation, was born in Poznan and returned under the programme after studying first in Germany and then at the University of Oxford in England.Kinga Kamieniarz-Gdula

The total value of each grant could be as much as 2.4 million PLN with 77.7 million PLN being spent so far on the first two editions and a further 31.6 million PLN available for the third edition.

Łukasz Wojdyga, Director General at the Polish National Agency For Academic Exchange, told TFN: “I'm convinced that the experience of scientists who have worked in an international environment will translate into increasing scientific excellence in Polish academic institutions and effects in the form of scientific research results on the basis of which innovative solutions for the benefit of the Polish economy can be created.

“The beneficiaries of the Polish Return Programme have returned from countries such as the USA, the UK, Germany, Austria, Singapore and Japan and they have built international research teams using their international professional contacts.

Dr. Jan Stanek who was originally from Warsaw returned from working in Lyon, France under the scheme.Kalbar/TFN

“They publish scientific articles in prestigious scientific journals with the affiliation of Polish universities.

“Thanks to this, the internationalization of Polish science and its position in the world, and thus Poland's position as a country, is increasing." 

Dr. Jan Stanek who was originally from Warsaw returned from working in Lyon, France under the scheme. He told TFN that he had always planned to travel abroad and after a chance meeting at a conference the opportunity to work in France arose and it was a good opportunity to gain experience and see how things were done elsewhere. Stanek, who has published over 30 scientific articles, is now able to continue his research studying proteins and RNA at the University of Warsaw.

Dr. Stanek told TFN: “Without the programme I probably wouldn’t have been able to return to academia in Poland, I would likely have gone into the private sector and done something else." Kalbar/TFN

He said: “Without the programme I probably wouldn’t have been able to return to academia in Poland, I would likely have gone into the private sector and done something else. 

“This programme is breathing new life into academic institutions in Poland, bringing a new generation of scientists with fresh, dynamic ideas, who have experienced how things operate in other countries and can impart that knowledge to students in Poland.”

Kinga Kamieniarz-Gdula, a molecular biologist working in the field of gene regulation, was born in Poznan and returned home under the programme after studying first in Germany and then at the University of Oxford in England.

Łukasz Wojdyga, Director General at the Polish National Agency For Academic Exchange, told TFN that thanks to the initiative “the internationalization of Polish science and its position in the world, and thus Poland's position as a country, is increasing.” NAWA

She told TFN:“International mobility is very important for researchers to grow, it gives the opportunity to learn new scientific approaches, so I decided to do my PhD at the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg and later moved to the University of Oxford.

“I always wanted to come back and apply what I learned in Poland. Poland now also attracts foreign scientists who seize the opportunities here.

Returning to Poland after 13 years abroad is a challenge, and the support of the Polish Returns programme has helped enormously, both for the move and now for the settling in phase.”