So they are toughening their sanctions and trying their pressure tactics and then lamenting the huge cost of Iranian brain drain, overlooking, of course, the Anglo-American contribution to the brain drain in countries such as Iraq!
While most of the blame about the alarming rate of the Iranian brain drain falls on the IRI's failing economic an cultural policies, few critiques talk about the direct role of American sanctions on science and technology (and thus economic) development in Iran.
It is also ironic that the US of A happily absorbs the scientists' exodus! Like most scientists, the greater majority of Iranian academics have little existentialist quarrel with politics, as long as the political system funds them to address their research interests. A factsheet of the success rate of the Iranian-American community, puts in perspective the advantage of Iranian brain drain towards West.
According to a study by Ali Mostashari and Ali Khodamhosseini from the Iranian Studies Group at MIT, the 2000 US Census indicates that
The Iranian ancestral group have educational attainments that greatly surpass the national average. In general, the percent of the Iranians over 25 years old who have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher was at 57.2% in comparison to 24.4% for the rest of the U.S. population. With more than 27% of Iranian-Americans over the age of 25 having a graduate degree or above, Iranian-Americans are the most highly educated ethnic group in the United States. With respect to the gender differences Iranian males and females are both more educated than the U.S. average values. Percentage-wise, Iranian-Americans hold five times the number of doctorates than the national average.
The per capita average income for Iranian-Americans is 50% higher than that of the nation, while family average income is 38% higher. ... The percentage of Iranian Americans living in homes valued more than $1 million is nearly 10 times that of the national average.
(for more information see the research reports at Iranian Study Group MIT)
However, to study and train in North America, is not entirely disadvantageous to Iran as it also opens the horizon of career opportunities domestically. In Returning to Iran: Challenges and Promises the authors report that
returning to Iran is a decision often motivated by emotional and patriotic connections to Iran rather than rational calculations. Moreover, level of satisfaction differed across participants and correlated with their success in achieving their career goals in Iran. Cultural and structural barriers to working effectively have been the biggest challenges to most participants while emotional ties and outstanding students have contributed to positive experiences.Let's thank the sanctions for that too.
Nevertheless, it appears that those who were successful in achieving some of their goals with regard to contribution to Iranian society, and had developed a successful career, were happier with their decisions. A few tentative trends which partially explain the successfulness of different initiatives include:
- There are many potential opportunities in the industry that can be successfully used. ... Examples include information technology, consulting, and financial markets. ...
- Entrepreneurship and institution-building remain central to creating opportunities. Despite some increase in recent years (mostly due to international investments and new large firms) there are few pre-specified, well-paying jobs available. Successful people tend to create the opportunities themselves through starting new ventures which satisfy some unmet need. In short, people who are interested in taking the risks of entrepreneurial activity have better prospects of job satisfaction and making a significant contribution to the Iranian society.
- In the academia the structures are more clearly defined and entrepreneurial activity (e.g. starting a new department or program) is less of an option, with the possible exception of new and growing fields such as management and economics. Under these conditions success is harder, and depends on skills and criteria beyond research aptitude, to secure funds, steer the politics of the departments, and do quality research given very limited resources. The chances of doing quality research also depends strongly on the specific area: theoretical and applied research often have higher chances of success than experimental fields where the resource and equipment become a significant disadvantage for Iranian researchers compared to the international competition.