Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has invited scientists who had gone abroad for better working conditions to come back to Turkey, in a new public service announcement, the ANKA news agency reported on Monday.
In the video Erdoğan tells Turkish scientists overseas that his government will provide all the facilities needed for their research if they return to their homeland within the scope of the “International Fellowship for Outstanding Researchers Program,” which was launched in 2018.
It is also said in the video that Turkey had lost many of its talented scientists due to “unsuitable circumstances” but has regained 6,000 of them since 2018.
The announcement, which comes only weeks before May 14 elections, again showed Erdoğan’s changed tone in his approach towards the scientists who had left the country for better working conditions.
In March 2022 the president’s remarks condemning the increasing number of Turkish doctors who chose to move to the private sector or go abroad for better job opportunities caused resentment and outrage among the country’s medical community.
“If they’re leaving, let them go. We’ll employ our newly graduated doctors here and move forward with them. … Don’t worry, posts here won’t be vacant [for long],” Erdoğan said during a speech at the time.
After facing an angry reaction from the medical community, Erdoğan a week later praised the efforts of doctors, especially during the pandemic, and said, “Turkey is always in need of its doctors and is indebted to them.”
A recent report published by the Turkish Informatics Foundation (TBV) titled “Turkey Academic Diaspora Report: From Brain Drain to Brain Power” has revealed that the likelihood of Turkish academics moving overseas has been increasing since 2015, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.
According to the report, there had been a large increase in the number of researchers per capita in Turkey starting from the 1970s until 2015. After 2015, this increase reversed and a decline started. The likelihood of researchers leaving Turkey, which had been flat or partially declining since the 2000s, increased significantly after 2015.
The report revealed that Turkey is experiencing a brain drain, with the most productive researchers likely to leave for abroad. However, the country is also experiencing a reverse brain drain as less productive Turkish researchers are more likely to return to the country. This means that Turkey loses its top talent while getting back lower-performing researchers, according to the report.
Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which has been ruling Turkey as a single-party government since 2002, is being accused by its critics of eliminating academic freedom in the country and failing to provide the scientists with the necessary means to do scientific work.