Shidler College of Business Assistant Professor Caroline Fry published a new study in the March 2022 issue of Organizational Science. Her paper, titled “Bridging the Gap: Evidence from the Return Migration of African Scientists,” outlines her recent research. The study examined the impact of researchers who returned home to Africa following masters and doctoral training at Top 20 institutions in the United States as part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded program. The research follows HIV-related researchers based in African institutions and measures the influence of a scientist returning to their institution following training in the United States.
“This research really illustrates the benefits of network effects for periphery institutions,” Fry said. “The data showed that when an African researcher returns home their colleagues really benefit. They demonstrate a boost in productivity owing to the connections that the researcher who went abroad made.”
She goes on to explain that these networks are creating a type of bridge that benefits more than the trainee. She looked at the effect on the researcher’s colleagues and specifically two different groups of their peers. One group had made previous connections to American-based researchers through conference attendance or involvement in collaborative projects or other training opportunities. The second group had no prior relationships and turned out to be the group that benefited the most. This revelation showed her that the implications of training one researcher can have a broad reach and helps to narrow the gap between equitable access within academic institutions in Africa.
Fry’s study is one of the first to look at characteristics of African scientists in a systematic manner. As well as collecting publication data on more than 1,500 African researchers, she visited more than 15 departments across seven African countries. Among the key takeaways of the research is that it would be beneficial to the global scientific network to allocate more money to sending scientists to regions outside of their homes to receive industry training because the benefits touch more than the trainee. Although her research looks at a population of scientists residing more than 11,000 miles from Honolulu, its implications can be applied to other locations, including Hawai‘i.
“The findings of the study also have relevance locally,” Fry said. “Given Hawai’i’s geographic location, this shows that there are enormous benefits to supporting short-term fellowships elsewhere for Hawai‘i-based innovators and scientists. These can potentially create ripple effects for the researchers and their colleagues.”