GLOBAL: China and US attract world's top researchers

Top Chinese, North American and European universities are offering salaries and access to laboratories and facilities of a size and on a scale that universities in smaller countries cannot match, says a report commissioned by the Australian government.

The report says that given the size of the Australian university sector relative to these nations, local institutions cannot offer similarly attractive packages. It warns that universities face difficulties in attracting overseas researchers to counter a looming shortfall.

Published by Allen Consulting, the report says Australia will find it increasingly difficult to attract researchers from these countries as their economies continue to expand and funds flow into their domestic innovation and university systems.

The report, Employer Demand for Researchers in Australia, bases its conclusions on responses from a survey of 72 organisations, including universities, big business, industry and the Commonwealth Scientific, Industrial and Research Organisation.

Federal Science Minister Kim Carr commissioned the report as part of the development of a workforce strategy on future demand for researchers over the next decade.

It notes an Australian Council for Educational Research study found that demand for employees with higher degrees by research will expand 50% over the next 10 years. The report says 70% of its respondents expected an expansion in their annual demand for researchers during the next five years.

Half the 72 respondents said demand for researchers would exceed supply for the next 10 years. But there are doubts about Australian universities' ability to meetl the demand.

The number of PhD graduates "will be insufficient to meet the needs of Australian institutions over the next decade", the report says. "Australia has a shallow domestic talent pool and researchers in Australia do not have the breadth and depth of those in Europe, North America and northeast Asia."