Inauguration of the Scholarly Migration Database

New Orleans, United States, 12 April 2023


The inauguration meeting for the Scholarly Migration Database (SMD) was held on Wednesday, April 12th 2023 in New Orleans, United States, at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America with support from the IUSSP Panel on Digital and Computational Demography.


International migration and circulation of scholars is known to enhance research performance by facilitating knowledge recombination, and is fundamental to scientific discovery, especially in its most innovative forms. Policymakers have also recognized the role of attracting the best and the brightest in the global competition for talent to favor economic growth and productivity. 


This meeting was the opening event for the most comprehensive database on the global migration of scholars, developed and hosted at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR). The database website was unveiled and participants in the meeting were among the first to be able to access the data, learn how to get started with analyzing these types of data, and learn about recent and current cutting-edge research that leveraged these types of data in areas like gender inequalities in science, brain drain and brain circulation, migration and development, policies and migration, the relationships between internal and international migration, and more.


The meeting agenda included welcome notes by Emilio Zagheni, MPIDR director and one of the core team members of the SMD, and by Ridhi Kashyap (University of Oxford), chair of the IUSSP Panel on Digital and Computational Demography. It was followed by a demo of the database, and eight invited lightning talks as described below.


First, we had Emilio Zagheni welcome the online and onsite participants and explain the idea behind SMD. Next, Ridhi Kashyap, the chair of the IUSSP panel on Digital and Computational Demography welcomed the participants. This was followed by a brief demo of this database by MPIDR Research Scientist Aliakbar Akbaritabar, another core team member of the SMD, and what researchers and academics can find on the website


Next on the agenda was lightning talks by 8 invited speakers who used bibliometric data to study different aspects of the migration of scholars. Ridhi Kashyap spoke about global patterns of the migration of scholars by gender (which is published here) followed by Xinyi Zhao from MPIDR and the University of Oxford who discussed the case of Germany and the return migration of male and female scholars. Next lightning speakers were Samin Aref from the University of Toronto speaking about “Studying the international migration of published researchers in national science systems (Russia, Germany, and the UK)” and Andrea Miranda Gonzalez from the University of California at Berkley speaking about “Internal migration of scholars in Mexico”.



After a short break and Q&A to address the most burning questions on the first four lightning talks, Ilya Kashnitsky from the University of Southern Denmark shared his experience as the first “beta user” of the database and showed fascinating visualizations that illustrate the power of this database. He posed questions on curious cases of countries and their in- or out-migration rates that need to be studied further using the SMD data. He publicly shared his replication materials on GitHub to allow such further analysis.



Lightning talks were continued with Maciej J. Danko from MPIDR on Global patterns of migration of scholars with economic development (which is published here) and Aliakbar Akbaritabar on Internal and international migration of scholars worldwide. Next, we had Erin Walk from MIT spoke about a spatial analysis framework used to see the interrelationships between scholarly migration and collaboration with word2vec word embedding vectors followed by open discussion and Q&A with online and onsite participants.



Last, but definitely not least, some celebratory photos were taken (see below), followed by a reception with food and beverages to commemorate the inauguration of the Scholarly Migration Database (SMD).


To find more information, see this news release by the MPIDR’s press department describing the event:


“MPIDR Researchers introduced a brand-new migration database at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America (PAA) in New Orleans with support of the IUSSP Panel on Digital and Computational Demography. They celebrated the inauguration with eight invited lightning talks by researchers who have already successfully used the new database for studies published in journals such as PNAS, epj Data Science, and Scientometrics.”


Additional links:


Read an overview of the inauguration event in Aliakbar Akbaritabar's Twitter Thread: 


SMD team will hold future workshops on bibliometric data and repurposing them for the study of migration of scholars. To receive updates on these courses, sign up for the MPIDR’s newsletter