The International Organization for Migration (IOM) defines diasporas as “migrants or descendants of migrants, whose identity and sense of belonging have been shaped by their migration experience and background.” (IOM Glossary on Migration, 2019). Diasporas are thus distinguished from other communities in that they maintain some link – cultural, linguistic, historical, religious or affective – to their home country; as such, they represent a bridge between host and home countries and favour both “brain circulation” and “brain bank” (Kapur, 2001).
Science diasporas in particular can play a key role in the development of their country of origin, by transferring knowledge, skills and technology. Diaspora networks are thus a hidden treasure of untapped potential. In many cases, official and unofficial networks have emerged. Yet, they often struggle to deliver on their potential locally and globally.
In addition, we have witnessed how COVID-19 has brought to the limit health, social, economic, and labour systems and provoked huge turbulence in multilateral relations. In parallel, science, with its ability to inform policies for better responses, has become a crucial component of the solution to the crisis. COVID-19 has taught us that we are only as strong as every human being and every network. Everyone counts and we are truly a global community.
We discussed opportunities and challenges for Arab diaspora in particular and global diaspora in general. The panelists’ discussion was led by SASTA President Dr. Rana Dajani.
“It is a nice feeling that you want to reflect and give back to your home country,” said Dr. Dana, arguing further that sometimes diasporas find it hard to reflect and connect. However, As a diaspora scientist, she speaks the ‘Science’ language which made her less foreign in terms of professional life. Meanwhile, all the panelists discussed how in personal life, the case is different, which raises the need for diaspora to support each other’s communities.
During the panel, Dr. Basel stressed how youth organizations are doing a great job connecting experts in the diaspora with projects in our Arab countries, Phi Science Institute and The Genetics and Bioinformatics Association (GBA) in Jordan are great examples of the potential that can be unlocked within the upcoming generations. Dr. Abu-Jamous also encouraged his scientist colleagues to not give up, but rather to focus on the impact that small actions can have when forces are joined under an overarching bridge.
This Panel illustrated the importance of having an organization to be an umbrella for scientists, helping them with their challenges first, and with giving back, aiming at accelerating collaborations, especially to policies and advancements.
KEY TAKE-AWAY POINTS & ACTIONABLE ITEMS
Definition of diaspora is very broad and inclusive.
Diaspora scientists need to belong to a network to help harness their potential and encourage them to give back.
Connecting to youth and youth-led networks are more effective and practical as well as satisfying.
Personal connections and efforts can go a long way rather than going through formal channels that can be unintentionally thwarted by bureaucracy.
Starting small and doing little things can lead to a lot on the long run.