IAEA: The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics stems the brain drain of physicists from developing nations at a time of new scientific challenges.
In the early 1960s, both the decision-makers and the public in the industrialized world, shared a faith in the usefulness and importance of fundamental science. There was unfaltering trust in the scientific community. Although the world was ideologically split into two camps, science was recognized as an integral part of human culture and development. Science, however, did not fare as well in most developing countries, some of which had just gained their independence. The number of scientists active in research in such countries was small. As scientists emigrated to more developed nations, the resulting brain drain delivered serious blows to the scientific communities of those researchers, leaving deep scars in the intellectual fabric of their countries.
Abdus Salam, a Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani physicist, recognized that improving science locally would not be enough to stem the flight of fledgling scientists from developing countries. International mechanisms would be needed to allow scientists—especially those returning home after training abroad—to stay connected with the world, to refresh their knowledge periodically, and to engage in international research collaborations. The time was right for the conception of an international centre for theoretical physics. And Trieste, Italy, was the right place, located in the West, but at the doorstep to the Eastern bloc.
Not Just Another Institute—A Home Established in 1964 under the aegis of the IAEA, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) was intended to be not just another international research institute. The intention was a model organization designed to promote training and research in the physical and mathematical sciences in developing countries; serve as a forum for scientists from all over the world; and operate as a first-class scientific institution.
All three goals reflect the desire of its founding director, Abdus Salam, to confront the issues of isolation and brain drain that have continually dimmed the prospects for scientific excellence across the developing world.
Today ICTP each year hosts some 6000 scientists in its facilities in Trieste, Italy, while maintaining strong and enduring links with scientific communities in more than 170 countries. Closer to home, it has forged cooperative relationship with many Italian scientific institutions. Through its efforts, the Centre has built a worldwide family of loyal alumni—tens of thousands of associates, lecturers, and students, many of whom are now internationally recognized scientists, university leaders, research-council presidents, and leading statesmen in their own countries.