traveling a bit in europe as I have been,
i have visited hi tech labs in many countries
and what is remarkable, is not that there is much
variation in smartness of researchers, or
even in facilities, but in how
aware of what is going on in the rest of the world
a given lab is.
There seems to be a very strong variation in clue - not just a perctange difference - literally orders of magnitude -
a few examples
thomson labs in paris, MPI SWS in Sarbrucken, Ericsson research in Kista in Sweden, all showed increibly up to date knowledge of who (whether in japan, australia, US or within europe) was doing what that was cool - to the extent that (for example) I gave a tak in one lab and mentioned a talk I had seen the day before in Microsoft research 1500km away, and they commented on it as one of them had got slides and worked on related stuff....oh, add to this TID (Telefonica research lab in Barcelona) - really amazing set of people given how short a time it has been up and running!
on the other hand, there are people that write papers that don't appear to be aware of work done 2-3 years before...
it does seem to co-rrelate somewhat with the organisation of (national, not EU) funding and whether there is good evaluation of how national work compares with internatonal work....as well as (and this is just the histrical luck of the draw) whwther the local language is spoken in other parts of the world where one can recruit lots of cool PHD students ....
I don't want to list the negative experiences as I dont think that helps anyone:(
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