'Am I going to spend the rest of my life in meetings?'

"The difficult thing in the UK is that unless you're really good, then to earn more money you have to take on more responsibility. I had been in charge of a large department and agreed - foolishly, perhaps - to be the dean of a medical school. And one reason for doing it was that I would increase my income."

"The difficult thing in the UK is that unless you're really good, then to earn more money you have to take on more responsibility. I had been in charge of a large department and agreed - foolishly, perhaps - to be the dean of a medical school. And one reason for doing it was that I would increase my income."

However Professor Bernard Wood decided that he was not enjoying the task of being dean of anthropology at Liverpool University. So three years ago he left Britain to take up a post as professor of human origins at George Washington University, Washington DC, where he is now. "I had miscalculated my ability," he says. "Or maybe I hadn't been realistic about keeping my research going and doing the job." After a year as dean, he asked himself "if I was going to let my research fall by the wayside and spend the rest of my time in meeting rooms. I decided that wasn't what I wanted to do."

Many middle-grade to upper- grade British scientists find their love of research tempered by the realisation that they face a ceiling on their income unless they take on managerial responsibilities for which they may feel ill-equipped. Yesterday's announcement of £4m to top up the salaries of particular scientists is unlikely to change the choice faced by hundreds of researchers around the country.

Professor Wood now has a $2.5m (£1.6m) research grant, which he says means he is reasonably happy. "In the end, you go where the people are and where you sense that the opportunities are greatest. I needed the opportunity to get back into research full-time."

Does he think the £4m will change many would-be emigrants' minds? "It's probably not going to have a huge impact. But if there was a scheme which rewarded people for running large research groups, that would be good. But people leave the UK, and in particular go to the US, because they perceive that the opportunities are greater abroad."

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