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“Pay them and they will stay. Keep them and it will pay.” Sudanese mathematician Mohamed Hassan’s summary of Nature’s first international survey tracking scientists’ salaries and how they feel about their jobs in 2010 was both pithy and prescient. Source: Nature

Does "Keep them and it will pay" mean "Keep them and it will be worthy of the money spent, the time, the efforts etc."?

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In this context "it will pay" mainly means it is worth the effort to keep them. Alternatively, it means to be punished or to be rewarded.

So you can read it in these couple of ways:

  1. Pay them and they will stay. Keep them and it will be worth the effort.
  2. Pay them and they will stay. Keep them and you will get rewarded.
  3. Pay them and they will stay. Keep them and you will get punished.

For the meaning of "it pays" i can also quote this from merriam-webster.com

it pays: used to say that doing something is worth the effort or expense

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  • Please edit your answer to add the missing verbs. Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 7:16
  • "Keep them and you will get punished" is clearly not what's meant here.
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 7:35
  • Also, #1 should read "Keep them and it will be worth the effort."
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 7:36
  • In this context, it can never mean "you will get punished". For "pay" to have the meaning of "be punished", "you" must be the subject, as in, "You will pay". Here, "it will pay" could mean, "Keeping them will be punished", but it's nonsense to punish "keeping them" rather than punishing a person, so nobody will understand it this way
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 20:41

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