Caught in the Crossfire: Fears of Chinese-American Scientists

Authors: Yu XieXihong LinJu LiQian HeJunming Huang

The US leadership in science and technology has greatly benefitted from immigrants from other countries, most notably from China in the recent decades. However, feeling the pressure of potential federal investigation since the 2018 launch of the China Initiative under the Trump administration, Chinese-origin scientists in the US now face higher incentives to leave the US and lower incentives to apply for federal grants. Analyzing data pertaining to institutional affiliations of more than 2.3 million scientific papers, we find a steady increase in the return migration of Chinese-origin scientists from the US back to China. We also conducted a survey of Chinese-origin scientists employed by US universities in tenure or tenure-track positions (n=1300), with results revealing general feelings of fear and anxiety that lead them to consider leaving the US and/or stop applying for federal grants.

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