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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 26, 2007

Written by C.N.

Asian Scientists Returning to Asia

In the academic and scientific research and development industries, it’s very common to find large numbers of Asian and Asian American scientists and researchers. For various reasons, a disproportionate number of Asians and Asian Americans are drawn to the sciences as a career and such fields have benefited tremendously from their work through the years.

However, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, after receiving their education and first work experiences inside the U.S., more Asian scientists are increasingly returning to their Asian home countries to work (thanks to AngryAsianMan for mentioning this first):

Frustrated by stagnating federal funding for research and clampdowns on visas, Asian scientists are increasingly returning to their homelands. One-quarter of the 700,000 students who left China between 1978 and 2003 have gone back, China’s Ministry of Education has reported.

Most of those left the United States recently, with more than 20,000 a year returning to China in the past five years, according to the ministry.

In countries with blossoming economies, such as China, South Korea, India and Singapore, governments have identified biotechnology and other high-tech industries as a way to expand beyond basic manufacturing. They are spending billions to underwrite companies, build high-tech parks and help startup businesses cut through red tape.

The trend has negative implications in the United States, which has already lost much of its high-tech manufacturing to outsourcing, said Greg Lucier, chief executive of Carlsbad-based biotechnology company Invitrogen. If foreign scientists continue to leave, the United States also could lose its lead in innovation.

The article goes on to note that it’s not just Chinese scientists leaving the U.S. to return to China — it’s also Indian high-tech workers doing the same and returning to India. Also and perhaps surprisingly, this trend also involves many top non-Asian American (primarily White) scientists being lured away to live and continue their work in Asia.

It looks like the U.S. is continuing to lose its lead in terms of being the premier place for scientific education and research. We already know that American elementary and high school students increasingly trail their counterparts around the world in terms of scientific knowledge, and now we have many of our top scientists leaving to go to Asia.

Basically, the U.S. is sowing what it planted — years and decades of cuts in scientific funding to pay for wars and tax cuts for the rich, politically-motivated debates over scientific research, and a general anti-immigrant sentiment have all led to this trend.

In the end, our loss will be Asia’s gain and when “traditionalist” Americans gripe about Asian countries outcompeting and surpassing the U.S. in scientific accomplishments, they will only have to look in the mirror to find someone to blame.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Asian Scientists Returning to Asia" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/12/asian-scientists-returning-to-asia/> ().

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