Home > News content

The Return Tide of Chinese Scientists in America: Why did they choose to come back from the top universities in China?

via:博客园     time:2019/9/17 23:04:10     readed:292


Han Ting, taken by Beijing Institute of Life Sciences. Source: STAT

Source: STATnews,Author: Diana Cai,Translator: Sang Song

More than a decade ago, Han Ting, who graduated from Tsinghua University, came to the United States to pursue his biologist's dream. He studied at the University of Michigan in (University of Michigan) and received a doctorate in 2013.

This is an important step for Han Ting, who has imagined his career and life in the United States.

However, the excitement of settling in the West soon disappeared. Han Ting, 36, returned to the Beijing Institute of Life Sciences two years ago as a researcher.

For decades, aspiring Chinese scientists, attracted by more career opportunities in the United States and opportunities to work in the world's top laboratories, have been expected to stay there. But recently, more and more doctoral and postdoctoral students from China have chosen to return home. About China.

This may mean that top scientists trained by American universities are

An unfriendly policy

In order to attract the return of scientific research talents, China's investment in the field of science, the provision of generous salaries and complete laboratories and other powerful measures are well known. The scientists who chose to return home also mentioned other key factors, including the growing strength of China, closer space to relatives, the narrowing of the scientific gap between the two countries, and the growing difficulties in obtaining funding for scientific research and career bottlenecks in the United States. Although women researchers feel less sexist in the United States than at home, some scientists feel they are unpopular in the United States. Han Ting says this tide of return to China

Of particular concern to many Chinese researchers in the United States is that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has increased its scrutiny of scientists with undisclosed sources of funding or links with institutions in other countries, except the United States, and that this action is particularly directed at Chinese scientists.

Graduated from Tsinghua University in 2011 and is currently in Boston Children's Hospital (Boston Children

Ma Yingyi, a sociology professor at Xuecheng University (Syracuse University), has studied the flow of foreign students. She thinks the Trump administration's


Two years ago, Han Ting returned to Beijing from the United States.

More and more returnees

In the field of life science, China has long been shrouded in the shadow of the United States. Most top students leave China to study in the United States and start their careers here.

Like Han Ting, he graduated from Tsinghua University at the beginning of this century and is now a postdoctoral student at (Harvard Medical School), Harvard Medical School. In his memory,

Ye Li and Han Ting, assistant professors at the Scripps Institute in California and former alumni of Tsinghua University, said most of their classmates went abroad at the time, and almost all of them went to the United States. Few people go back to China after going to the United States.

In fact, in the view of Zhang Kangyu, these returning researchers

Zhang is not alone. According to the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a consortium of more than 100 American universities), 98% of Chinese citizens remained in the United States five years after receiving a doctorate in science or engineering in 2001. The latest estimates show that by 2015, this figure has dropped to 85%.

Although China's scientific research environment has improved dramatically over the past 15 years, it is still difficult to compete with its American counterparts.

However, Zeng Xing said that among his classmates at Tsinghua University, more than half of those studying abroad have returned to China. He himself was thinking about the time to go back.

One of the factors that attract scholars to return is the improvement of living standards.

Thirty years ago, China's quality of life obviously lagged behind that of the West. Fo

Many returnees are also motivated by a strong sense of responsibility for their parents. This is one of the reasons why Hu Qiyue, who graduated from Peking University in 1996, returned home in 2011 to accept an industrial position.

Bottlenecks in American Academic Circle

During his postdoctoral career at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, Han Ting found himself increasingly attracted by the Chinese scientific community, whose R&D investment has increased significantly.

In 2000, R&D expenditures of independent and government-affiliated academic institutions accounted for 22% of US $59.8 billion. By 2017, this proportion had grown exponentially, reaching 90% of the US $123.7 billion expenditure that year.


Research and development expenditure of academic and governmental institutions in various countries from 1991 to 2017. Photo Source: STATnews

Another reason for attracting scientists back to China is that after 2000, China began to recruit outstanding Chinese and American-educated faculty members to build a domestic research environment.

Han Ting excelled in his PhD at the University of Michigan, and his mentor supported him in continuing his research work in the United States. But during his post-doctoral research, he saw opportunities at home and noticed the plight of Chinese colleagues in the highly competitive American job market.

Because applicants tend to have very similar levels of scientific research, decision-making is reduced to subjective criteria, such as personal characteristics, matching and diversity, while Chinese scientists often do not meet the requirements of recruitment boards.

In addition to the fierce job market competition, American researchers must continue to apply for funding and face repeated vetoes. As a major grant to professors from the National Institutes of Health, R01 has a funding rate of about 10% for cancer biologists such as Han Ting. As China's main funding institution, the National Natural Science Foundation's funding rate for cancer researchers is similar to that of the United States, about 15%. However, compared with the United States, the competition among its applicant groups is not so fierce.

Han Ting, a researcher at one of China's top institutions, talks about the experience of his colleagues:

Han Ting also felt that although the United States is generally a friendly place for trainees, Chinese scientists may encounter some invisible restrictions once they become professors.

Rapidly Developing Industries

During his postdoctoral career, Han Ting decided not to enter the academic career system in the United States, but to seek employment in China. China has many opportunities, and scientists like him are more likely to get funding. In 2017, he joined the National Institute of Biological Sciences (NIBS).

Each year, Han Ting receives more than $250,000 in research funding from the Beijing Institute of Biological Sciences, equivalent to the amount he receives from the R01 project in the United States. In China, the labor and material costs paid to graduate students are much lower, so they can do more with the money. Han Ting's laboratory has 12 researchers. He has no pressure to apply for more funds and can concentrate on scientific research and guiding graduate students.

He admitted that the country

This is the way of thinking that scientists like Han Ting, who received academic training in the United States, brought back to China. He believes that the Beijing Institute of Life Sciences and other institutions are creating an environment for such research.

Another important reason for attracting scientists back to China is the booming biomedical industry with Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guangzhou as its core. The surge in capital investment in biotechnology companies has led to the rise of the industry.

According to the analysis of BIO, the US biotechnology trade group, venture capital companies invested 5 million US dollars in Chinese biotechnology companies in 2009, accounting for about 0.14% of the US investment of 3.5 billion US dollars in that year. In 2018, venture capital firms invested $2.4 billion in Chinese biotechnology companies, accounting for 19.5% of the US $12.3 billion in investment. At present, venture capital firms invest less in China's biotechnology than in the United States.


Investments of venture capital companies in China's biotechnology companies. Photo Source: STATnews

Hu Qiyue, a scholar who returned home in 2011 to work in industry, said the growth in investment was also affected by rising living standards in China.

Hu joined a small biotechnology company in (San Diego), San Diego, after earning a master's degree in organic chemistry from Georgia State University in 1998.

Hu thought it was time to think about returning home.

At that time, China's pharmaceutical industry was not as developed as it is now. However, Hu sees his career development opportunities and is keen to work in Chinese enterprises. He also wants to be closer to his parents, who are getting older and older, and he wants his children to learn to speak fluent Chinese. In 2011, Hu moved to Shanghai and joined Hengrui Pharmaceutical, which was founded in 1970 and has since become one of China's largest pharmaceutical companies.

Since then, Hu has experienced no restructuring, only growth.

Zhang Kangyu's experience at Bristol-Myers Squibb is very similar to Hu's experience at Pfizer. After earning a doctorate from the University of Southern California, Zhang worked at Yale University for a period of time and then joined the company in 2013. From 2013 to 2018, he experienced five leadership positions due to the restructuring of the company.

Zhang returned home last year and joined a biotechnology company in Hangzhou. He became the head of the company's bioinformation department and reformed it.

Earlier this year, he joined CStone Pharmaceuticals, a cancer immunotherapy company in Suzhou, as a senior director of the bioinformatics and biomarker research and development team.

But Hu and Zhang both believe that China's biotechnology development lags behind in innovation, and companies are too focused on developing products that can generate revenue quickly. Returned scientists like them, who have accumulated some experience, skills and ways of thinking through their working experience in drug research and development companies, are trying to change this situation.

However, China's academic environment and biopharmaceuticals ecology have been developed enough, and many Ph.D. students no longer need to go abroad for postdoctoral training. Hu said that while Hengrui is still recruiting scholars with overseas experience, it is also recruiting more people who do not have overseas experience.

Loss v.s. Opportunity

For women, however, returning home is not so attractive to them. Returning to China tends to be more attractive to men, many researchers interviewed said. Isabella.

Therefore, the increase in the number of returned scientists in China in recent years may be attributed more to male scholars.


Han Ting returned home through the talent introduction plan. Photo Source: STATnews

For the United States, it is a loss to spend time training scientists to return to their homeland. Doctoral students generally receive full funding from federal scholarships for their degrees. For example, a Harvard biomedical doctor spent more than $400,000 over six years (the average time for a doctorate), including tuition, allowances and health insurance.

Therefore, according to Ma Yingyi, the state is maintaining its own interests by retaining the young scientific researchers it has trained.

But many Chinese scientists have become increasingly difficult to obtain H1B visas to work in the United States, forcing them to leave the United States after graduation. Under the current visa system, Ma Yingyi said,

Even if the visa policy changes, for many Chinese scientists, the motherland has great potential for development, and the improved living environment is more attractive to them.

China IT News APP

Download China IT News APP

Please rate this news

The average score will be displayed after you score.

Post comment

Do not see clearly? Click for a new code.

User comments

Related news