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Education Science

China Luring Scientists Back Home 292

Posted by Soulskill
from the ooo-a-piece-of-candy dept.
blee37 writes "The NY Times reports that China is increasing incentives for Chinese students earning PhDs in the US to return home. One example is a prestigious Princeton microbiologist who returned to become a dean at Tsinghua, the Chinese MIT. In my experience as a grad student, Chinese students were often torn about returning home. The best science and the most intellectually stimulating jobs are in the US. Yet, surely they miss their families and their hometown. As alluded in the article, Chinese science remains far behind, especially because of rampant cronyism in academia as well as government. But, if more Chinese students go back, it could damage the US's technology lead. A large percentage of PhD students in the US are from China. Also, the typical PhD student has their tuition paid for and receives a salary. Does it make sense to invest in their training if they will do their major work elsewhere?"
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China Luring Scientists Back Home

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:04AM (#30705356)

    Especially in the lab sciences, you're not paying that PhD student's meagre stipend out of altruism, hoping that they'll one day blossom into a lovely scientist. You're paying it because you need people to do the research: the professor is more of a manager of a large-ish lab so unable to do it him/herself, and hiring actual research scientists on the open market would cost a lot more than $20-25k, and they would expect more reasonable working hours. Considering the proportion of the work that actually gets done by grad students, it's a bargain.

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:43AM (#30705544) Homepage Journal

      This is true from the professors' and universities' POV, but not necessarily from the US government's. Grad student stipends in the sciences are often tied to grants from the NIH, NSF, etc., and that is very definitely seen as an investment: training the next generation of American scientists and engineers. If the government thinks it's not going to see some ROI, this may change, and the fallout could affect students from the US as well.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        They get a lot of their ROI in direct research, though, not just in the nebulous future-production-of-engineers. If an NSF grant spends $200,000 paying the stipends+tuition of 5 students, and those 5 students end up producing a few journal articles, and once in a while those sets of journal articles include important results, he NSF's gotten its $200,000 worth.

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          Do they publish though? One of the endemic problems with Chinese students is that many of them can't communicate in English worth a damn, to the extent that they pay people to sit communication entrance exams for them.
          • by Trepidity (597)

            I guess it depends on the lab and the kind of research. There are areas of the lab sciences where the prof has a hypothesis, has pretty much written the paper (or more likely has a postdoc writing it), and needs an army of drones to run a huge pile of experiments and get him/her some numbers. In that case, the job of the grad students is to get the numbers, and there is probably no cheaper way you could possibly get those numbers (research scientists who could successfully run experiments in a modern lab do

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)

          If an NSF grant spends $200,000 paying the stipends+tuition of 5 students

          Then it's getting a ridiculously good deal. That's $40K/student. A typical PhD in the USA takes at least 5 years, so that's under $10K/student/year, which doesn't even cover stipend or tuition, let alone both.

          For reference, the grant that I was on for my PhD was for £500,000 (around $1m at the time) and paid for four PhD students and one research assistant. Including office space, overheads (equipment, infrastructure maintenance, technicians salaries and so on) charged by the university, and my st

          • by Trepidity (597)

            I was counting per year ($40k incl. tuition is fairly common as a ballpark figure).

            Maybe it varies by the area, but my impression is that funding agencies don't really care about "greater body of scientists doing research" as their ROI, with the exception of specific programs like the NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship program.

            They're funding a project, and they want to know if their $500k or $1m or whatever it is, will produce $500k or $1m of research. Sometimes the money doesn't even get primarily spent o

      • by greppling (601175)
        All NSF stipends for graduate students in my field (math) can only be given to US passport or greencard holders. (Other grad students earn their salary via their teaching.)
      • by AHuxley (892839)
        US government's view was to lure anyone from around the world to the USA.
        Show them how good life is when free and happy, then send them back.
        At home they where to infect the locals with pro US views.
        Better yet rise up the ranks of their private or public sector and buy made in the USA over a long productive life.
        Why do you think so many world leaders have very expensive US degrees?
        The problem is China has out smarted the US.
        They got their best and brightest near the US academics and learned all they cou
        • In one way it has actually worked:

          China is pretty capitalist these days. Not to the point that the ruling party listens to Big Business when making laws like in the US and Europe, but according to Wikipedia free markets have mostly replaced the planned economy that is characteristic for communism.
          Of course China is still a dictatorship, so the idea that free markets would lead to more freedom has not worked out (yet?).

  • by djupedal (584558) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:05AM (#30705368)
    > "Does it make sense to invest in their training if they will do their major work elsewhere?"

    What goes around comes around.

    Grad students don't have to reside in North America to do good....get over it.
    • given the less-than-open nature of.... well, everything in china, it isn't as simple as that.
      • by HybridJeff (717521) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:06AM (#30705622) Homepage
        On the other hand, sending back western educated scientists and engineers to China can't help but better relations between the east and the west. People accustomed to western culture who have move back to China to fill high paying positions in Chinese academia and industry are much more likely to think well of the west than those who were fully brought up, raised, and educated under the Communist Party of China. (Not to say that relations between China and the west are bad at the moment, they're probably near as good as they ever have been at the moment).
        • true, but still leaves the problem of brain drain. what do you we do about the immediate issue of spending resources on people and not recouping them except in long-term political/social ways.
          • by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:53AM (#30705814) Journal

            Simple. Give them a good reason to stay. The fact that so many are choosing to return to China is strongly indicative that the US has done something very very wrong in terms of making these students want to remain here. If we want to stay in the lead in terms of scientific research we'd better find a way to up the Chinese government's ante or else we risk getting pwned.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by slawekk (919270)
              It's not necessarily something "very wrong" that USA did, it's just that China is catching up and the reasons for leaving the family, adjusting to a different culture and starting from close to zero in America are disappearing. This will accelerate in the future, especially when the realization that the US is a bankrupt country sinks in (heard that laughter when Geithner told Chinese students that dollar assets are safe?).
            • by tsa (15680) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @06:49AM (#30706218) Homepage

              That doesn't have to be the case. When I worked as a Post-Doc in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in 2000, we had a Chinese co-worker who just got his Ph.D. and was working also as a post-doc. He got a letter from the Chinese authorities in which he was invited to come back to China. He was promised a job as a professor at a university there. I don't remember wether he went there to have a look before he moved, but after he moved we got a heartbreaking email from his wife who told us that this so-called 'professorship' didn't exist, and the authorities had given them room to live in a house together with 9(!) other families. This was a big setback for her, being used to the standard of living here in NL. Her husband had a better job here than he had gotten in China. And of course there was no way this poor guy and his family were allowed to come back to the Netherlands. I wouldn't be surprised if this happens a lot with Chinese people who are drawn back to China by their government.

        • by Trepidity (597)

          It depends on the environment on the amount of enculturation. There are some places with very large foreign-student populations, and very competitive environments, where a Chinese student will essentially come to the US for 5-6 years, work 80+ hour weeks that entire time, mainly associating with other Chinese students in the same situation, and then graduate.

          They'll probably still know more about American culture than not coming at all, but to some extent large labs in the physical sciences are a bit of a b

        • by AHuxley (892839)
          The locals hate you.
          The top ranking locals know to use your smarts.
          Your just a tool that has decades of skills.
          Get out of line in any way, the Laogai awaits for you and your family.
          They know who they sent out in the 1970, 80, 90's ect, what your doing and where your positioned.
          When to ask a question or have a sit down with your fav prof from China, just an afternoon of friendly chats.
          Repeat that a few 1000 times per year for the US and then the world over and China is soaking up serious skill sets.
      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:14AM (#30705648)

        When the scientists publish their results, those results will be out there just as much as if the scientists had stayed here.

        • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @06:52AM (#30706226) Homepage

          Public research, yes.

          But there's a ton of very smart people with PhDs that don't do public research, only very important private research. Just to pick one I imagine Boeing has tons of people with PhDs in aeronautics whose results aren't published but rather used in fierce competition with Airbus and so on. That kind of brain drain will be a problem.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tsa (15680)

          It's often not about the knowledge published in the publications, but about the way the scientists do the research. And a publication can make very difficult things seem very easy. You often need the scientists involved in the research to replicate the results.

          • by Trepidity (597)

            Unfortunately that's true, but I think it says something about the increasing failure of the public science literature to actually embody advances in knowledge. In a lot of areas, you really cannot replicate the results solely from the published literature--- meaning it's not really science.

            In many cases, this is deliberate, because the scientists are playing an academic game on one side of the fence, and working for startups on the other side of the fence, so they go out of their way to make the "public" p

        • Which would be true if papers really were publication, but these days a depressing number are just advertising. They say 'I'm great, look at these results that I got' but don't contain enough information to reproduce them. And, of course, the reviewers don't have time to actually try reproducing the results, so they approve them for publication.
        • Considering how often I read on Slashdot about some Chinese team doing good science, I must agree.

          You can say what you want, but they’re doing some impressive science down there. Which also is sad, because imagine them having a good government. They (the government) would not have to act like dicks. They could lead out of sheer respect for their work. Imagine a Chinese/US team effort to get to mars.
          I guess there’s nothing I hate more, than some asshole slowing down the progress of the whole worl

          • by hey! (33014) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @10:38AM (#30707146) Homepage Journal

            It's an interesting thought experiment.

            If you take a brilliant, highly educated person out of a country with political freedom and put him a politically repressive country, he doesn't stop being brilliant or highly educated. But does it affect his productivity?

            I don't think it does. However, the chances of something stupid being done with him and his work is higher. There's a wonderfully ironic example of this from the US Red Scare in the late 40s, when our government engaged in political witch hunts of intellectuals.

            Qian Xuesen was a brilliant young rocket scientist, one of the founders of the JPL, one of the key brains behind early US rocketry, and a giant in the field of aerodynamics and jet propulsion theory. When he applied for citizenship in 1949 he was turned down, on fears that he might be Communist. The only evidence: he was Chinese. At one point he was arrested by the FBI for carrying a table of logarithms on a trip outside the US. His security clearance was revoked, making it impossible for him to continue his crucial rocketry work for the US.

            Unable to work in the homeland he'd wanted to adopt, Qian would have been forced to move back to China, which would have been delighted to take him back. But this wasn't a case of some low level researcher who might smuggle the crown jewels of America's defense technology out of the country. Qian's brains *were* the crown jewels. High level defense department officials immediately realized this was a horrible mistake. Unfortunately, it wasn't politically possible to back away from that mistake at the height of the Red Scare. Qian was put under house arrest for five years, for no other crime than applying to become an American citizen.

            Eventually he was allowed to return to China, which welcomed him with open arms even though he was not a Communist. After several years there the self-fulfilling prophecy came true and Qian joined the party. He was allowed to pursue his work unfettered by political interference, training a new generation of Chinese rocket engineers and advancing Chinese ICBM capabilities by decades. With Qian's help, China went from having no modern domestic rocketry technology to designing and building its own ICBMs in ten years. In fifteen years China was able to put payloads into orbit.

            Note the abundant ironies here. The supposedly "free" US government oppresses a brilliant individual, but the supposedly "oppressive" one welcomes him with open arms and lets him do the kind of work he's born to do. The US government, by catering to fear and paranoia, provided a bitter enemy with the ability to strike US soil with nuclear weapons.

            You could argue that the secretive, non-democratic government was actually at an advantage here, not having to worry about being re-elected and able to simply squelch any kind of organized public scare mongering by its political enemies. Qian apparently sailed through the Cultural Revolution because he was obviously too valuable to mess with. Too bad the FBI wasn't able to realize that during *our* Cultural Revolution.

            That's why in the US the power of the federal judiciary to be a check on the elected branches is so important. If the executive branch, for example, is allowed to define it's own para-judicial system for politically sensitive cases, it *will* screw up, even though it *knows* at the time it's screwing up. Had Qian had been able contest the accusation in a forum that was not charged with political calculation, his clearance would have been restored and citizenship granted, to the enormous benefit of the United States. Instead his destiny was put in the hands of politics, and the politicians *knowingly* caused all the bad things they were ostensibly preventing, just to get through the next elections.

    • by Totenglocke (1291680) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:52AM (#30705812)

      Grad students don't have to reside in North America to do good....get over it.

      It has nothing to do with their education and everything to do with taxpayers money being used (in the form of grants) to pay for that education. But apparently you're just one of the many billions who think that the US exists solely to be the global sugar daddy.

    • by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @06:05AM (#30706088)

      I agree. The original poster expresses bad-manager sentiment; if I train my employees, they might get so good that they'll leave for greener pastures. If the work is good and the work environment friendly, people are more likely to stick around. If you make them feel like their own boss is their worst enemy, then don't be too surprised if your employees start leaving in droves. Train the people you hire; nobody said life had any guarantees, and the best-case scenario is that your own employees learn more and perform better.

  • by clong83 (1468431) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:19AM (#30705440)
    I've always thought that if they want to go home afterwards, let them. If it becomes a large scale trend that nobody Chinese (or any other particular nationality) wants to stay afterwards, then people may just stop hiring as many. In general until that point, it's still worth it to fund their education just for the work they do as a grad student, and the likely work they will do in the US afterwards, even if a few end up going home and working and contributing heavily in another economy.

    Here's where I think the main problem actually is: We actually send home some who do want to stay. And that is a true wasted opportunity. I've met a couple of very smart people in my days as a grad student that were sent home even though they wanted to stay. Visa expired, couldn't find a job in time or some other such nonsense. If you have a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, you are not likely to be a drag on society, even if you don't wind up employed in your first six months out. And now they are in China, Germany, India, or Mexico, working and contributing in those economies and using all the tools and education they got courtesy of Uncle Sam.

    We should make it easier for them. And yes, I have real people in mind that I am typing about.
    • by j1m+5n0w (749199)

      Here's where I think the main problem actually is: We actually send home some who do want to stay.

      I absolutely agree. The NSF, DARPA, NIH, etc.. have paid for the education of many a foreign grad student, only to have them booted out of the country after they finish their degree. (A lot of them end up moving to Canada.)

      Some of the grad students I knew had to do some crazy things like leave the country periodically, and then apply to get let back in, just because that's what the bureaucracy required.

      T [phdcomics.com]

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:33AM (#30705722)

      In general until that point, it's still worth it to fund their education just for the work they do as a grad student, and the likely work they will do in the US afterwards, even if a few end up going home and working and contributing heavily in another economy.

      Speaking as a grad student, it's not like we're paid that much, less than unemployment on average apparently. [phdcomics.com] Cheaper in many cases than hiring a non-grad student to do the same work. The lab gets cheap labor, and the student gets an education. Even if those students don't stay, I expect it adds up to a net benefit for us.

    • by Raisey-raison (850922) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:43AM (#30705770)

      I think the whole situation is ironic. Quite often when I hear stories about immigrants with degrees getting jobs in the USA, people go ballistic about how they are stealing Americans' jobs and depressing wages.

      When they go back to their home country, people then complain about a brain drain and about how they should make a 'contribution' to the country that educated them (never mind that they paid highly inflated tuition and quite often even their graduate education was paid for by moneys outside of the USA + grad students essentially work for $10 an hour - slave wages).

      So they are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        I think the whole situation is ironic. Quite often when I hear stories about immigrants with degrees getting jobs in the USA, people go ballistic about how they are stealing Americans' jobs and depressing wages.

        When they go back to their home country, people then complain about a brain drain and about how they should make a 'contribution' to the country that educated them

        Those who are taking expensive western jobs are the Indian call center guys, because wall clock time can be bought much cheaper where the living costs are lower. I've hung out with quite a few foreign students and for the most parts they were very bright, granted there were a few playboys whose parents simply had the money but they outpaced most of the domestic slackers who were just looking to get an easy degree. They heightened the standard more than anything else, if you wanted to compete for the same jo

      • People who rely on employment to make money rightfully fear an increased and talented labor pool leading to more competition in the labor market. People who rely on talented and affordable labor to make money rightfully fear a decreased and talent-drained labor pool, leading to scarcity in the labor market.

    • by Tellarin (444097)

      I agree with you and I also know people that have this happen to them, so they are now doing research in other countries.

      What I think is interesting is that US policy always (officially) favours an open market and competition. But in this area (grad-school-educated people) they have these weird protectionist rules. It is not as if the US even has a lot of unemployed PhDs laying around to begin with...

    • What is Germany doing in there? We might be worse than before all non-Nazi-friendly scientists fled to the USA, but we’re still top-notch here.

      Besides: What’s all the us against them mentality about? In science there no place for this. That’s the nice thing: Scientists do not care for stupid politics. Iranians, US, Chinese, Russians, Israeli, etc, all work together, and don’t even think about if some power-greedy suit/gunswinger is thinking they “shouldn’t”.

  • The Worm Turns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:22AM (#30705446)

    The US has been profiting from the "Brain Drain" for the best part of a hundred years. Now, finally, the countries from whom they've been recruiting the best and brightest have some solid reasons to go home after enjoying the benefits of a US postgraduate education (which often was paid for by the other country at a rate two or three times that charged to US students). Meanwhile, undergraduate, secondary and primary education in the US has been degraded by underfunding to the point where fewer and fewer Americans are able to take advantage of the superb post-grad opportunities.

    • Re:The Worm Turns (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:35AM (#30705508)

      When I was in college most American kids were having the time of their lives. Parties, sex, drugs, frats. All the foreign or new citizen kids were in the library and filling the halls of the engineering / computer science dept. Years of that are catching up and all most Americans can do is blame everything on money or not enough government services. How do you think that Vietnamese kid whose family immigrated to the US was able to afford his Master/PHD. He actually worked for it.

    • The US has been profiting from the "Brain Drain" for the best part of a hundred years. Now, finally, the countries from whom they've been recruiting the best and brightest have some solid reasons to go home after enjoying the benefits of a US postgraduate education (which often was paid for by the other country at a rate two or three times that charged to US students).

      My thoughts exactly.

      Hell, in Russia, degree and beyond is actually free (if you're good enough, anyway), and then people turn around and immigrate... a lot of folk are quite bitter about it all.

      And in this case, those Chinese students have likely paid a lot of money (more than an American would) to study in U.S., and not all of them go for post-grad. I would be very much surprised if it's a net loss even if all post-grads leave.

    • Re:The Worm Turns (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CAIMLAS (41445) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:24AM (#30705682) Homepage

      I'm really getting tired of the "underfunded" argument as to why schools are failing in the US. Seriously?

      Public funding has increased steadily, at a rate faster than inflation. This is not just nationally, but also at the local level through property taxes.

      Also, the funding argument is easily dissuaded simply by pointing out counter-examples: there are many, many private schools which are able to educate students to superior levels in all of the basics. We're talking half as much funding and less.

      The cause for government school failure in the US is not due to a lack of funding. That's an excuse, and pushes the blame from the cause. The cause is that they're government schools, with strict top-down models they must adhere to, and do not take the individual student in mind. Schools have to do well on standardized tests, yadda yadda. It's all a huge drain to actual education, and has been so, progressively for over 60 years now.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Those school systems which are functioning good throughout the world are very much "government" ones too, so you might let go that socialism phobia. Something went a bit more wrong with your implementation along the way.

        One could even argue that what you're describing is, essentially, applying corporate ethics to the way education is performed ;p

    • by eclectro (227083)

      Yup. It's a shame we ran out of Nazis to help with the space program though.

  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:29AM (#30705472)

    From what I have observed in the field that I study (quantum optics), there has been a rapid increase in the number and quality of publications from Chinese institutes. For the moment, they tend to lag behind the labs in more developed economies, filling out the body of information in the field rather than pioneering new techniques. Nonetheless, the research is usually very sound and many institutes are catching up very quickly.

    The students from China tend to be very talented and are willing to work extremely hard. As the quality of equipment and infrastructure improves in the Chinese labs and the opportunities there rival the more mature labs the Chinese students will have no problem returning or staying to do doctoral work. I imagine that the situation is similar in other fields and I'm sure that there will soon be an explosion of quality research coming from China.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      the chinese don't tend to be terribly inventive is their problem. from what i've seen, they tend to suffer a cultural thing "it's been done this way for 1000 years, it's how we will continue". what they are good at is taking an idea and doing it for 1/10th the price and in 1/2 the time.

      as their exposure to the west increases this will change i'm sure, but for now most of the innovatino is still going to come from the USA and other western countries.

    • by 15Bit (940730) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:46AM (#30705550)
      My experience echoes this - i review for a number of materials science journals and i've noticed a steady increase in the quality of work coming from the chinese universities. Its becoming well written (in english, which is not easy for them i think) and increasingly relevant. I would predict that before long they will need us less than we need them. The only case of blatant cheating (copying and pasting "nano particles" all over a SEM picture) came from india, not china.
    • Look at the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits (the leading journal for integrated circuit design), and compare the authorship of the papers in the January 2010 issue [ieee.org] with that of, say, the January 1966 issue [ieee.org]. The fraction of not just Chinese, but Asian names of all types, has dramatically increased, as has the fraction of papers from Asian institutions (being zero in 1966).

      My university experience is similar [slashdot.org], and the parent summed it up well: "The students from China tend to be very talented and are wi

  • by chentiangemalc (1710624) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:30AM (#30705476) Homepage
    I lived in China for one year teaching high school students and one thing I noticed in general while students were brilliant at chemistry, maths, physics, etc. when solving text book problems, many seemed to be struggling with coming up with new concepts, and in some cases applying what they learnt into new areas. Many struggled when told 'I want x as the end result' without any explanation of the process to achieve the end result. It seems most of the science study was just pure memorizing of facts and figures. I found the same later on when managing some staff from Asia, although very dedicated and hard working they required additional guidance on what processes to use to achieve a goal. There seemed to be a strong sense of 'copy wherever possible' (why re-create it, if somebody already has?) My students had to do 'school', 'city', and 'provincial exams' The complained the provincial exams 'didn't allow copying' Another instance of this was when a foreign professor in Chinese university was fired when failing students for work that had obviously been copied from another source. I think US / Europe still had lead on creativity which can be an important factor when coming up with new solutions / ideas. Not to say the Chinese can't, and it will be interesting to see how they go, but I don't think the number of PhD's alone will decide whether US or China has technology lead. It will also depend on how much further China restricts internet access as the number of internet sites being blocked continues to increase, it certainly frustrates me that even though I have a large network of friends in China working in technology social networking / YouTube continues to be blocked there, and alternatives to access these sites such as proxies / VPN are illegal - and often if detected are blocked. For my friends in China who have studied overseas and since moved back to China they are constantly complaining about fact sites like facebook,twitter, youtube no longer work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This is very common in other countries as well. I'd venture to guess that it is the most common method in developing countries. I discussed this once with Uzbek and Nepalese students who couldn't understand why other students were bothered when they wanted to copy answers from them. I mentioned that the other person had to do work to study the material and learn it, but they wouldn't have any of that. I was really taken aback by the attitude and by the lack of basic educational spirit reflected in it. "Why
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tellarin (444097)

        It is definitely very common to find this "memorizing-stuff-is-education" in developing countries. Brazil for example, used to be very much like this in the 80s. Even Richard Feynman complained about it when he taught in Brazil for a year. It is still somewhat like that, but has improved. My experience with China (and Singapore, for that matter) is that the issue is more of a "no challenge allowed", so students don't have a say and have to do exactly what is asked of them. Maybe due to this, most students f

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Krahar (1655029)
      I've been noticing this reliance on rote memorization in everything I've done that comes from Asia. E.g., if you read a Chess book, you will be given examples with explanations and a lot of text. If you read a Go book (a game from China), you will be given absolutely no explanation of any kind, and you are expected to pick up the concepts yourself from being presented with a large amount of examples that aren't explained - the concepts aren't even named. These books literally have no text in them, just imag
    • It's not just in China. It's in our classrooms. I recently went back to school for a degree in CS and--I know this is going to sound a little bad--but a certain foreign students would ask me to just send them the code for a certain problem we were all working on.

      And if you frequent places like the OpenCV forum it is very common to see a post that says words to the effect of "I'm trying to do X. Send me some code." It's definitely off-putting. I love collaboration and discussion, but just being somebody

    • by sznupi (719324)

      ...I don't think the number of PhD's alone will decide whether US or China has technology lead...

      It will certainly help Chinese if PhD's brought up in place targeting creativity will start to shape their educational system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Malc (1751)

      If you haven't read it yet, then you might like read Peter Hessler's "River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze" [amazon.co.uk]. It makes particular sense to those of us who've had the privilege to live in China, and for you, having taught there, will probably really resonate.

  • What incentive could they offer for scientists who crave discovery and publication to go and live behind the Great Firewall? They must be sellng it hard.
    • I don't know what they're offering, but they certainly have plenty of things they can offer. Cash usually works wonders. I'd be willing to go live in China, by their rules, for double my US market value.
    • by toQDuj (806112)

      Oh, a chinese colleague of mine told me that the one thing he misses most from China is the food! So keep the "chinese" food in foreign countries at a shitty level, and they'll be sure to return one day..

      • by Tellarin (444097)

        While I'm not Chinese or Asian, I completely agree with him.

        The thing I miss the most from living in Asia is the food. Only in very few places outside Asia have I found "good Chinese food", and all of those were places run by immigrants (where people in the kitchen didn't even speak English). I also heard the same from Indian and Nepalese friends.

        So I guess food can really be a strong drive in going back. Stronger than most people would think.

        • by Tellarin (444097)

          Sorry for replying to myself, but it should say "Only in very few places outside southeast Asia..." on the part about Chinese food.

  • India invests a lot of money in training grad students in the prestigious IITs (premier engineering colleges in India). 50% plus students travel to US, do their MS/PhD and work in the US and become US citizens eventually. We call this "brain drain" in India. We will be glad if the "reverse brain drain" helps us regain some of the losses.

    As a leader, it is the responsibility of a country like US to help everyone grow. If the US does not demonstrate leadership traits, someone else will. Leadership is not simp

    • by Dorsai65 (804760) <dkmerriman@gmail . c om> on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:22AM (#30705670) Homepage Journal

      Better than fussing at the U.S. that these students are choosing to stay here, better you should be asking why they don't want to go back. Caste system? Social stratification? Old-boy network? Nepotism? What does the U.S. do/have that India doesn't?

    • by AardvarkCelery (600124) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:36AM (#30705738)

      As a leader, it is the responsibility of a country like US to help everyone grow. If the US does not demonstrate leadership traits, someone else will. Leadership is not simply about more money/resources/power. It is about being a "leader" and behaving like one.

      Hogwash. China and India are directly competing with the United States on several levels. China builds weapons specifically targeted at the United States. Frequently, the weapons are based on stolen US technology.

      What logic says we have to help our competitors grow???

      (Granted, our relationship with India is far simpler and more cordial than our awkward tie-up with China, but there's still enough competition in some areas to take notice.)

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Interesting how you portrait it as competition...which kinda implies you're not completely looking at yourself as the position of leadership.

        Anyway, look up list of Chinese inventions on Wikipedia. We stole quite a bit from them, too.

      • The logic that says that this helps ourselves to grow!
        It’s called teamwork.

  • by philgross (23409) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @03:59AM (#30705606) Homepage
    The summary makes it sounds like the US is doing a favor and donating generously to the rest of the world by funding foreign PhDs. A more accurate description would be that we taking the extreme cream of the crop, educated at great expense in other countries, and then luring them to the United States, where they further strengthen our already best-in-the-world universities, and the great majority stay permanently. The article describes a slight moderation in this trend, with a few more scholars choosing to return (although also describing the obstacles they face when they do).

    The overall benefits of this system continue to be overwhelmingly in the favor of the United States. Even those who do return to their home countries go back with a much deeper understanding of the US, not to mention greater English fluency.

    The restrictions on foreign students in the aftermath of 9/11 stood out among the other security-theater policies for their active harmfulness.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:04AM (#30705614)

    I know from personal experience that it has become increasingly difficult to stay in the US (or Immigrate) since the late 90es.

    At this time, even highly skilled individuals with several post graduate degrees have no chance to get a Visa and move to the US.

    Unless a student was lucky and managed to marry a US citizen during their school time, they have NO OTHER CHOICE than to leave the US once their student visa expires, and they cannot get a work (H1) visa in time.

    Supposedly this is all for your own good, to protect the country and the domestic job market.

  • Green card (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seifried (12921) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @04:28AM (#30705696) Homepage
    Seriously. Anyone earning a bachelors (let alone a masters or a PhD) in a "hard" science or a list of accepted majors (CS, EE/ME/etc.) should have a green card stapled to their diploma at their commencement ceremony. Perhaps for Masters you get to bring your significant other over and for a PhD you get up to 5 additional family members (mom+dad and any siblings/brother/sister in law with no criminal record), whatever, if you're going to lure the best and brightest, train them, etc, you should bloody well hang on to them (it's just common sense!). This from a Canadian no less (personally I think we should give automatic landed immigrant status to anyone that speaks English or French, has no criminal record and has a 4 year degree in anything remotely useful). Our countries are founded on immigration, this seems like a no-brainer to me!
    • "This from a Canadian no less (personally I think we should give automatic landed immigrant status to anyone that speaks English or French, has no criminal record and has a 4 year degree in anything remotely useful). Our countries are founded on immigration, this seems like a no-brainer to me!"

      Canadian here as well and I 100% agree with your whole post. :D My GF is from the US has a 4 year degree from a good school, finished near the top of her class and is getting a teacher's degree. That her immigration
  • by dorpus (636554) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @05:03AM (#30705860)

    Every year, the US media feels obliged to panic about some high-profile scientist that returns to China/India. In most cases, the same scientist will come back to the USA after 1-2 years, because they grew frustrated with the backwardness, lack of freedoms in their home country. These guys gave up promising jobs in the USA, so they have to go to some much less prestigious job in the US.

    Don't believe me? Here's one example. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/28/business/global/28return.html?_r=1&ref=global-home [nytimes.com]

    In the same vein, US universities like to loudly proclaim the opening of campuses in Asia, such as in Singapore, Dubai, or South Korea. Most of the campuses end up being shut down after about 3 years, because they couldn't get enough students, and the students they could get were of very low caliber. In the meanwhile, student tuition experiences huge hikes to pay for the millions of dollars to open new campuses, university administrators pat themselves on the back and give themselves huge bonuses, then when they shut the campuses down, they give themselves bonuses again for "cutting costs".

  • I think if every country was smart as China, they would have done the same things.. Trying to get their good ones back to their country. I do not think a country with better pay job is that matter than how someone can feel when he/ she working in his/ her own country.
  • by jandersen (462034) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @05:28AM (#30705942)

    As alluded in the article, Chinese science remains far behind, especially because of rampant cronyism in academia as well as government

    This article from New Scientist:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527426.900-get-ready-for-chinas-domination-of-science.html [newscientist.com]

    doesn't agree. Chinese science is in fact well up there with the rest of the world, and will overtake us soon. There is nothing strange in this - while we in the West have grown rather complacent about education, which is necessary for science, the Chinese have been ramping up their investments in education and science. This, by the way, is something their government have decided, so this jibe about ".. as well as government" seems particularly misplaced in this context.

    When China was a closed country not long ago, you Americans couldn't shut up about how everything would be so much better if China would open up and become part of the global world. Now they have done that, and you whine because they turned out to be bloody clever; and all you have left is yesterday's cold-war rhetoric. The competition from China is good for us - it will make realise that we have to get our act together and sharpen up.

  • zquad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ackim (1265776) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @06:24AM (#30706148)
    As an international student who had four of my friends having to leave the US for China in 2009 and one a few weeks ago, I have to say that the US does not give graduate-degree carrying international students many options. In the US, my friend was forced to work as a web developer soliciting jobs on craigslist; however, back in China he began an IT consulting company and is currently on his way to doing $100,000+ is revenue at the end of the second quarter. Not bad for a guy that was denied work authorization in the country that trained him and paid him ~25k/yr to work at the prestigious college. It was pretty depressing when we spoke about his options and he is far from alone. I hear stories of masters technology students forced to return home and go into high school education and local banking. In my opinion, this country's policy on work authorization for well-experienced and well educated students – THAT THEY THEMSELVES TRAINED - is the reason for the drain. Not only do I see it as anti-capitalist to not compete for graduate talent regardless of status, but the current policy to prefer, on occasions, less educated and less skilled (but national) sounds more like a social program. Consider that in a world where competition is no longer national, but global. So NO, it makes sense to invest in their training if they will do their major work elsewhere but the US is not allowing them to do their major work within its borders.
  • What lead? They lost it ages ago.
    Usians really need to stop thinking they're the best. This megalomania is getting their science nowhere.

  • The best science and the most intellectually stimulating jobs are in the US.

    That’s the thing. Soon they won’t. Because the Chinese government is working hard, to get up to US level, and the US government is working hard, to get down to China”s level.

  • by cinnamon colbert (732724) on Saturday January 09, 2010 @11:10AM (#30707342) Journal

    In a historical view, the post WWII, and in the longer view, the post industrial revolution era, are anomolous, in that there was an unusual conc of science in the us and western europe; for large swaths of human history, China was the dominant, or at least a co dominant science technology country.
    There are still living people who remember when Germany was THE leading science power, and if you were a serious scientitst, you went to Germany to finish your education; people like Willard Gibbs were celebrated precisely because genuwine US science hereos were so rare.

    The post WWII period, when our wealth dominated world science, is coming to an end. So, the correct view is not that we are loosing our dominance, but that an unusual situtation, where an unusual amount of science was concentrated in the US, is coming to an end.
    That we offer free training at what are still the best universitys in the world, because of the specious theoretical economic arguments infavor of globiliazation (see samuleson) certainly doesn't help the US.

    I don't know about physics or chemistry, but life science is a labor intensive field. Right now, I make a pretty good living as a PhD scientist in boston area biotech; how on earth am i going to compete with someone from china, just as smart and well educated, a lot hardworking, and a lot cheaper ?
    And this is not theory - it is happening; all of the major pharma and RnD firms (eg, Invitrogen) are setting up shop in china with large numbers of scientists.

    One other point, which people outside of life science research may not understand. Life science research - basic science as practiced at our universitys - is almost a pyramid scheme; it is based on the idea that very hardworking, intelligent people willl spend 4-8 years at very low salary (graduate school/postdoc) and the carrot for this low wage job is that you can become an independent researcher - similar to the idea behind interns and residents.
    So, every university professor depends, critically, on having a group of graduate students to do the actual work; if you are a prof, you must find young people willing to work long hours at relatively low pay.
    The problem is that independent researchers are very exspensive, so most of the people who go into phd programs will wind up trashed - they will not have a career in science, at least not a good paying one.
    so a large part of the driver for chinese scientists at our universitys is as cheap labor that is "expendable" - you can send them back to china at the end of their grad work; I emphasize that this is driven by the selfish economic needs of university profs; basically, chinese and indian grad students are guest workers, and the great thing is, you can send them back, so you can get new pools of young, cheap labor.
    Thus, in the univeristy community, there is tremendous pressure to maintain the flow, and you have people claiming that there is a "shortage" of scientists; of course, in a free market system, by definition, a shortage means you are not paying enough..

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