NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More Scientists Arriving From Abroad

August 30, 1999

The most accomplished scientists in America are disproportionately foreign-born, according to Sharon Levin of the University of Missouri and Paula Stephan of Georgia State University. In an article published recently in Science, the researchers presented data based on an analysis of more than 4,500 top-rate scientists and engineers working in the United States.

  • In 1980, only about one-fifth of scientists holding doctorates and practicing here were born abroad.
  • But over the subsequent decade, 60 percent of the American-based authors of the most cited papers in the physical sciences were foreign-born -- as were nearly 30 percent of the authors of the most cited life science papers.
  • Almost one-quarter of the founders or chairmen of biotechnology companies that went public in the early 1990s also originally came from outside the country.
  • This brain drain mostly affected Germany and Britain -- where spending on research and development this year slumped to a record low of 2.4 percent and 1.8 percent of gross domestic product respectively, compared to 2.6 percent for the U.S.

Also, skilled Asian immigrants are snapping up U.S. visas. In California's high-tech industries, Asians already hold over 50,000 jobs and produce $17 billion worth of revenues.

The proportion of publicly financed research is falling in almost all industrialized countries, while private spending is rising.

Source: "Alien Scientists Take Over USA!" Economist, August 21, 1999.


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