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Chinese researchers returning home: Impacts of international mobility on research collaboration and scientific productivity


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The aim of this study is to contribute to the debate on the relationship between scientific mobility and international collaboration. This case study deals with leading Chinese researchers in the field of plant molecular life sciences who returned to their home country. A correlation analysis of their mobility history, publication output, and international co-publication data, shows the relationship between scientific output, levels of international collaboration and various individual characteristics of returned researchers. The outcome of the analysis suggests that while host countries may loose human capital when Chinese scientists return home, the so-called “return brain drain”, they may also gain in terms of scientific linkages within this rapidly emerging and globalizing research field.
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Jointly published by Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest Scientometrics, Vol. 77, No. 2 (2008) 299–323
and Springer, Dordrecht DOI: 10.1007/s11192-007-1971-x
Received November 5, 2007
Address for correspondence:
Department of Social and Political Science, European University Institute
Via dei Roccetini 9, I-50016 San Domenico Di Fiesole (Fi), Italy
0138–9130/US $ 20.00
Copyright © 2008 Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest
All rights reserved
Chinese researchers returning home:
Impacts of international mobility on research
collaboration and scientific productivity
Department of Social and Political Science, European University Institute,
San Domenico Di Fiesole (Italy)
Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, Leiden (The Netherlands)
The aim of this study is to contribute to the debate on the relationship between scientific
mobility and international collaboration. This case study deals with leading Chinese researchers in
the field of plant molecular life sciences who returned to their home country. A correlation
analysis of their mobility history, publication output, and international co-publication data, shows
the relationship between scientific output, levels of international collaboration and various
individual characteristics of returned researchers. The outcome of the analysis suggests that while
host countries may loose human capital when Chinese scientists return home, the so-called “return
brain drain”, they may also gain in terms of scientific linkages within this rapidly emerging and
globalizing research field.
Introduction: when brain drain becomes brain gain
A significant part of the current ‘brain drain/brain gain’ phenomenon is a result of
planned governmental initiatives that were launched during the last 10–20 years in
which several of the leading developing countries, with ‘catching-up’ economies, were
actively encouraging their brightest graduate students and talented young researchers to
spent time abroad in order to complete their education and training, and to gain relevant
international experience in R&D. After a certain period of time these researchers where
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expected to return to their home country. The return migration of such skilled science
and engineering workers is seen as a major determinant of the quality and flexibility of
the labor force. Data from the US shows that some countries/territories have higher
rates of return than others. For example, in the case of Korean and Taiwanese doctoral
candidates who graduated in 1996, only 21% and 40%, respectively, were still working
in the US in 2001, whereas 86% and 96% of the 1996 cohort of doctoral graduates from
India and the People’s Republic of China, respectively, were still working in the US in
2001 [F
INN, 2003]. Part of the success of the first two countries can be attributed to the
already well-resourced and advanced R&D environment that the respective
governments were able to provide in order to lure back their scientists; in other words,
the ‘absorptive capacity’ of the home country is a necessary condition to a successful
reverse migration [S
ONG, 1997]. In the 1990s, China appeared to have been less
successful in its efforts to promote the return of its skilled expatriates, despite the
government’s incentive systems. Some authors have argued that the return incentives,
as a policy lever for governments to improve the quality of their domestic science base,
has failed since it is based on the questionable assumption, premised on theoretical
foundations of the human capital framework, that governments can successfully
manipulate the mobility of highly skilled R&D staff (e.g.: [C
AO, 1996]).
One may also argue that the chances of the return option being successful, in terms
of scientific productivity and research performance of the returnees, are increased when
they are embedded in transnational professional networks in their home country, or
when they are enabled to retain professional linkages with their co-workers and
supervisors in the former host country, thus tapping into existing knowledge-producing
networks and promoting (sustainable) international scientific cooperation (see e.g.: [J
& AL., 2007]). This phenomenon could also be of interest to policy-makers in their
former host countries as the forging of professional linkages with the emerging Chinese
research system could help off-set some of the perceived costs in terms of the loss of
human capital to the host system associated with the return brain drain. This may be of
particular interest for European policy makers as the return rate of Chinese students and
researchers trained in Western European countries is reportedly much higher than from
the US [Z
HANG & LI, 2002; ZHANG, 2003]. Since the beginning of his century
increasing numbers of overseas Chinese researchers have returned from the US as well
to take up positions in Chinese leading research institutes. The size of the US’ overseas
Chinese community of leading researchers in e.g. the molecular life sciences is still far
larger and as a group more productive than the Chinese scientific community in this
field (see e.g.: [W
U, 2004; WELLS, 2007; JONKERS, 2007]). Nonetheless, the faculty of
China’s leading research organizations in Beijing and Shanghai is nowadays formed for
around 70% by researchers with research experience in North America, Western
Europe, or Japan and these researchers are considered to have been an important driver
for the increase in productivity and quality of the Chinese research effort.
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This paper addresses this relationship between scientific mobility and international
collaboration. It studies the extent to which returned Chinese plant molecular life
scientists remain embedded in international co-publication networks after their return to
mainland China. The structure of this paper is as follows. It starts with a brief review of
the literature on international research collaboration, scientific mobility, and highly
skilled return migration. Next, a brief introduction is given of the general development
and internationalization of the Chinese plant molecular life science system, based
primarily on bibliometric analysis as well as the responses of 40 interviewed professors
based in leading plant molecular life science research organizations in Beijing and
Shanghai. This general introduction is followed by the main research questions and a
brief discussion of the methodology. The results of a correlation analysis are discussed,
which is followed by a concluding section.
International scientific cooperation and mobility
Cooperation and co-publications
The increasing trend in the last two decades towards international scientific
cooperation and associated co-publication behavior has been documented in numerous
studies (see e.g.: [L
UUKKONEN & AL., 1993; MOED & AL., 1995; WAGNER &
EYDESDORFF, 2005]). Most of these studies used quantitative data on the collective
scientific publication output in all scientific subfields. Some of these studies showed
that while an upward trend is visible in all scientific subfields the dynamics of
international co-publication behavior appears to differ from field to field (see e.g.:
OSHIKANE & KAGEURA, 2004; WAGNER, 2005]). For this reason this paper studies a
single scientific subfield only, namely the Plant Molecular Life Sciences, focus on
domain specific characteristics of scientific cooperation.
International co-publications are often used as an indicator for international research
collaboration – the strongest form of scientific cooperation referring to those activities
where scientists work together on a specific research project with the aim of
disseminating their findings together in jointly authored research articles [S
ATZ, 2000; LAUDEL, 2001; WAGNER, 2005]. In comparison to weaker forms of
research-driven communication and interaction, collaboration involves a larger
expenditure in time, resources and effort of the individual actor who must engage in
intensive communication and coordination of activities – in some cases over large
distances. It is therefore not surprising that several analysts have stressed that the
potential partners have to know and trust each other as a prerequisite for researchers to
engage in collaboration in research together [S
MITH & KATZ, 2000; LAUDEL, 2001].
Research collaboration comes in many shapes and sizes; the connectivity spectrum
ranges from closely interacting R&D staff working on a joint research project to loosely
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connected people who are involved to some degree (sometimes almost negligible) to
joint research-related efforts. This study focuses on research-intensive, academically
successful, and output-oriented research projects; the kind of joint project in which
contributing researchers aim at co-publishing their findings (for a discussion of this
concept see: [K
ATZ & MARTIN, 1997; LAUDEL, 2001]).
These joint authored research publications are amenable to large scale quantitative
(‘bibliometric’) analysis of (inter)national scientific cooperation. Bibliometric analysts
recognize that co-publications constitute a partial indicator of (successful) research
collaboration and collaborative networks because not all joint research is published and
not all co-authors need to have contributed equally. They don’t even need to have
worked together, or even know each other, as became clear during some of the
interviews carried out amongst the Chinese contributors to these co-publications. For a
review on the pros and cons on the use of co-publications as an indicator for research
collaboration see [K
ATZ & MARTIN, 1997; GLÄNZEL & SCHUBERT, 2004] for reviews of
the bibliometric literature on the use of co-authorship to measure scientific networks.
The analysis in this paper will focus on international co-publications. In contrast to
intramural and extramural domestic co-publications, wherein local power structures
often determine the inclusion and ordering of authors in joint research publications, co-
authorships of international co-publications are considered to better reflect ‘genuine’
research collaboration and the contributions of individual authors [G
CHUBERT, 2004].
Tracking the mobility of researchers
Apart from the bibliometric approach, with its statistical analysis of co-publication
frequency data, this paper incorporates concepts on scientific mobility and highly
skilled return migration, a topic of intense interest nowadays for academics, analysts
and policy-makers alike as this pervasive development appears to challenge the long
standing concerns over the so-called brain-drain (see e.g.: [Z
UO, 2001; CERVANTES & GUELLEC, 2002; LI, 2004; CAO, 2004; SAXENIAN, 2005]).
Whereas in the brain drain approach it is argued that countries loose human capital
when their students and scholars go overseas to study or work and decide to remain
there, the more sophisticated “mobility perspective” emphasizes a two-way flows and
connectivity where scientists and other highly skilled professionals return to their home
The ongoing rise of international co-publications reflects an increase in the magnitude and intensity of
worldwide cooperation in science, but also the benefits of a common language of science (English), cheap
transport and e-mail, all of which facilitate long distance communication and meetings. Other factors
influencing the increasing tendency towards international co-publication include the increasing complexity
and differentiation of research, increasing scientific mobility [L
UUKKONEN & AL., 1993] and the launch of
large scale multinational research programs and associated research networks.
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countries and bring back scientific human and social capital. This constitutes a brain
gain for the home country, a return brain drain for the host country, but also creates a
mobility-based connection between both countries in which the open ended nature of
these migration processes is recognized to offer a more nuanced and comprehensive
view of the brain gain/brain drain issues.
This study focuses on a specific form of highly skilled return migration, namely that
of actively publishing Chinese scientists. Scientists in general are among the most
internationally mobile groups of highly skilled professionals as in many research
systems a stay abroad is often an integral part of a scientist’s (early) career. Students
and researchers often leave their home system with the intention to return in the short or
medium term future – even though some remain in their host systems for ever. For
studies focusing specifically on the phenomenon of scientific mobility (see e.g.:
IERSON & COTGREAVE, 2000; MAHROUM, 2000; LAUDEL, 2003; MOGEROU, 2006]).
A researcher’s mobility, and his/her ability and opportunities to engage in research
collaboration, are thus not only affected by their level of knowledge and scientific
expertise, but also by his/her scientific social capital; the sum of his/her relationships to
other scientists. This scientific social capital is one element of what B
[2001] termed scientific and technical human capital which they defined as the sum of a
researcher’s professional network ties and their technical skills and resources. This
definition of S&T human capital differs considerably from the human capital concept as
it is used in the classical human capital or “brain drain” literature, because of its
emphasis on the relational aspect of scientific and technological knowledge and
resources (for a discussion see: [M
EYER, 2001]). The actor model adopted in this
project is closer to the social network approach than to the human capital approach to
highly skilled migration. The reason for this choice is twofold, first scientific
knowledge has an important relational component which is ignored in the human capital
approach [M
EYER, 2001]. Second the scientific behaviour of interest in this study
explicitly deals with this interaction between scientists. For these reasons this project
introduces the compound concept of scientific social and human capital.
In this compound concept: scientific social capital refers to a researcher’s stock of
relevant professional ties, while scientific human capital refers to the stock of a
researcher’s scientific and technological knowledge and skills. A researcher’s scientific
social capital increases when the number of scientists with whom he/she is in contact
increases and also when the quality or intensity of this relationship is stronger. In view
of the focus on the international cooperation and collaboration activities of Chinese
returnees, it is particularly interesting to adopt the concept of international scientific
For example, recent studies by Saxenian on “brain circulation” and the development of “transnational
innovation systems”, in which highly skilled migrant entrepreneurs set up high tech businesses in California
as well as in China, Taiwan, and India, and in doing so forge connections between these regions, seem to be
resulting in ‘transnational systems of innovation’ [S
AXENIAN, 2002; 2005]
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social capital rather than scientific social capital and human scientific capital separately
which are difficult to disentangle empirically. A researcher’s propensity and ability to
collaborate with foreign peers is thought to be influenced both by his scientific social
capital and scientific human capital. The definition of this compound concept is
basically identical to the B
OZEMAN & AL. [2001] concept of scientific and technical
human capital, although its scope is limited to scientific skills and contacts with active
scientists. The formulation of this compound concept will also aid in highlighting the
contribution of the stock (and direction) of international ties which Chinese researchers
accumulated during their stay in a host country in exploring the effect of foreign
research experience on international collaboration with researchers in a former host
Data gathering and analytical methodology
Sampling of researchers
The sample of Chinese researchers, all at senior level of professor/principal
investigator (PIs), consists of plant molecular life scientists who are mainly employed
by China’s elite research organisations in Beijing and Shanghai:
National Key Lab of Protein Engineering and Plant Genetic Engineering
(Beijing University);
National Key Lab of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry
(China Agricultural University);
National Institute of Biological Sciences (Beijing);
Institute of Genetics and Development Biology (Chinese Academy of
Institute of Botany (Chinese Academy of Sciences);
National Key Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics of the Institute of
Plant Physiology and Ecology (Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences
of the Chinese Academy of Sciences).
Three plant molecular life science PIs from Tsinghua University and one based in
Wuhan were also included. These four were added because several interviewees
included them in the group of 50–70 leading plant molecular life scientists in China.
The total sample of 76 PIs is believed to capture a large share of the leading plant
molecular life scientists in China, as confirmed by several interviewees. 43% of these
Two researchers in these organisations who spent on average more than five months a year abroad were not
included in the sample. Researchers who returned to China less than two years ago in 2007 were also
This lab also has three PIs based in Zheijiang University who were also included.
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researchers had research experience in North America (primarily the USA), 31% in
Western Europe, and 14% in the Asia pacific region half of which in Japan. The
remainder of 14% had no or less than two years of foreign work experience.
The main data sources used in this analysis are the mobility data contained in (a) the
curricula vitae of the scientists and (b) international (co-)publications indexed by
Thomson’s ISI’s Science Citation Index (SCI). Many of the CVs were published in
annual reports and official websites of their organisations. In several cases complete
employment history data could be retrieved from these two sources. To complement
some of the missing mobility history data, and to collect further information on their
background and research activities, 40 PIs were interviewed which included questions
on their previous affiliations and the time they had spent in various host countries.
sub-sample was more or less equally distributed among returnees from the USA and
Western Europe, complemented by a small share of respondents who returned from
Japan (7%). It is only in recent years that researchers have started to use CVs as a data
source for the evaluation of research programs [G
AUGHAN & AL., 2007; CIBANO & AL., 2006], the study of scientific mobility
AUDEL, 2003; BOZEMAN & CORLEY, 2004] and career development [DIETZ & AL.,
2000; D
IETZ, 2004; DIETZ & BOZEMAN, 2005; LEE & BOZEMAN, 2005].
Variables in the analysis
According to the literature on return migration, the dimension of ‘time’ is a critical
factor in the analysis of successful return migration [K
IRCHKAMP, 2003; CASSARINO, 2004]. The ‘time-dimension’ is especially significant
with regard to the time spent abroad, which is expected to influence the potentiality of
building up of social capital, but also important in terms of the timing of return as the
Chinese research system has been rapidly evolving during the last 10–15 years and the
situation experienced by returnees in the early 1990s differs considerably from the
situation experienced by more recent returnees.
The time researchers spent abroad – in total, and per host country – was entered into
a database with data points for each year since their return for the period 1994–2006.
Since some of the PIs had work experience in two or more of these regions, the total sum of shares is higher
than 100%.
The directors of the National Key Laboratories included in this study, helped to complete some of the data
for those faculty members who could not participate in these interviews due to practical constraints or
language problems.
Especially in the case of using large numbers of CVs the likelihood of mistakes in coding and entering the
data can be a problem. The sample used for this study is relatively small. For this reason the coding and
database formation did not have to be outsourced which increased the possibility of quality control. It is not
unlikely, however, that some small errors have been made.
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The variable length of time spent abroad was transformed into a dichotomous dummy
variable representing whether or not a scientist had worked at least two years abroad, in
the US, in Western Europe, or in Japan.
For each year another data-point was entered representing the number of years a
researcher had spent in China since his/her return. For each of those years a data-point
was included representing the number of articles published in journals included in the
Science Citation Index [T
HOMSON SCIENTIFIC, 2007], which is used as an indicator of
the productivity of the researcher. This indicator is a proxy because not every co-author
contributes equally to a paper nor does every co-author receive equal credit from the
scientific community.
With the increasing level of quality of the Chinese research
system over time researchers have become more and more able to publish in higher
impact SCI-covered journals; Chinese researchers within the top level research
organisations are actively stimulated to publish in these international journals. A final
important reason why the quantity of SCI publications is an imperfect measure for
scientific productivity is that Chinese researchers also have the possibility to publish in
the well-developed domestic scientific press. These publications are not taken into
account because, aside from practical difficulties in accessing and analysing this data,
this project focuses on international visibility and international collaboration for which
this data is less relevant as these publications are hardly visible to researchers outside
the Chinese research system.
The CV data on the age of the researchers was incomplete and due to problems with
accessing the Chinese language Science Citation Database, which holds this
information, another measure had to be used which was available: namely the time at
which researchers completed their PhD. For a small number of Chinese researchers the
data included for time after completion of PhD actually represents the number of years
after the year of graduation plus six year: (a) those that completed their PhD at a
relatively late age; (b) researchers graduating before 1980 who often did not obtain a
PhD degree at all, as this degree was not offered in China at that time.
The output variable entered for each year includes the number of international co-
publications in total and per host country/region, which is used as an indicator for
international collaboration. As explained in the bibliometric literature, this again is a
partial indicator although the limitations of co-publications as an indicator for research
For example, if a researcher publishing two articles in the journal Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture
which in 2005 had an impact factor of 1.1 is considered more productive than a researcher publishing one
article in the journal Plant Cell which had an Impact Factor of 11 (T
many, if not all, researchers working in this field would not agree with productivity measure. On the other
hand, for a large part of the period under study this hardly applies as very large as Chinese researchers used to
publish primarily in lower impact SCI journals – if they published in them at all. What is more, the output
based evaluation mechanisms introduced in the past decade initially focused on the number of papers rather
than on their impact, thus providing an incentive for high quantity rather than high quality. According to
respondents this is still common practice in lower level universities but has been replaced in the top level
research organisation by an approach which takes into account the impact factor of journals as well.
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collaboration are less severe as compared to domestic or intramural collaboration [KATZ
& MARTIN, 1997; WAGNER, 2005; GLÄNZEL & SCHUBERT, 2004]. Still, as some of the
interviewed researchers mentioned, co-authors do not necessarily have to have worked
with, or even know each other. It might therefore be more appropriate to use
international co-publications as an indicator of the extent to which a researcher is
embedded in international research networks, rather than for actual international
research collaboration as such.
The internationalization of Chinese plant molecular life science
Over the past 10 years the Chinese plant molecular life science community has
become increasingly visible at the international stage. The share of publications
(articles, letters, notes and reviews) published by these researchers in plant molecular
life science
journals increased rapidly as shown in Figure 1, up to almost 11% of the
worldwide total in 2006. The R
of a (exponential) curve estimation is 0.85. Over this
period the average impact of Chinese papers has increased as well, as exhibited in
Figure 2. The growing numbers of Chinese research articles in the SCI contributes to its
international visibility. A further measure of how pervasive Chinese science has become
in this field is to look at the international scientific impact, which can be gauged by
counting the number of citations (references) to these articles with the SCI-covered
journal literature. The number of citations to each cited article is normalized to ease
comparisons across fields and time. The field-normalized average number of citations
per article (denoted by the acronym CPP/FCS) equals a value of 1 when the citation
frequency is on par with the worldwide average [M
OED & AL., 1995].
Scores of more than 1 indicate a relative high citation impact; below 1 is relatively low
by global standards. The trends exhibited in Figure 2 clearly indicate that during the last
10 years the Chinese research system has steadily improved its performance up to a
‘world average’ development level.
This custom made category was compiled by the CWTS on the basis of journal-to-journal co-citation
relationships with “plant science” as a source journal. Citation data used for this project was sourced from
Thomson’s Journal Citation Reports. The subfield category consists of the following journals: Acta
Physiologiae Plantarum, Biologia Plantarum, Environmental and Experimental Botany, Journal of
Experimental Botany, Plant Physiology, Physiologia Plantarum, Phytochemistry, Plant Cell, Plant Cell and
Environment, Plant Cell Reports, Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture, Plant Growth Regulation, Plant
Journal, Plant Molecular Biology, Plant Physiology, Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, Plant Science, Plant
Species Biology, Plant Soil and Environment, Planta, Scientia Horticultura, Theoretical and Applied
Genetics, Trends in Plant Science, In Vitro Cellular Development Biology Plant, Current Opinion Plant
Biology, and Plant and Cell Physiology.
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Figure 1. National shares of worldwide publication output in Plant Molecular Life Science
Figure 2. Trend in citation impact performance of Chinese research in Plant Molecular Life Science:
Field normalised citation impact score (CPP/FCS)
A significant part of the rise in publication output and improvements in visibility
and impact is due to international cooperation. For each year between 1998 and 2003,
over 30 % of Chinese SCI publications in this field are international co-publications and
well over 30% of the citations received by publications published by authors in
mainland China in a two year time interval after publication refer to co-publications
between China and the main partner countries shown in Table 1. As shown in Table 1
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the number of international co-publications published by Chinese researchers in this
scientific subfield amounts to a third of the output; it has increased over the years at a
rate similar to China’s total publication output.
Table 1. Chinese publication output and international co-publications in the Plant Molecular Life Science
1996 1999 2002 2005 1996–2005
Total publication output of China 104 115 167 526 2052
Output of international co-publications* 37 (36%) 41(36%) 58(35%) 166(32%) 695(34%)
China-US 16 14 20 70 271(39%)
China-Canada 1 0 5 12 39
China-EU(17) 13 15 16 60 225(32%)
China-UK 4 6 5 21 80
China-GE 4 6 3 18 75
China-FA 0 1 3 8 33
China NL 1 3 0 12 30
China-JPN 8 10 16 29 178(26%)
China-SG 2 0 3 7 22
Source: (Thomson Scientific ISI, 2007).
* This data refers to international co-publications between China (including Hong Kong) and the 50 countries
with the highest GDP according to the IMF in 2005.
When queried about these changes in international collaboration behavior during the
past ten years all interviewees responded that there had indeed been a major increase in
activity. Compared to the 1990s, international collaboration is now less driven by the
need to acquire funding and more by a desire to share resources and skills. They
provided the following mix of possible reasons and explanations for this development,
some of which are generic for worldwide science, others are particular to the field or
specific to the Chinese research system in general:
Technological developmentinternet has dramatically increased the
possibilities for and the ease of long distance communication needed for
cooperation and collaboration;
Changing nature of research in this field, which is becoming more
Increasing quality of Chinese research in this field;
Need to publish in English language international journals – in part because
of evaluation pressure which favours journals included in Thomson ISI’s
Science Citation Index. As a result Chinese researchers also have an
increasing need for (English) editing of papers;
All of the above factors may have, to some degree, influenced the magnitude and nature of collaboration,
but not necessarily the intensity or effectiveness of international collaborative links.
This latter factor may, however, be more important in stimulating international contacts in general than the
more narrowly defined international collaboration.
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Increasing numbers of visitors to China from Western Europe, the US, and
Significant increase in the funding of scientific research by the Chinese
government. Nowadays, recently returned researchers no longer depend on
foreign sources as a way to attract research funding as sufficient funding is
supplied within the Chinese research system itself;
Promotion and support of the Chinese government and intermediary
organisations for international cooperation and collaboration. This is
related in changes in the research culture and the increasing openness of
Chinese research organisations externally, as well as internally within the
Chinese research system;
Social capital of returned foreign trained researchers.
The remainder of this paper focuses on the last mentioned factor. It addresses the
issue whether and to which extent returned scientists remain embedded in international
research networks, and whether differences in the nature of their overseas experience
have an influence on their propensity to be so.
Mobility and scientific performance
A first in the analysis was to examine whether differences in the nature of their
overseas experience has noticeably influenced their scientific productivity. The
explanatory (independent) variables in this analysis are:
Overseas research experiences and host country (are there differences
between researchers who have worked in North American, Western
European or East Asian research systems?);
Time spent abroad (does the length a researcher spent abroad influences
his/her stock of international scientific social capital? And is this reflected
in his/her propensity to co-publish internationally?);
Year since return (did the amount of time spent in the Chinese research
system influences their productivity and their propensity to co-publish
Year since PhD (to what degree has the academic seniority of the
researcher affected the productivity?);
Year number (is there a positive relationship between point in time and
productivity of research articles, especially international co-authored
One of the reasons for expecting a significant positive correlation between these
variables and the two dependent variables (number of publications and number of
international co-publications) is that the quality of the research conditions in the
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Chinese research system has been increasing over time, not only in terms of the
availability of research funding (in total and for individual researchers), but also in
terms of research infrastructure, as well as the overall visibility and internationalisation
of the system. Furthermore, it was assumed that such a positive relationship will partly
depend on the age of researchers [
VAN HEERINGEN & DIJKWEL, 1987; JIN & AL., 2004].
In the course of a scientific career a researcher tends to become more experienced and
skilled expert in the field with a greater access to resources (staff, students, research
funding, etc.), which tends to have a positive effect on their scientific productivity and
visibility which in turn increases their access to resources further. This process of
cumulative advantages enjoyed by leading senior researchers within scientific
communities is often referred to as the Matthew Effect [M
ERTON, 1973].
Based on the literature on (highly skilled) return migration the expectation is that
people have to have spent a certain amount of time in a host system to build up human
and social scientific capital and mobilize these resources before returning (see e.g.:
ING, 1986; DUSTMANN & KIRCHKAMP, 2003; CASSARINO, 2004]). Our expectation is
that the longer a researcher has spent time abroad, the higher his/her propensity to co-
publish internationally – though there may be an optimal migration period after which
potential benefits of the time spent abroad decrease [K
IRCHKAMP, 2003]. For this reason one would assume a positive correlation between
the variables time spent abroad and number of international co-publications. This
correlation is expected to be host system specific, i.e. a researcher who has spent time in
North America is expected to co-publish primarily with researchers based in North
America. The same is expected to hold for Western Europe and Japan. The reason for
this expectation is that the social scientific capital a researcher builds up during the time
(s)he spends in a foreign research system is specific to this host system and that this
influences his collaboration behaviour upon return. A positive correlation is also
expected between time spent abroad and number of publications assuming that the
longer a Chinese researcher has spent in more developed research systems the larger his
stock of scientific human and social capital which will be reflected in his productivity.
However, the effect of age and seniority on scientific productivity is not necessarily always a positive one;
in the course of their career successful scientists often face increasing administrative responsibilities,
managerial tasks or teaching loads. Also for active researchers increasing age does no longer have a positive
effect after a certain point in time and productivity may even start to decline towards the end of a researcher’s
scientific career. As shown by J
IN & AL. [2004] for the case of Chinese language publications, the relationship
between age and productivity is different for the older generation of Chinese researchers as a result of the
Cultural Revolution and its aftermath in which the Chinese higher education and research system could not
provide high quality training to its students. They showed that the productivity of the generation trained in this
period is considerably lower than the productivity of the generations coming after that as well as that of the
generation of researchers which has now mostly retired.
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Foreign experience is also expected to have an effect on the researcher’s English
proficiency which influences his ability to publish in English language international
journals and collaborate with foreign partners.
As for the variable year since return the expectation is that productivity in the early
years since return is low because of a lag period in which a researcher needs to set up a
new lab and research lines, that international co-publications in this first years may be
high as a result of carry-on projects with researchers in his former host system, that
productivity increases over time and that the positive effect of overseas experience on
both productivity and international co-publication behaviour may wear off after ten to
fifteen years. It is therefore expected that overall the correlation between this variable
and both productivity and the number of international co-publications is positive but
that this is a non-linear relationship. Figure 3 presents a schematic graphical model of
the expected relationships between the variables.
A series of bivariate correlation analyses was performed to examine and explore the
relational structure between the various variables as they occur within the dataset of the
76 Chinese researchers. Given the non-parametric nature of the data, Kendall’s tau
correlation coefficients were computed. The findings are shown in Table 2.
Figure 3. Models of expected relationship between dependent and independent variables
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Table 2. Correlations between variables (Kendall’s tau_b correlations)
Output sci
Output int
1.000 0.302(**) 0.233(**) 0.231(**) 0.079(*) 0.081(*)
Years since PhD
0.223(**) 0.312(**) 0.144(**) 0.157(**) 0.056 0.015
Time since return to China
0.170(**) 0.383(**) 0.193(**) 0.130(**) 0.130(**) 0.058
Overseas experience
0.154(**) 0.107(**) 0.195(**) 0.157(**) 0.107(**) 0.087(*)
Experience USA
0.136(**) 0.078(*) 0.245(**) 0.332(**) 0.021 0.009
Experience W.Europe
0.025 0.029 0.016 –0.050 0.109(**) –0.020
Experience Japan
0.071(*) –0.044 –0.033 –0.058 –0.071 0.149(**)
Time spent abroad
0.154(**) 0.025 0.133(**) 0.101(**) 0.095(**) 0.063
Time spent in the USA
0.114(**) 0.053 0.198(**) 0.279(**) 0.021 0.012
Time spent in W. Europe
0.025 0.019 0.000 –0.070 0.099(**) –0.029
Time spent in Japan
0.070(*) –0.049 –0.030 –0.056 –0.069 0.155(**)
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).
While most coefficients are fairly low, thus hinting at the existence of additional
(causal) factors that may help to explain the relationships between these variables one
can observe many statistically significant positive coefficients that substantiate several
of the expectations. Such is the case for the expected positive correlation coefficient
between year number and the number of publications, as well as year number and the
number of international co-publications. Considering the strong correlation between the
researchers current age (in 2006), years since PhD and the year number, it is not clear
whether the improvement of the research conditions in China has resulted in an
increasing number of publications by the authors, or whether this is more related to their
increasing age and seniority. There appears to be an effect of the point in time upon the
number of international co-publications published by these researchers. This could
indicate an increasing openness of the Chinese research system as well as an increase in
the institutional support for international research collaboration. It could also be an
indirect effect of the increasing quality and visibility of Chinese scientists which is
likely to make them more interesting collaborative partners for foreign researchers.
Considering the nationality of the foreign partners in the international co-publications it
would seem that both the number of years since 1994 and the number of years since the
obtaining of a PhD have a positive correlation with co-publications with foreigners,
especially in the case of those Chinese returnees who spent time in North America.
A next step is to study the correlation between the three time variables and the
scientific productivity as measured by the average number of SCI publications per year.
The results are displayed in Figures 4–6. For all three figures only average data-points
were included were data was available for over at least 10 individuals. As shown in
Figure 4 there appears to be a positive linear relationship between year number and the
average number of SCI publications. A similar, though potentially more complex
relationship appears to exist between the time since return and the average number of
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314 Scientometrics 77 (2008)
SCI publications. As expected the time since return is positively correlated to both
dependent variables (see Figure 5). Part of this correlation can probably be explained by
the correlation between year number and time since return. As shown in Figure 5, a
non-linear curve provides a slightly better fit of the relationship between time since
return and the average number of publications compared to the a linear relationship.
Relationship between year since 1994 and average number of SCI
Constant β
0.785 0.311 0.233
Figure 4. Plot of the relationship between year since 1994 and average SCI publication output per year
The curve as such does not provide a sufficiently clear indication that positive effects of
foreign experience tends to wear off after its initial positive effect during the years
immediately after return.
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Relationship between year since return and average number
of SCI publications
Constant β
Linear 0.706 0.826 0.259
Quadratic 0.820 –0.207 0.702 –0.34
Figure 5. Plot of the relationship between year since return and average SCI publication output per year
Figure 6 shows that the average number of SCI publications per year also appears to
be increasing with academic experience and seniority (i.e. years after completing the
PhD). Note that data point averages were only included for data based on more than ten
researchers. The plot clearly indicates a linear statistical relationship between year since
PhD and average number of SCI publications per year. Introducing an extended
timeline with individuals, who have over 18 years experience after their PhD, produces
a more scattered distribution with a significant dip in the publication productivity
between 17 and 23 years experience after receiving their PhD. Several possible reasons
may explain this phenomenon such as retirement and managerial responsibilities, but in
view of the small size of the sample (5–7 individuals) for this age group no
(statistically) robust conclusions can be drawn from this finding.
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Relationship between year since PhD and average number
of SCI publications (vertical axis)
Constant Β
0.944 –0.431 0.314
Figure 6. Plot of the relationship between year since PhD and the average number
of SCI publications per year
As the three time-related variables year number, year since return, and year since
PhD are not independent a partial correlation analysis is performed to explore how the
factors contribute to the increase in annual research productivity, i.e. the average
number of publications per year. When controlling for year number and year since
PhD, the correlation between year since return and number of SCI publications is
0.316, which is relatively high but slightly lower than the correlation coefficient when
controlling for the other time related variables. The variable year number, when
controlling for the other two time variables, produces a correlation coefficient of 0.230.
The correlation between the age variable year since PhD and the number of SCI
publications is only 0.113 when controlling for the other two time variables. Hence, a
large share of the observed positive correlation between this variable and the number of
SCI publications can be attributed to the year number and the time since return.
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Controlling for these two variables separately suggests that the time since return
contributed strongly to the observed positive correlation (controlling only for year
number leads to a correlation between year since PhD and number of SCI publications
of 0.241). While both year number and time since return independently have a
relatively strong independent positive correlation with research productivity, this is true
for a considerably lesser extent for the variable year since PhD in this sample of
As expected there is a positive correlation between whether someone has worked
abroad for two years or more (overseas experience) and the publication output – both in
terms of the number of publications as well as the number of international co-
publications. The effect on international co-publications appears to be stronger. The
choice of host country clearly impacts on international co-publication behaviour; there
is a strong positive correlation between having been in either North America, Western
Europe, or in Japan and the number of international co-publications with researchers
located in these respective regions/countries. Note that the observed correlation is much
stronger for researchers with experience in North America – explanations for this
phenomenon are provided in the next section.
Similar observations can be made about the relationship between time spent abroad
and international co-publications. Somewhat contrary to expectations, there does not
seem to be a positive effect of the time spent in these three regions and the number of
international co-publications beyond what was explained by the above variables. Also
contrary to what one might expect, having foreign experience is positively correlated to
the number of publications, whereas no such positive correlation is found between the
years spent abroad and the publication output. One possible explanation for this
somewhat counter intuitive finding is that most scientists with a foreign experience of
more than ten years have only returned during the last three to four years. It may be too
early to tell. Since it may take them some years to establish their lab and develop new
research lines, significant positive effects on productivity (if any) are likely to emerge
only after several years time. Another possibility is that researchers who have spent a
long time abroad (especially in the highly competitive US “publish or perish” research
culture) are more likely to focus on quality rather than quantity and therefore tend to
produce international level high-quality publications – a crucial distinction that
unfortunately is not captured in this study.
The observed correlation between the variable having [over two years of] foreign
experience and the number of publications per year merits a caveat as well. The number
of researchers in the sample without foreign experience is relatively low (i.e. 14 out of
76 researchers); most researchers at top level Chinese research organisations nowadays
have had several years of foreign work experience. More often than not researchers
without foreign experience belong to the “old generation” of researchers approaching
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retirement whereas the population of returned Chinese scientists tend to be between 35
and 50 which is generally considered to the most productive age of researchers.
Feedback from interviewed Chinese researchers
When queried about the observed effect of host regions on the correlation between
time spent in a host region and propensity to collaborate with this region, respondents
replied that this may be due to differences in the pool of active researchers which was
believed to be larger in North America (the USA) than in Western Europe. Yet, based
on the number of plant molecular life science publications published by researchers in
these two regions, see Figure 1, it is more likely that the opposite is the case. However,
at the level of national science systems it is certainly true that the pool of US
researchers is far larger than that of any European country. The dominance of the US
was also present when respondents were asked about their number of contacts abroad
people with whom you cooperate in the broad sense of the word”, i.e. those with
which they “exchange data, samples, advice, comments, or other professionally
relevant information or resources, or consider cooperating with in the future”. The
respondents could choose from one of five classes for each country: 0, 1, 2–5, 6–10, or
11–25 contacts. The median number of US contacts they reported was 11–25, while the
median for the UK, Germany and Japan was 2–5 and for France only 1 contact. Several
of the respondents indicated that they had over 50 contacts in the USA. When asked
about the frequency with which they contacted researchers in various foreign research
systems, the median of the responses was “monthly” for the USA, “several times a
year” for the UK, around “once a year” for both France and Germany, but “almost
never” for Japan. As for their contacts with overseas Chinese, or of Chinese descent, the
US share ranged from 30 to 80%, with 10–30% shares for the UK and Germany.
Contacts in Japan tended to be non-Chinese (0%). When asked whether or not this
difference in the number of overseas Chinese researchers in the US and Western
European research systems could play a role in the greater propensity of returnees to
collaborate with researchers in the US, respondents denied that such ethnic or cultural
factors played an important role. A typical reply would be: “I am in contact with them
because they are good scientists and I’m interested in their work, not because they are
While Jin et al. found that this is a relatively unproductive age contingent in China, the long term negative
influence of historical events which they observed is not expected to have affected the population of returned
researchers to the same extent. Returned researchers still make up only a small proportion of the Chinese
researcher population and their productivity profile is likely to differ as they did have access to good training
in contrast to the population trained during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. Even if these
researchers would have had a large productivity they may not have influenced the results of Jin et al.’s
analysis which took into account only publications in the domestic Chinese press while returnees may be
expected to be more prone to publish in international journals. [J
IN & AL., 2004].
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Chinese” (Respondent 29).
However, these responses are not sufficient to discard the
potential influence of this factor as the response may have been socially desirable.
Recent empirical work shows that a high share of Chinese international co-publications,
over 70% of US-China co-publications, have at least one US based co-author with a
Chinese surname ([J
IN & AL., 2007], see also: [JONKERS, 2007]). This is a clear
indication of the important role of overseas Chinese scientists as collaborative partners
for researchers in mainland China.
Another factor that could help explain the stronger correlation between time spent in
the US and international research collaboration with US based researchers upon
return, are the differences in the way research is organised in the various host systems.
Several respondents mentioned that Western European research groups tended to be
more ‘focused’, where the whole group works on a particular topic which is relatively
narrowly defined.
Upon return a former post-doc trained in Western Europe would
therefore often have to change his research topic to avoid direct competition with his
former colleagues. In contrast, respondents viewed the US working environment to be
often characterised by larger research groups that include post-docs working on several
related but different research lines. Such a diversified and more ‘open’ organisational
set-up could be more conducive for establishing a larger and broader range of contacts,
which might help explain the stronger correlation.
General discussion and conclusions
The results of the analysis presented in this paper supports the general expectation
that having benefited from overseas experience has a distinctive positive impact on the
publication productivity of Chinese plant molecular life scientists in top level research
organisations. This in turn impacts on the extent to which they are embedded in
international collaborative networks as indicated by their international co-publications.
The main finding of this paper is the observed positive correlation between foreign
experience in a particular host region/country and the number of international co-
publications with researchers from this region. This finding itself is not very surprising,
Some respondents did mention the programs set up by the NSFC and recently also by the CAS, specifically
designed to link up research groups of overseas Chinese scientists (in the USA) with researchers in mainland
China. Several respondents considered applying for these programs, but they said it was unlikely these
programs would have a large effect on the observed differences between Western Europe and the USA.
Note, this response was not restricted to researchers trained in Germany, as might perhaps be expected, but
responses in the same line were also given by a researcher trained in another Western European research
system and two researchers who were trained in the USA.
Apart from the difference in the post-doc system mentioned above, the differences in the financing of PhD
students could have an influence. In the USA overseas students are often forced to pay their way by doing
work for their professors while in Europe they often have access to grants. The situation in the USA might
foster stronger linkages between Chinese PhDs and their former supervisor.
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given the importance of close personal interactions and associated accumulative
scientific social capital as a prerequisite for, and a driver of, successful international
research collaboration. However, this empirical study is one of very few to provide
quantitative support for this assumption, which was so far based primarily on qualitative
This finding is also important because of its implications for the debate on the return
brain drain; it shows that while the return of scientists to China may constitute an
outflow in human capital to the former host system, this loss may be partially off-set by
new and intensive relationships between these Chinese researchers and their former
supervisors and co-workers abroad. The net benefit is the strengthening of ties between
the Chinese research system and other countries, thus embedding China more firmly
within the global science system. Again, several commentators, analysts, and scientists
have pointed out this mutually beneficial positive effect of returnees, but so far no
(semi-)quantitative studies on scientific co-publication have been done showing this
Both the positive correlation between foreign experience and the number of SCI
publications and the general number of international co-publications can be explained
with reference to a combination of both the human and social capital dimension of the
scientific human and social capital gained abroad. Since researchers with a higher
international visibility also tend to be more likely to co-publish internationally and it is
therefore difficult to disentangle the importance of the scientific knowledge and skills
gained abroad from the relevant professional ties build up during this period. There is
an indication that this latter dimension does indeed contribute to the propensity to co-
publish internationally as the correlation between foreign experience and the number of
international co-publications is higher than the correlation between this independent
variable and the number of SCI publications. The importance of scientific social capital
becomes clearer when looking at the direction of international co-publications. As there
is a strong positive correlation between time spent in a particular host system and co-
publications with this system, while this correlation does not exist for co-publications
with other research systems.
Returning to the key notion of scientific social capital, it is less clear from the
results whether the length of time spent in a host country has a significant positive
effect on the number of international co-publications with researchers in this country.
There are several possible explanations for this finding. Firstly, it may result from the
sample which was used; most of the researchers who have spent a long time (over 10
years) abroad have returned during the last four years and may not have had sufficient
time to build their lab and set up new research lines that could result in international co-
publications. Second, there may be an ‘optimal time’ for researchers to spend in a host
system, after which there are no perceivable additional gains in scientific social capital.
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Thirdly, there may be distinctive differences in the accumulation of social capital
gained by researchers depending on the stage of their career in which they moved
abroad; those who went abroad as a post-doc may acquire more, or a different kind, of
scientific social capital compared to researchers who go abroad to do a PhD and return
immediately, or those that decide to stay abroad for a longer period of time.
As for the geographical dimension of the results, there is strong positive case to be
made for the beneficial accumulation of scientific social capital of those who spent time
in North America, but less so for those who worked in Western Europe or in Japan.
Most likely, a host of interrelated factors may explain this, more specifically differences
in (a) the organisation of research system, (b) the available pool of potential
collaborative partners in the former host systems, and their international visibility, (c)
the interest of collaborative partners to collaborate with the returnees in China, (d) the
population of overseas Chinese scientists in the different host systems, (e) the
institutional support for international collaboration between China and foreign research
systems, as well as (f) a potential bias of Chinese researchers to collaborate with
researchers in English speaking countries.
The findings are derived from a very restricted frame of reference: only one subfield
of science (plant molecular life science) and only the cream of the returned Chinese
researchers within this field. Assuming that the dynamics, nature and size, and rationale
for international collaboration may differ significantly from one subfield to the other,
the scope for generalisation of these findings to other fields of Chinese science is
therefore limited. While similar positive correlations are likely to exist across fields of
science as to foreign experience and international co-publications, some cautionary
notes should be made in the case of plant molecular life sciences where international
collaboration is expected to be driven mainly by access to skills and resources (such as
mutant lines, germplasm, and test-fields), while in other fields, such as for example
nuclear physics and to a lesser extent biophysics, international collaboration may be
driven more by the need to have access to expensive equipment. Moreover, Chinese
science is relatively strong in plant molecular life sciences; the same can not be said for
many other subfields and it is therefore not unlikely that the nature of international
collaboration differs in other scientific subfields as well, especially in those in which
China is well below the international average development level.
The authors are grateful to Rikard Stankiewicz for comments and feedback on earlier versions of this
paper. It has also benefited from comments and suggestions from the participants in the workshop on the
Global Political Economy of the Research System held at the European University Institute in San Domenico
di Fiesole on May 18, 2007 and the workshop on “Methodological Issues in the use of CV data for Research
Evaluation and Assessment” at the 11th ISSI conference in Madrid on June, 2007. The final version of the
paper has furthermore benefited from the comments of two anonymous reviewers. This research is part of a
PhD project: “Scientific Mobility and the Internationalisation of the Chinese Research System – The Case of
Plant Molecular Biology” funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education Science and Culture at the European
University Institute.
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... Much of this variability may be attributable to the manner in which these studies were conducted and the chosen field of observation. Some of them focus on a single country (Fernández-Zubieta, Geuna, & Lawson, 2016;Aksnes, Rorstad, Piro, & Sivertsen, 2013;Tartari, Di Lorenzo, & Campbell, 2020;Ejermo, Fassio, & Källström, 2020;Cruz-Castro & Sanz-Menéndez, 2010;Jonkers & Tijssen, 2008;De Filippo, Casado, & Gómez, 2009;Cañibano, Otamendi & Andújar, 2008;Allison & Long, 1990). Others, however, have analyzed a single discipline (Bolli, & Schläpfer, 2015;Tartari, Di Lorenzo & Campbell, 2020;Jonkers & Tijssen, 2008;Albarrán, Carrasco, & Ruiz-Castillo, 2017;Dubois, Rochet & Schlenker 2014;Ryazanova, & McNamara, 2019;Tartari, Di Lorenzo, & Campbell, 2020). ...
... Some of them focus on a single country (Fernández-Zubieta, Geuna, & Lawson, 2016;Aksnes, Rorstad, Piro, & Sivertsen, 2013;Tartari, Di Lorenzo, & Campbell, 2020;Ejermo, Fassio, & Källström, 2020;Cruz-Castro & Sanz-Menéndez, 2010;Jonkers & Tijssen, 2008;De Filippo, Casado, & Gómez, 2009;Cañibano, Otamendi & Andújar, 2008;Allison & Long, 1990). Others, however, have analyzed a single discipline (Bolli, & Schläpfer, 2015;Tartari, Di Lorenzo & Campbell, 2020;Jonkers & Tijssen, 2008;Albarrán, Carrasco, & Ruiz-Castillo, 2017;Dubois, Rochet & Schlenker 2014;Ryazanova, & McNamara, 2019;Tartari, Di Lorenzo, & Campbell, 2020). ...
... Analyses conducted on the effects of mobility taking place on a global scale show mixed results. Franzoni, Scellato and Stephan (2014) showed that foreign academics and those who have spent long periods abroad make higher impact publications; Jonkers and Tijssen (2008) found a positive correlation between international mobility and publication intensity of Chinese researchers, as labor mobility contributes to the scientific and technical human capital of scientists to the extent that it increases the number of collaborations and strengthens existing relationships. Halevi, Moed, and Bar-Ilan (2016), observing the top 100 authors between 2010 and 2015 in terms of publications in each of seven disciplines, 2 showed that domestic inter-organizational mobility induces an increase in both output and impact, while inter-country mobility does not seem to produce the same effects. ...
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This work investigates the effects of researchers’ mobility on their research performance. The reference context is that of national intra-sector mobility, in a country, Italy, characterized by a research system lacking the typical elements of an academic labor market. In particular, the analysis was conducted on 568 academics working at national universities and affected by mobility in the period 2009–2014. The effect of mobility on the variation of performance at the turn of the transfer was analyzed considering the interplay of demographic/sociological characteristics of the researchers, as well as contextual factors related to both the organization of origin and destination. Results show that it is the less productive academics that represent the larger share of those who move, and more than half of the mobile academics worsen their performance after the transfer.
... Moreover, for sponsored Chinese students and scholars, they are required to return to China and work for at least two years following completion of sponsorship by principle. Therefore, it is a kind of circular transnational scientific mobility (Jöns, 2007) supported by the government with specific initiatives: to train talents and promote international collaboration in some important fields, and lastly, to implement the socalled return brain drain (Jonkers & Tijssen, 2008). As Cao (2008) suggested, although a small but growing return migration of Chinese researchers has been seen, the whole return rate is low and many highly qualified academics still stay abroad for multiple reasons. ...
... Those scholarship awardees were expected to gain international experience (Ackers, 2008) in leading countries in their subject fields, and expand transnational collaboration networks through mobility (Meyer, Kaplan, & Charum, 2001;Cañibano, Fox, & Otamendi, 2015). Jonkers and Tijssen (2008) found that the overseas experience of Chinese plant molecular life researchers who returned to their home country does have a distinct positive impact on the publication productivity; moreover, it was observed a positive correlation between researchers' overseas experience and the quantity of their corresponding transnational copublications. Based on survey data, Scellato, Franzoni, & Stephan (2015) concluded that migrants and returnees hold larger international research networks compared to those native researchers lacking an international background. ...
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Every year many scholars are funded by the China Scholarship Council (CSC). The CSC is a funding agency established by the Chinese government with the main initiative of training Chinese scholars to conduct research abroad and to promote international collaboration. In this study, we identified these CSC-funded scholars sponsored by the China Scholarship Council based on the acknowledgments text indexed by the Web of Science. Bibliometric data of their publications were collected to track their scientific mobility in different fields, and to evaluate the performance of the CSC scholarship in promoting international collaboration by sponsoring the mobility of scholars. Papers funded by the China Scholarship Council are mainly from the fields of natural sciences and engineering sciences. There are few CSC-funded papers in the field of social sciences and humanities. CSC-funded scholars from mainland China have the United States, Australia, Canada, and some European countries, such as Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands, as their preferential mobility destinations across all fields of science. CSC-funded scholars published most of their papers with international collaboration during the mobility period, with a decrease in the share of international collaboration after the support of the scholarship.
... The development is also reflected in strengthened relationships between advanced science nations and China. Moreover, Chinese students and researchers have traditionally preferred to seek opportunities in the West for overseas study or work (Cao et al., 2020;Jonkers & Tijssen, 2008). Hence, strong Western-Chinese research collaborations are expected as research cooperation usually develops due to established relationships but also resource accessibility and complementary competencies. ...
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Until recently, modern science had been dominated by a handful of Western countries. However, since the turn of the millennium, the global science landscape has undergone dramatic changes. The number of nations where a significant proportion of research done is of high international standard has now increased considerably. China particularly stands out and is today one of the leading science nations in the world. Overall, Chinese research collaborations with countries in the Western world exemplify the general trend towards increasing complexity in the global research landscape. It has gradually become obvious that differences between institutional settings need to be managed more systematically to promote cross-border research cooperation for shared benefits, from individual to institutional levels. An informed discussion of managing complex conditions necessitates an understanding of the relationship-level dynamics of research collaborations. In order to identify what aspects of international research collaborations are the most pertinent to systematically manage at individual and institutional levels, this paper investigates projects in a bilateral Swedish–Chinese funding program. The paper finds that the majority of collaborations funded had yielded positive impact in terms of publications, strengthened research capacity in research groups, and resource accumulation. The challenges found in the collaborations are related to needs such as improving transparency, ethical concerns, and imbalances in reciprocity.
... Moreover, evidence suggests that international research collaboration has a positive influence on research productivity (Abramo et al., 2011;He et al., 2009;Shin & Cummings, 2010). As a matter of fact, it appears that the more time scholars spend abroad working together with their international counterparts, the greater their research productivity and visibility become (Jonkers & Tijssen, 2008). These views are further supported by Kwiek's (2015) study in which he juxtaposed the data from two divergent groups of academics: internationalists (faculty who engaged in international research collaboration), and locals (faculty who were not involved in international research activities) in order to investigate the impact of international academic cooperation in research on academic productivity and co-authorship of publications. ...
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World University Rankings (WUR) are growing in prominence in the eyes of governments and universities around the world. Often this encourages the introduction of state- or institution-wide policies and regulations that put academics and graduate students under performative pressure to publish in international, peer-reviewed journals with a high impact factor (e.g., Scopus- or Web of Science-indexed journals). Such publication requirements are part of the broader internationalization of research (IoR) policies being implemented in many countries. This article adopts a faculty-based perspective and explores the response of academia to IoR policies in Kazakhstan, a developing country that actively pursues a strategy of integrating local academia into the global scientific community. The authors develop a typology of responses based on a literature review to guide the data collection and interpretation. Data for this study were collected through document analysis and semi-structured interviews. Findings suggest that IoR policies lead to a variety of responses from academia, including gaming and token conformity.
... Edler et al. (2011) and Wang et al. (2019) focus on international yet intra-sectoral research mobility and find that generally speaking international mobility, permanent and temporary respectively, is conducive to the academic's collaborations with industry. Jonkers and Tijssen (2008) also find a positive impact of permanent international mobility on academic publications. Overall, these efforts lead us to assume that international temporary mobility is conducive for knowledge transfer and the academic's identification of entrepreneurial opportunities. ...
Countries deploy a variety of policy instruments to promote university-industry knowledge transfer. While these instruments are often discussed in isolation, they are implemented collectively and may reinforce and complement but also weaken or even negatively affect each other. This chapter presents a conceptual framework to map policy instruments for knowledge transfer and assess the interactions between them. Positive interactions occur, for example, when a new grant scheme to support spin-offs is accompanied by the adoption of more flexible regulations regarding the participation of university professors in firms, leading to a stronger combined impact. In contrast, negative interactions are associated with potential contradictions between policy instruments or with the coexistence of various policies targeting simultaneously the same types of actors, which increases complexity, creates confusion and results in higher administrative costs. The conceptual framework developed in this chapter also aims to explain how the choice of policy instruments is influenced by national contexts and broader international trends. This framework is a useful tool for those involved in the design and evaluation of university-industry knowledge transfer policies, while offering a broad point of departure for future research.
... AnnaLee Saxenian's theory of "brain circulation" suggests that developing economies benefit from having their brightest information-technology talent move and work abroad, because some later return home with new skills and networks that accelerate economic growth within their country of origin (Saxenian, 2005). The theory has been used to explain, at least in part, the rapid development of countries such as India, Israel, and Taiwan, and follow-up studies have broadened its relevance-for example, there is research about brain circulation in the context of China's growth (Fan, 2007;Jonkers & Tijssen, 2008), the causes of individuals' return home (Tharenou & Caulfield, 2010), and the limits of what brain circulation can accomplish (Chen, 2008;Gamlen, 2014). ...
Some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) aim to designate the information and communication technology (ICT) sector as a central pillar to expedite their economic development, and a key element of ICT sector development is to nurture capable ICT workers. Scholars and policymakers concerned with those ICT workers tend to focus on nurturing hard technical skills; however, there is increasing evidence that “soft factors”—less tangible elements that affect the performance and behavior of ICT workers—are just as important. In this dissertation, I investigated the importance of certain soft factors for the development of ICT professionals, and ultimately the entire ICT sector, in LMICs. I use mixed methods across four projects that consisted of interviews to derive hypotheses, surveys for socio-economic correlation analysis, and a field experiment to evaluate the impact of training. My research focused mainly on young ICT professionals from Bangladesh and Rwanda—LMICs that focus on the ICT industry—who had foundational training in ICT and who had the potential to be ICT leaders in their countries. It was known that international experience such as study abroad programs could have dramatic effects on professionals from LMICs, but little was known about the actual impact of such programs, or whether their impact could be gained through other means. This dissertation consists of four interrelated projects. Project 1 analyzed what group of university students majoring in ICT in Bangladesh was most likely to be interested in experiences abroad. I found that top-tier university students tended to prefer to work in high-income countries and others expected to remain in Bangladesh, and the desire to go abroad correlated with parental income, attendance at elite universities, gender, and the presence of role models abroad. Project 2 explored the reported strengths and challenges of Rwanda’s ICT sector. I found that (1) there are sincere and widely shared aspirations for ICT-led national development; (2) policy support for ICT entrepreneurship is successful at helping to start ICT-based businesses but not at maintaining them or helping them succeed; and (3) some challenges in higher education exist. Project 3 found a gap between the expectations that Rwandan had for studying abroad and the learning outcomes of their international experiences. Specifically, while the candidates expected to have knowledge-based growth (e.g., hard skills), the returnees identified experience-based growth and mindset changes as the main learning outcomes. Based on the findings in Project 3, Project 4 implemented an intervention to develop the soft factors for young ICT engineers in Bangladesh who were interested in working abroad. The results suggest that soft factors training for ICT human resources can have some positive effect on individuals’ adaptation to new environments when they started working, especially in a foreign country. This dissertation makes several new contributions. First, these findings support the critical role of experiences abroad in cementing soft factors among ICT workers, and point to these workers’ potential value in their home countries’ national ICT sector development. Second, it builds on the existing theory of brain circulation by opening an avenue of inquiry about the initial emigration required for brain circulation; indeed, it appears that there is much to be understood with respect to migration dynamics pre-diaspora. Third, I argue that leap-frogging into a robust ICT economy is unlikely but that ICT workers’ development can be accelerated.
The early academic beginning is critical in the development of a researcher's academic career because it helps determine one's further success. We aim to shed light on the path that drives the success of talents in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) by investigating the academic education background of distinguished AI researchers and analyzing the contribution of different educational factors to their research performance. In this study, we collected and coded the curriculum vitae of 1832 AI researchers. Results show that most AI researchers were educated in the United States and obtained their highest degrees from top universities. As for their educational background, approximately 18.27% of AI researchers chose non-AI majors, such as mathematics, physics, and chemistry, instead of AI-related majors, such as computer science. Furthermore, negative binomial regression analysis demonstrates that individuals who publish more during study period will have better research output, whether they are currently in academia or industry. Researchers in academia with overseas degrees published more articles than those without overseas degrees. In terms of interdisciplinary education, a mathematics background leads to increased research visibility of AI researchers in the industry but depresses the scholarly productivity of AI researchers in academia. Academic qualification is the main factor determining the scientific performance of AI researchers in industry, which is not the case in academia. The analysis also showed that individuals who graduated from more prestigious universities tended to receive more citations than those graduating from less famous universities. Moreover, AI researchers in academia who have graduated from prestigious universities seem to pay more attention to the quality of the papers rather than the quantity.
While studies find support that international academic mobility stimulates academic entrepreneurship, we lack understanding on the relation between these two increasingly relevant phenomena. We draw upon the resource-based view to disentangle this underexplored relation and theorize that international academic mobility augments the academics’ identification of entrepreneurial opportunities through the accumulation and processing of external and heterogenous knowledge and that an academic’s interpersonal social network acts as a mechanism through which such knowledge is transferred.
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Scientometrics is one of the leading peer-reviewed journals in the field of Library and Information Science (LIS). The present study is aimed to evaluate the salient characteristics of the 100 most-cited papers of Scientometrics. The bibliographic data of most cited papers were extracted from the Scopus database. The attributes of selected papers were analyzed by using Microsoft Excel, VOSviewer, and Biblioshiny software. These papers were published between 1979 and 2017. All papers gained citations with a mean ratio of 332.86 citations per paper and the range of citations varies from 155 to 3,222. These papers were contributed by 221authors, with an average of 2.21 authors per paper. Thirty-two papers were contributed by a single author pattern and these papers gained a higher proportion of citations as compared to multi-author papers. Likewise, the open accessed papers gained more citations as compared to subscription-based papers. Glänzel W. emerged as the most prolific author while the United States contributed the highest number of papers. This paper also highlighted the frequently used keywords and the analysis of cited references. Scientometrics is an important journal that has been providing a platform to LIS researchers, focusing on research evaluation, altmetrics, bibliometrics, and citation analysis, etc. The findings of the current study assist to recognize the publication trends and research markers in the area of scientometrics.
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Using data from co-authorships at the international level in all fields of science in 1990 and 2000, and within six case studies at the sub-field level in 2000, different explanations for the growth of international collaboration in science and technology are explored. We find that few of the explanations within the literature can be supported by a detailed review of the data. To enable further exploration of the role of recognition and rewards as ordering mechanisms within the system, we apply new tools emerging from network science. These enquiries shows that the growth of international co-authorships can be attributed to self-organizing phenomenon based on preferential attachment (searching for recognition and reward) within networks of co-authors. The co-authorship links can be considered as a complex network with sub-dynamics involving features of both competition and cooperation. The analysis suggests that the growth of international collaboration is more likely to emerge from dynamics at the sub-field level operating in all fields of science, albeit under institutional constraints. Implications for the management of global scientific collaborations are explored.
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A growing science policy interest in international scientific collaboration has brought about a multitude of studies which attempt to measure the extent of international scientific collaboration between countries and to explore intercountry collaborative networks. This paper attempts to clarify the methodology that is being used or can be used for this purpose and discusses the adequacy of the methods. The paper concludes that, in an analysis of collaborative links, it is essential to use both absolute and relative measures. The latter normalize differences in country size. Each yields a different type of information. Absolute measures yield an answer to questions such as which countries are central in the international network of science, whether collaborative links reveal a centre — periphery relationship, and which countries are the most important collaborative partners of another country. Relative measures provide answers to questions of the intensity of collaborative links.
The Chinese leadership recently adopted a "strategy of strengthening China through human capital" with the goal of enhancing the country's international competitiveness in higher education. Largely because of new policy incentives implemented by the government, China has witnessed a tidal wave of foreign-educated returnees to their native country since 2000. Returnees already dominate the political and academic leadership of Chinese higher education. A quarter-century-long effort to train China's best and brightest overseas now seems to have come to fruition. These new developments, however, may also intensify political tensions between coastal and inland regions within the country and between foreign-educated and locally educated elites. China's well-funded universities are disproportionately located in a few coastal cities, as are foreign-educated returnees. This increasingly uneven distribution of human capital presents a major challenge for the Chinese leadership as it strives to achieve more-balanced regional development.
While traditional grants remain central in US federal support of academic scientists and engineers, the role of multidisciplinary NSF Centers is growing. Little is known about how funding through these Centers affects scientific output or (as is an NSF aim) increases academic collaboration with industry. This paper tests the use of CVs to examine how Center funding affects researchers' publication rates and their obtaining industry grants. We find that CVs are indeed usable, but some ways of collecting them work much better than others, and that researchers who obtain Center grants are more likely to obtain grants from industry too, suggesting that this NSF aim is being met. We do not find that Centers improve publication rates.
This paper analyses the business ties that Silicon Valley-based Indian technologists are building with the IT industry in their home country through a comparison with their Chinese counterparts, of both Taiwanese and mainland origin. In each of these cases the growth of cross-border technical communities is transforming the brain drain into 'brain circulation' , and providing a more flexible and responsive mechanism for promoting transfers of technology and skill than traditional foreign direct investment. However, while policy makers in Taiwan and mainland China have aggressively promoted and facilitated the institutionalisation of these transnational networks, the more hands-off approach of Indian policy makers appears to contribute to India's lower rates of return entrepreneurship.
This paper examines three decades of the Korean experience of brain drain, that can be termed 'from brain-drain to reverse brain-drain', and governn.ent policies to deal with this phenomenon. The results confirm the major role of economic factors in return-or-stay decisions of Korean scientists and engineers (KSEs) who earned PhDs in the US. And yet, when the difference in economic conditions between alternatives is narrowed, psy chological and emotional factors are identified to be important. In particular, this study suggests that some Confucian values work as an underlying element in KSEs' decisions. Consequently, this study indicates the importance of including a cultural analysis in the study of brain drain issues. The Korean government tried to repatriate as many scientists and engineers as possible in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, the effectiveness of policy measures during that period was limited. As the Korean economy continued to improve, many of the foreign educated scientists and engineers intended to return to Korea by the 1980s. From this time on, the Korean government adopted a policy to utilise the needed expertise of Koreans abroad, while helping them choose their residences by themselves.
Since China's economic opening and reforms in 1978, the country has broadened and deepened its exchanges and relations with other countries. This has contributed to the increase in the scale of international migration of highly skilled Chinese abroad. The impact of the migration of highly skilled Chinese on China and the relevant nations particularly deserve attention and study. Following the earlier migration flows mainly to the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the migration of highly skilled Chinese to Europe has become a notable new trend.