Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

More signs of the fall of the US

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The US has become quite hostile to foreign visitors—not in person-to-person interactions, but in the bureaucratic travel procedures that the US, enormously fearful, has put in place after 9/11. The climate is such that foreign students are not so enthusiastic about studying in the US, which is our loss. Moreover, state budget cutbacks are hurting education, which always seems high on the list of things to cut. Moreover, though scientists are clearly essential for continuing technological development, the US as a whole is anti-science (cf. evolution, climate change).

On the other hand, China is stepping up its efforts in "greentech." Not only that, but they’re recruiting expatriates to return to China. Pete Engardio in Business Week:

The lab equipment is still being installed in the new life sciences school at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. But the hallways are already lined with posters heralding an early achievement: the hiring of Chinese faculty from Stanford, Harvard, and other elite institutions overseas. The mission, says Dean Shi Yigong, a former Princeton professor who is a pioneer in the study of cell death, is to build a world-class research center to "solve the basic mysteries of biology."

Shi is one of the biggest catches in a mounting campaign to lure China’s brightest minds back home. Last year, Beijing launched the Thousand Talents Program, offering top scientists grants of 1 million yuan (about $146,000), fat salaries, and generous lab funding.

The goal is to address the biggest roadblock to China’s aspirations of becoming an innovation powerhouse: an acute shortage of seasoned research scientists. Accomplished physicists, biologists, and mathematicians—who might produce technological breakthroughs and build key research programs—have long balked at low pay and a university system marred by corruption, cronyism, and lax standards. But now, China’s economic boom and surging government investment in research are making mainland university posts more attractive. A decade ago, only 1 in 100 leading Chinese scientists in the U.S. would have considered returning, says Rao Yi, a former Northwestern neuroscience professor who is dean of Peking University’s life sciences school. Today, he says, half would. "Now, there is a chance of recruiting the rising stars of Harvard," says Rao.

Higher pay helps, but returnees say the main allure is the chance to build a science program from the ground up. While U.S. labs are struggling for funds, China is expanding. Shi says he earns less in China than at Princeton, where he ran a structural biology lab and helped found a drug-discovery company. But at Tsinghua, he helped design a life sciences program with 1,500 students. So far, Shi has hired 22 scientists from the U.S. to set up labs and has made offers to an additional 15…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2009 at 4:15 pm

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