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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States Summary To maintain excellence and overall leadership in science and engineering (S&E) research, the United States must be able to recruit the most talented people worldwide for positions in academe, industry, and government. That means that the United States must work to attract the best international talent while seeking to improve and invigorate the mentoring, education, and training of its own S&E students, including women and members of underrepresented minority groups. This dual goal is especially important in light of increasing global competition for the best S&E students and scholars. The US population of scientists and engineers contains a large proportion of foreign-born scientists and engineers, a proportion that has grown rapidly over the last three decades. For example, In 1966, 78 percent of S&E doctorates were US-born and 23 percent were foreign-born. In 2000, 61 percent were US-born and 39 percent were foreign-born.1 In 2003, international students earned 38 percent of the US-awarded S&E doctorates and 58.9 percent of the engineering doctorates.2 1 Richard Freeman, Emily Jin, and Chia-Yu Shen. 2004. Where Do New US-trained Science-Engineering PhDs Come From? (Working Paper 10554). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economics Research. 2 National Science Foundation. 2004. Science and Engineering Doctorate Awards: 2003 (NSF 05-300). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. Data are available at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/nsf05300/tables/tab3.xls.
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States Among S&E postdoctoral scholars, the share of temporary residents has increased from 37 percent in 1982 to 59 percent in 2002.3 More than one-third of US Nobel laureates are foreign-born.4 Nearly half the doctorate-level staff and 58 percent of the postdoctoral, research, and clinical fellows at the National Institutes of Health campus are foreign nationals.5 For S&E occupations, data from the 2000 US Census indicate that about 38 percent of doctorate-level employees are foreign-born, compared with 24 percent in 1990.6 Of the S&E tenure-track and tenured faculty, 19 percent are foreign-born; in engineering fields, foreign-born hold 36 percent of faculty positions.7 International graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom stay in the United States after completing their studies, make substantial contributions to our society by creating and applying new knowledge. Yet the analysis of their contributions to the nation’s leadership in science and technology and their effect on the domestic supply of scientists and engineers has not reached any firm conclusions. There is not agreement on (1) the benefits and risks related to our reliance on the many international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in our research and development enterprise, (2) the appropriateness of current immigration policies that influence the flow of such students and scholars into the country, and (3) the relevance of a large international S&E population to broader concerns about economic and national security. The purpose of this study is to examine the available evidence on these questions and to suggest foundations for sound policy making. In the advent of increased security concerns after September 11, 2001, 3 National Science Foundation. 2004. Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates 2002. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. 4 Chronology of Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology or Medicine Web site. Nobel e-Museum–The Official Web Site of the Nobel Foundation, http://www.nobel.se/index.html. 5 Philip Chen, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Intramural Research, NIH, presentation to committee, Washington DC, October 12, 2004. The legislative authorities in the Public Health Service Act permit NIH to “employ” citizens from any country. Other national laboratories are limited by appropriations law to employ only US citizens or nationals of an “aligned” nation (such as a NATO country). 6 US Census 1990 and 2000 Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS). 7 National Science Board. Science and Engineering Indicators, 2004 (NSB 04-1a). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, Table 5-25. Data are available at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind04/pdf/volume2.pdf. Note that in 2001, 57 percent of those who were foreign-born S&E doctorate holders were US citizens.
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States the country has made it more difficult for international students and scholars to come to the United States, in part because of the concern of some that they may receive education and training in sensitive US civilian and military technologic fields.8 Others argue that mobility restrictions will diminish US leadership in higher education and adversely affect American S&E expertise that is critical to national security and the growth of the economy.9 International students contribute to US society not only academically and economically, but also by fostering the global and cultural knowledge and understanding necessary for effective US leadership, competitiveness, and security. Some of the world’s most prominent leaders were educated in the United States.10 Secretary of State Colin Powell commented that “international students and scholars benefit from engagement with our society and academic institutions and we benefit enormously from their interaction with our society as they help our citizens develop understanding and knowledge that enriches our lives, increases international cooperation, enhances our national security, and improves our economic competitiveness.”11 The United States is not alone in seeking talented scientists and engineers. There is a global competition for the best S&E students and scholars. The European Union (EU) and China, among others, are increasing investments in S&E R&D infrastructure. The EU has created explicit regional policies to improve the climate for international scientists and engineers, and individual nations—including the United Kingdom and Canada—actively recruit international graduate students to their universities. At the same time that the United States faces increasing competition 8 Offices of Inspector General of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and State, and Central Intelligence Agency. 2004. Interagency Review of Foreign National Access to Sensitive Technology Report No. D-2004-062. Washington, DC:OIG. 9 In a speech on the impact of terrorism delivered at the State University of New York, Sherwood Boehlert, chair of the House Science Committee, stated: “Foreign students who remain here are absolutely critical elements of our science and technology workforce, and those who return home often increase the goodwill toward the United States in their home countries.” (Speech to SUNY Presidents on the Impact of Terrorism on R&D, http://www.house.gov/science). Also, President George W. Bush has stated: “The United States benefits greatly from international students who study in our country. The United States Government shall continue to foster and support international students.” Homeland Security Presidential Directive 2, October 29, 2001. 10 US educational and exchange programs have produced over 40 Nobel prize honorees, among them current UN Secretary Kofi Annan; 46 current and 165 former heads of government and chiefs of state came here to study as exchange visitors. Allen E. Goodman. 2002. “Rethinking Foreign Students.” National Review (June 18). 11 Statement from Colin L Powell, Secretary of State regarding International Education Week, November 15-19, 2004, Washington, DC. Available at http://exchanges.state.gov/iew/statements/powell.htm.
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States from abroad, its own students are increasingly turning to non-S&E careers. Numerous studies have indicated several factors, often field-specific, that can influence domestic students’ career choices: the length of graduate education, whether postdoctoral training is necessary, lack of growth of tenure-track faculty positions and uncertainty in research funding, and more attractive career opportunities in other fields. Little is known about the interaction between the flow of international talent to the United States and the decisions of US citizens and permanent residents to choose S&E careers. Students in Europe and in countries that have almost no foreign students—including China, India, and Singapore—are increasingly choosing fields of study outside S&E, a trend ascribed to declining job opportunities for classically trained scientists and engineers in these countries.12 Student and postdoctoral training has become part of the larger phenomenon of globalization of science and technology R&D that brings its own questions: How essential is it for the United States to maintain its broad leadership in S&E? To introduce incentives to increase the interest of its own students in S&E fields? To remain the destination of choice for the best international students? As the tide of S&E expertise rises around the world, it is in the nation’s interest to understand better the contribution of international scientists and engineers to the US economy and national security, create policies that can sustain this contribution, and find ways to attract more US citizens to careers in S&E. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS In general terms, the committee believes that it is essential to the national interest of the United States to maintain its excellence and overall leadership in S&E research and education so that it can maintain its own comparative advantage with respect to global knowledge production. Talented people are a critical input in such a knowledge-driven economy. At present, the strategy of the United States is to draw heavily from international human resources. However, as other nations have built up their S&E infrastructure, there is now more competition for these talented people. In such a world, what policies might best serve the interests of the 12 See, for example, N. Jayaram. 2004. “Higher Education in India.” In: Asian Universities: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Challenges, eds. P. G. Altbach and T. Umakoshi. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, p. 94; and Weifang Min. 2004. “Chinese Higher Education.” Ibid, p. 55. Jayaram writes,“The fact that good students are no longer taking basic science courses has seriously affected the academic programs of well-reputed scientific institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore), which has now come out with incentive schemes to urge meritorious students to take basic sciences at the graduate level.”
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States United States and of S&E research in general? What actions can the US government and research universities take immediately to create such policies or to implement them? The committee offers the following findings and recommendations in response to its charge: 1. What is known about the impact of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars on the advancement of US science, US undergraduate and graduate educational institutions, the US and other national economies, and US national security and international relations? Finding 1-1: International students and scholars have advanced US science and engineering (S&E), as evidenced by numbers of patents, publications, Nobel prizes, and other quantitative data. Finding 1-2: International graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are integral to the US S&E enterprise. If the flow of these students and scholars were sharply reduced, research and academic work would suffer until an alternative source of talent could be found. There would be a fairly immediate effect in university graduate departments and laboratories and a later cumulative effect on hiring in universities, industry, and government. There is no evidence that modest, gradual changes in the flow would have an adverse effect. Finding 1-3: Innovation is crucial to the success of the US economy. To maintain excellence in S&E research, which fuels technologic innovation, the United States must be able to recruit talented people. A substantial proportion of those people—students, postdoctoral scholars, and researchers—come from other countries. Recommendation 1-1: The United States must maintain or enhance its current quality and effectiveness in S&E. A principal objective should be to attract the best graduate students and postdoctoral scholars regardless of national origin. The United States should make every effort to encourage domestic-student interest in S&E programs and careers. A study should be undertaken to examine the best policies and programs to achieve that end. Recommendation 1-2: The overarching goal for universities and other research institutions should be to provide the highest-quality training and career development to both domestic and international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars of truly outstanding potential. Graduate admissions are directed toward fulfilling a variety of objectives, among which the education of the next generation of researchers should have the highest priority. This educational process will include
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States research and sometimes a teaching experience. Admissions committees should keep in mind career and employment opportunities, in academe and elsewhere, when making admissions decisions. Moreover, data concerning employment outcomes should be readily available to both students and faculty. 2. What is the impact of the US academic system on international graduate students’ and postdoctoral scholars’ intellectual development, careers, and perceptions of the United States? How does it differ if they stay in the United States or return to their home countries? Finding 2-1: The education and training provided by US institutions afford international students the opportunity to do high-quality, frontier research and to gain the experience needed to compete for employment in S&E occupations in the United States and abroad. Finding 2-2: Many international students and scholars who come to the United States desire to and do stay after their studies and training are completed. Those who return home often maintain collaboration with scientists and engineers in the United States and take with them a better understanding of US culture, research, and the political system. Recommendation 2-1: Universities should continue to encourage the enrollment of international students by offering fellowships and assistantships. Universities that have large international student and scholar populations should conduct surveys to evaluate existing services provided by the institutions. Universities that do not already do so should offer orientation days for international students, train teaching assistants, update Web services, and provide professional development training for administrators staffing international student and scholar offices. Recommendation 2-2: International postdoctoral scholars make up a large and growing proportion of the US S&E workforce, but there are no systematic data on this population. A high priority should be placed on collecting and disseminating data on the demographics, working conditions, and career outcomes of scholars who earned their doctoral degrees outside the United States. When combined with current data collected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and professional societies, this should make possible a more complete picture of the US S&E workforce. Funds should be allocated for this purpose by Congress to the NSF or by nonprofit foundations to other organizations. 3. What is known about the impact of international student enrollment on the recruitment of domestic S&E talent in the United States? What is the
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States status of working conditions for international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars compared with their domestic counterparts? Finding 3-1: Recruiting domestic S&E talent depends heavily on students’ perceptions of the S&E careers that await them. Those perceptions can be solidified early in the educational process, before students graduate from high school. The desirability of a career in S&E is determined largely by the prospect of attractive employment opportunities in the field and, to a lesser extent by potential remuneration. Some aspects of the graduate education and training process can also influence students’ decisions to enter S&E fields. The “pull factors” include time to degree; availability of fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantship funding; and whether a long postdoctoral appointment is required after completion of the PhD. The evidence that large international graduate-student enrollment may reduce enrollment of domestic students is sparse and contradictory but suggests that direct displacement effects are small compared with pull factors. Finding 3-2: There are substantial differences among S&E fields in training and career patterns. For example, in engineering, a bachelor’s or master’s degree is sufficient to begin a professional career; in the life sciences, doctorates customarily spend over 4 years as postdoctoral scholars before entering the workforce. In the physical sciences13 and engineering, most students obtain careers in industry; in the life sciences, most work toward positions in academe. Such field-specific variations are not reflected in aggregate data. Finding 3-3: International and domestic academic postdoctoral scholars express similar satisfaction with their training experience. But access to funding sources and employment opportunities is limited by residence status. There are variable discrepancies in stipends that favor domestic postdoctoral scholars in all fields. Finding 3-4: Multinational corporations (MNCs) hire international PhDs in proportions similar to the output of university graduate and postdoctoral programs for their US research laboratories and often hire US-trained PhDs for their nondomestic laboratories. The proportion of international researchers in several large MNCs is around 30-50 per- 13 The physical sciences include physics, chemistry, earth sciences, mathematics, and computer science. In each of those subfields, there can be divergent career interests among graduates; but taken as a whole, a position in the industrial sector is the predominant career destination among recent graduates, whether or not it was the desired career at inception or completion of a doctoral program.
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States cent. MNCs appreciate international diversity in their research staff and pay international and domestic researchers the same salaries, which are based on degree, school, and benchmarks in the industry. Recommendation 3-1: So that students can make informed decisions about advanced training in S&E, career outcomes of recent graduates should be communicated to prospective students by university departments and faculty advisers. In addition to intensive focused research work, graduate education should encompass career preparation and the development of varied skills for successful careers in S&E. Universities should develop graduate education and postdoctoral programs that prepare S&E students and scholars for the diversity of jobs they will encounter. When it is appropriate, funding agencies should provide career-transition grants for early-career researchers. The committee encourages discussion among universities, industry, and funding agencies to explore how to expand graduate fellowships and encourage women and members of underrepresented minorities to consider education and training in S&E. 4. What are the impacts of various policies that reshape or reduce the flow of international students and postdoctoral scholars (for example, visas, immigration rules, and working conditions)? Finding 4-1: The flow of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars is affected by national policies. Among them, changes in visa and immigration policies since 9-11 have adversely affected every stage of the visa-application process for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in S&E. Interagency cooperation and a willingness to work with members of the S&E community have helped to reduce some bottlenecks and improve procedures, but unfavorable perceptions remain and additional steps need to be taken. Some policies contribute to anxieties among international students and scholars and a perception that the United States does not welcome them. International sentiment regarding the US visa and immigration processes is a lingering problem for the recruitment of international students and scholars. Those environmental factors discourage international students and scholars from applying to US colleges and universities and discourage colleagues who would otherwise send their students to the United States. Recent improvements in processing time and duration of Visas Mantis clearances are a positive step, but extending visa validity periods and Mantis clearances commensurate with a period of study has not been uniform across nationalities.
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States Finding 4-2: Large drops in international applications in the 3 years after 9-11 caused considerable concern in the university community, but their effects on numbers of first-time enrollments of international S&E graduate students were modest. Finding 4-3: The flow of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars is affected by institutional policies. Universities have been responsive to the needs of international students. Many have offices dedicated to international students, and several offer orientation sessions before the start of the school year and teaching-assistant training and English-language courses. Steps taken by educational and exchange institutions have mitigated some of the adverse effects of visa and immigration policies by creating resources for international applicants and establishing earlier acceptance notifications to allow more time for visa-processing. Some universities have begun to reimburse admitted graduate students the $100 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. Finding 4-4: Exogenous factors, many of which predate 9-11, affect the flows of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Other countries are expanding their technologic and educational capacities and creating more opportunities for participation by international students. The natural expansion of education in the rest of the world increases the potential supply of talent for the United States and at the same time increases competition for the best graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Economic conditions—including availability of university-sponsored financial support and employment opportunities—can affect student mobility, as can geopolitical events, such as war and political instability. Finding 4-5: The inadequacy of data on international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars limits our understanding of the composition of the S&E workforce and of how it might respond to economic or political changes. Moreover, the lack of timeliness and coverage of data on US-trained and internationally trained scientists and engineers hinders our examination of trends and relationships among student flows, enrollments, economic cycles, and other factors. Congress and administrative agencies need better data and more analysis to craft better policies. Recommendation 4-1: The United States needs a new system of data collection to track student and postdoctoral flows so that it can understand the dynamics and effects of shifting sources of talent. Funds
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States should be provided to the NSF or other institutions to collaborate internationally to create a data system similar to a balance-of-trade account to track degree production, student and postdoctoral movement between countries, push-pull factors affecting student choice at all degree levels, and employment outcomes. Recommendation 4-2: If the United States is to maintain overall leadership in S&E, visa and immigration policies should provide clear procedures that do not unnecessarily hinder the flow of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. New regulations should be carefully considered in light of national-security considerations and potential unintended consequences. Research institutions and the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS) should continue their discussion on these matters. a. Visa Duration: Recent policies to extend the duration of Visas Mantis clearances for some students and scholars is a positive step. We strongly encourage DOS and DHS to continue working toward applying those provisions to students and scholars from all countries. b. Travel for Scientific Meetings: Means should be found to allow international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are attending or appointed at US institutions to attend scientific meetings that are outside the United States without being seriously delayed in reentering the United States to complete their studies and training. c. Technology Alert List: This list, which is used to manage the Visas Mantis program, should be reviewed regularly by scientists and engineers outside government. Scientifically trained personnel should be involved in the security-review process. d. Visa Categories: New nonimmigrant-visa categories should be created for doctoral-level graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, whether they are coming to the United States for formal educational or training programs or for short-term research collaborations or scientific meetings. The categories should be exempted from the 214b provision whereby applicants must show that they have a residence in a foreign country that they have no intention of abandoning. In addition to providing a better mechanism for embassy and consular officials to track student and scholar visa applicants, the categories would provide a means for collecting clear data on numbers and trends of graduate-student and postdoctoral-scholar visa applications.
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Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States e. Reciprocity Agreements: Multiple-entry and multiple-year student visas should have high priority in reciprocity negotiations. f. Change of Status: If the United States wants to retain the best students, procedures for change of status should be clarified and streamlined. Maintaining and strengthening the S&E enterprise of the United States, particularly by attracting the best domestic and international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, will require the cooperation of government, universities, and industry to agree on an appropriate balance between openness, mobility, and economic and national security. Making choices will not be easy, but the recommendations provided here define priorities, data, and analyses needed to determine substantive steps that will advance the vitality of US research and attract the talented people necessary to perform it. The key is to endow our research institutions and S&E labor force with the flexibility needed to respond to rapid changes in the landscape of our nation’s S&E enterprise.
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