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International Mobility of Scientists and Engineers to the United States — Brain Drain or Brain Circulation?

Foreign-born scientists and engineers contribute significantly to the brain power of the United States; in 1998 immigrants accounted for around 30 per cent of those conducting research and development. This article asks whether the concept of 'brain circulation' (as opposed to 'brain drain') is valid.

The article states that the large foreign component of US human intellectual capital is linked to the ability of the country's higher education sector to attract, support, and retain foreign science and engineering graduate students. And between 1988 and 1996, nearly two thirds of those receiving US doctorates planned to remain in the United States after completion of their studies (with particularly high "stay rates" for students from China and India).

The data discussed supports the notion of brain circulation for some countries (such as Taiwan and South Korea) and somewhat more brain drain for other countries (for example, China and India). In total, roughly half of all foreign doctoral recipients leave the United States immediately after completing their graduate education, and others leave after some years of teaching or industrial experience. The article concludes that more research is needed on the activities of foreign doctoral recipients who return to their home countries.