‘Academic moonlighting’: China’s hunt for glory

Many Chinese universities hope to entice more researchers to return to China for a short stay Copyright: US DHS

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A scientific storm is brewing in China over the practice of luring senior Chinese researchers who are working abroad back for short stints and big payouts.

Government programmes promoting such schemes have been in place since the late 1990s. China’s education ministry has, for example, created a category of grants that allows chosen academics to spend two to three months in China while keeping their tenured professorships in the West. 

In this article, Hao Xin reports on the criticism and support for this high-priced ‘trophy hunt’.

Proponents view the practice as a crucial means of stemming China’s brain drain, while critics say it fails to contribute to scientific development in any significant way.

Others point out that this kind of ‘academic moonlighting’ can create false impressions — researchers may list both their Chinese and Western affiliations on a scientific paper, yet the work cited will often have originated solely in the Western university.

Undeterred, many universities are actively lobbying for an expansion of the programmes. Meanwhile, some point out that the money spent on the part-time stars of academia would make a huge difference to China’s underpaid young researchers — and possibly reverse the brain drain.

Link to full article in Science

Link to related article in Science by Denis Normile