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Talent Flow

The US is losing scientific talent to China, writes Arthur Lambert, a postdoc at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, in an opinion piece in the Boston Globe.

As part of its Thousand Talents program, China has been luring researchers born in China, but educated in the US, back to China. In 2015, Reuters reported that that program in combination with an increased biotech budget has enabled "China to jump quickly on promising new technologies," including CRISPR. At the same time, China has widened permanent resident status eligibility to also entice foreign researchers to work in the country, as ScienceInsider reported in 2015.

Because of those programs, increased science funding in China, and other changes, Lambert says China may soon overtake the US as "the scientific superpower of the future."

The US, he says, can't rest on its scientific laurels but needs to put in the "effort to attract, support, and retain leading researchers."

"In the current trade dispute with China a major issue concerns the unfair practice of forced transfer of intellectual property," Lambert writes. "But the focus on this issue, however justified, ignores a larger point: Protecting our IP will be irrelevant if China poaches the talent behind our innovations."