Returning scientists and the emergence of China's science system

Cong Cao, Jeroen Baas, Caroline S. Wagner, Koen Jonkers

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


China's approach to developing a world-class science system includes a vigorous set of programmes to attract back Chinese researchers who have overseas training and work experience. No analysis is available to show the performance of these mobile researchers. This article attempts to close part of this gap. Using a novel bibliometric approach, we estimate the stocks of overseas Chinese and returnees from the perspective of their publication activities, albeit with some limitations. We show that the share of overseas Chinese scientists in the USA is considerably larger than that in the European Union. We also show that Chinese returnees publish higher impact work and continue to publish more and at the international level than domestic counterparts. Returnees not only tend to publish more, but they are instrumental in linking China into the global network. Indeed, returnees actively co-publish with researchers in their former host system, showing the importance of scientific social capital. Future research will examine the impact of length of stay, among other factors, on such impact and integration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-183
Number of pages12
JournalScience and Public Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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