Notes on papers I read this week (II)

Page breadcrumbsEnd of page breadcrumbs

This week I have been reading a bunch of work on foreign-born scientists. I have focused on the works by Paula Stephan and colleagues. Here is some of the stuff and notes for future me.

Levin, S.G., Stephan, P. (1999). Are the foreign born a source of strength for U.S. science? Science, 285(5431), 1213-1214.

Inflow of foreign talent started in the 1970. This has been increasing for both, those coming before and after their PhD. The question posed in this paper is the following do foreign scientists (understood as both, born and educated) contribute disproportionally to US science? The authors conclude that this is actually happening especially with foreign-educated scientists. They conclude that the US is benefiting from foreign investment although they are unable to capture to what extent this poses a threat to US born or educated scientists.

Levin, G.S., Stephan, P. (1991). Research productivity over the life cycle: Evidence for academic scientists. The American Economic Review, 81(1), 114-132

They combine bibliometric and survey data. The goal of the paper is to analyze if productivity is motivated by either of two factors: investment for future rewards or consumption and the satisfaction of pursuing scientific advancement. They find that productivity tends to decline with age even when controlling for other factors. They conclude that therefore, productivity is investment-motivated rather than consumption-motivated.

Stephan, P.E., Levin, S.G. (2001). Exceptional contributions to US science by foreign-born and foreign-educated. Population Research and Policy Review, 20(1-2), 59-79.

Seems to be the paper used as basis for their Science policy forum. The dataset and conclusions are the same. They reinforce that the US has benefited overall from the attraction of foreign talent. When focusing on countries of origin of foreign scientists who make an exceptional contribution to the US (measured by their citation impact in both publications and patents) come mainly from the United Kingdom and Germany. Other contributing countries are Austria, Canada, China and India. They indicate higher rates of foreign scientists in later age cohorts (younger scientists).

Stephan, P. E., & Levin, S. (2003). Foreign scholars in US science: Contributions and costs. Science and the University, 237.

This paper wraps-up the findings from their different studies, some reviewed already above. Especially interesting is their analysis on displacement from and within academ of US scientists due to the increasing number of foreign scientists. In this case they find that there is a displacement from academe, as foreigners seem to be more competitive. However, this displacement within academia, only takes place on temporary jobs and not on permanent positions.

Franzoni, C., Scellato, G., & Stephan, P. (2014). The mover’s advantage: The superior performance of migrant scientists. Economics Letters, 122(1), 89–93.

This paper aims at isolating the effect of moving on productivity of scientists. They are trying to unveil if it is the movement itself what makes migrant scientists outperform non-mobile scientists. They measure performance based on the quartile of publications according to their journal impact factor. They combine survey and bibliometric data. According to their findings migrant scientists consistently outperform non-mobile despite of previous international collaboration or despite time of migration (before or after their PhD). This means that not only investing on scientists trained abroad is good business even bringing them to the country and training them.

Cover photograph: Reverse brain drain at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *