The Shaping of China’s
Postdoctoral Community
Andrea Lynn Stith, PhD
Shanghai Jiao Tong University
AC21 Annual Forum 2010
October 19-20, 2010
Research
• Characterize postdoctoral researchers in
China
– Limited discussion, information, and data
• Understand impacts of policy and
internationalization
• Add to global conversation
– purpose
– mechanisms
– effectiveness
Significance of
internationalization
• Key issue for nations, institutions and
individuals
• Researchers with highest and best
qualifications
• Researchers increasingly mobile
Significance of
postdoc population
• Products of the education system
• Key to research productivity
• Important to future competitiveness
Key measures
• Demographics
– Total population
– Length of appointment
– Employability
– Research productivity
• Individual
– Satisfaction
– Accomplishments/productivity
– Career prospects
Internationalization
and postdocs
• United States
– Growth in postdoctoral population
– Increasing likelihood, duration and number of
positions held
– Low salary
– Increased professionalization of the postdoc
– Increasing concern about career prospects
– International collaboration
Postdoc system
China
• Established 1985
– Boost national competitiveness
– Attract returnees from abroad
• Centralized System
• Postdocs, mentors, and departments are
government approved and assessed
• Two-year appointments (3 with approval)
• Six-year maximum
Postdoc system
China
• Postdoctoral training now a permanent
element of the Chinese research system
• Designed to attract elite Chinese talent,
both abroad and in China
• Chinese students have demonstrated their
preference for foreign doctoral degrees
• Low return rates
Postdoctoral
trends
•
•
•
•
•
•
Expansion of system
Number of postdocs continues to rise
Most postdocs are domestically trained
Concerns of quality and competitiveness
Employability a rising concern
Little diversification within the system
Postdoctoral
appointments
Returnees as portion
of new appointments
Data Sources: (National Postdoctoral Management Committee, 2008; Yao, 2007)
Postdocs
by discipline
Postdoctoral
“stations”
Postdocs by
region
Data Source: National Postdoctoral Management Committee.
http://www.chinapostdoctor.org.cn/program/issue/pop_win.asp?id=5511
Out-bound postdoc
employment
Out-bound Peking
University postdocs
Employment Prospects for Peking University Postdoctoral Scholars,
1988-2005
Years
Total
Number of
"Outbound"
Postdocs
Destination
Abroad
Industry
University/RI
Same
Different
1988-1990
36
11
30.6%
1
2.8%
15 41.7%
1991-2000
508
78
15.4%
7
1.4%
NR
2001-2005
770
NR
NR
73
2005
NR
NR
NR
NR
Government
9 25.0%
0
0.0%
NR
148 29.1%
16
3.1%
9.5%
147 19.1%
330 42.9%
53
6.9%
NR
NR 10.0%
NR
NR
NR
NR
SJTU postdocs
Postdoctoral Fellows Employed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU),
2003 to 2009
Male
Female
Total
Percent
Female
Under contract
258
68
326
20.9
Finished Post
222
90
312
28.8
Withdrew
42
13
55
23.6
Total
522
171
693
24.7
Source: SJTU Human Resources. (2010). Personal Communication.
Demand
for talent
• Continued investment fed steady demand
for postdoctoral researchers
– Meagerly paid and temporary postdoctoral positions
• Returnees receive generous packages
– Central government policies and inter-city
competition encourages returnees
– Competition among universities, research
laboratories and enterprises provide
incentives
Concerns about
postdoc experience
•
•
•
•
•
“Dual identity” as trainees and researchers
Funding mechanism
Quality
Diversity of participation
Career opportunities
Returnee bias
• Returnees generally higher quality
– Due to overseas training
– Those who go abroad are most talented
• Overseas experience requisite for faculty
appointments
Source: Zweig (2006) Competing for Talent.
Returnee bias
• Zweig finds through survey analysis:
– Returnees possess skills, information and
research methodologies generally unavailable
to people who have not gone abroad.
– Have stronger global networks.
• Receive more grants and fellowships.
• Publish more in international journals
Source: Zweig (2006) Competing for Talent.
Sample returnee
programs
• Changjiang Scholars Program (1998)
– 14000 scholars, 130 Chinese universities
• Spring Light Program (1997)
– 12000 scholars, on short term basis
• Hundred Talents Program (1994)
– by Chinese Science Academy
• Business enterprises
– 50 returnee entrepreneurial parks
– over 10000 enterprises set up by returnees
Source: Wang Huiyao, Center for China and Globalization (CCG)
Sample returnee
programs
• New “Thousand Talent Program” (2009)
– 5 to 10 year deadline
– Raise research level
– Improve academic environment
– Attract top talent from overseas
– Central government to attract 2000
– Nine provincial governments to attract 1000
each
Returnee concerns
•
•
•
•
“Truly” talented people stay abroad
Getting returnees to stay is a problem
Readjustment can be a problem
Example: there are signs that the quality of
people accepted by CAS under the
Hundred Talents Program may be
declining
Source: Zweig (2006) Competing for Talent.
Impact on
domestic trainees
• Postdoc is a career requirement but
careers stymied by preferences for
returnees
• Postdoctoral system not effective at
boosting domestically trained talent
Future questions
• Are domestic postdocs members of a
sub-class of elite scientists?
• How can playing field be leveled?
• Is the continuing growth of the
postdoctoral community in China of
concern?
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The Shaping of China`s Postdoctoral Community