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US boycott on Chinese researchers could ‘stifle’ global progress, researchers warn

14 May 2018

Restricting Chinese researchers from working in the US could stifle scientific progress on a global scale researchers warn, following measures proposed by the Trump administration.

The White House is considering limiting access of Chinese citizens to the United States, including restricting visas and tightening legislation for Chinese researchers working on projects with military or intelligence value at American companies and universities. The potential boycott could directly affect 300,000 researchers.

Researchers at the Universities of Bristol, Warwick and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) have drawn parallels with the sharp decline in international scientific cooperation after World War I, warning that a similar impact could be seen if new barriers are put in place by the US.

In a research paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the effect of the boycott is examined, showing that barriers to international scientific co-operation not only slow down the production of basic science, but they also harm the application of science in the development of new technologies.

Alessandro Iaria, one of the paper’s authors and a Lecturer in Economics from the University of Bristol, said: “In addition to the immediate consequences that such a scientific boycott could have, there could also be longer-term, detrimental ramifications for world-wide scientific progress and technological innovation.

“While the overall effects of such a boycott are hard to estimate, there are lessons from history that can inform policy makers about the possible long-term effects for scientific progress and technological innovation.”

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