Showcasing our researchers’ work and their latest media appearances as they weigh in on developments at the intersection of national security and emerging technology.
Last week, a new CSET report showed that most international students who received STEM PhDs from U.S. universities between 2000 and 2015 remained in the country after graduation. The report by Jack Corrigan, James Dunham and Remco Zwetsloot found that 77% of the roughly 178,000 international students who earned a STEM PhD during those years were still in the United States as of early 2017. Stay rates for graduates from China and India were 90 and 87 percent, respectively. In a story about the report, Axios mentioned concerns over scientific research theft and a “reverse brain drain” involving international talent and collaboration, but noted that the CSET research doesn’t support the notion that many PhD students leave. “That is not to say research security is not a concern,” Research Analyst Corrigan said. “We still need to be wary of specific ties, but to all countries. Blanket policies that target people from a single country will probably do more harm than good.”
The Wire China
The U.S. Justice Department has ended its China Initiative, but the United States is still navigating how to collaborate with China in areas of research and technology while ensuring national security isn’t compromised. The Wire China reached out to Research Fellow Emily Weinstein for her insight into the future of research security. “There’s so much built up mistrust going back to the McCarthy Era [in the 1950s] between law enforcement and academia,” Weinstein said. “So there needs to be some type of mediator that can bring together expertise from both sides in a non-punitive, open environment.”
South China Morning Post
According to an article by the South China Morning Post, the United States and China are in a recruitment battle for Taiwanese talent to accelerate their semiconductor chip manufacturing. Research Analyst Will Hunt has written that funding from the CHIPS for America Act would enable the construction of more semiconductor fabrication facilities; this would generate demand for skilled foundry workers who might be hard to find in the United States. “The U.S. should explore creating specialized visas for high-skilled workers with significant experience in semiconductor manufacturing and engineering,” Hunt said. “The main priority here is to reduce existing barriers to immigration for workers with skills relevant to U.S. national security.” Drawing from his recent report, Hunt estimated that 27,000 jobs at fabs may be created in the United States over the next decade, of which some 3,500 would need to be filled by foreign-born workers. “Policymakers should therefore consider establishing an accelerated immigration pathway for experienced fab workers—perhaps specifically for Taiwanese or South Korean workers seeking to work in newly constructed fabs in the United States,” he said.
In an interview with Fortune, Associate Director of Analysis and Research Fellow Margarita Konaev explained why economic sanctions on Russia are stalling its military AI development. Although the country has tried to lure AI researchers into military work, they’re generally reluctant to do so “in the same way that not too many Silicon Valley A.I. engineers are dying to go sit in the basement of the Pentagon,” Konaev said. Amid Russia’s economic turmoil, Konaev expects China-based Huawei to expand its Russian market share. The upheaval may also end up bolstering Huawei’s research labs by making it easier for the company to recruit Russian AI engineers. “Huawei is also there for talent,” she said. “They are able to pay higher salaries, give better [working] conditions, and whatnot.”
Grid News featured Konaev’s views on how the Ukraine invasion is accelerating Russia’s tech brain drain. “They’re clearly going to take a hit in effectively every direction,” said Konaev. “I understand why people are fleeing, but I will say that it’s very hard to know numbers.” There are many reasons why Russian tech workers are leaving, but among those include living under the duress of government regulations and the withdrawal of international firms. “Any sort of [Russian] scientific and technological cooperation with foreign partners, which was already increasingly limited and under crackdown, is probably being cut even more vigorously, because the foreign partners are severing those ties,” Konaev noted. If Russia’s technological development is to survive, China now has an opportunity to “just monopolize and effectively take control over the Russian tech sector and supply of semiconductor equipment. But the quality of tech and science is going to take a massive dip.”
The Washington Post
Civilians sharing images of the war in Ukraine online are shaping the narrative, but their lack of verifiability and context can present inaccurate information, according to an article in The Washington Post. Konaev told The Post that it’s easy for complexities to get lost in the emotional reactions to seeing the war through disjointed images of its human toll. “The fog of war, the selectivity in reporting, the incentive to present certain information and hide other information — all of these factors matter, and I think that’s where the public perception kind of gets away from the details.”
The National Interest
If the United States wants to compete with China in technological advancement, U.S. policymakers should expand their use of federal prize competitions, argue Research Analysts Ali Crawford and Dakota Cary in an opinion piece for The National Interest. Federal prize competitions can help drive innovation in areas of national security interest, they solicit tools and solutions to solve global problems, and they’re relatively affordable. “Applied effectively, these competitions offer a pathway for driving innovation and for the discovery of untapped U.S. talent, further strengthening the country’s position to face the challenges of the twenty-first century vis-à-vis China,” Crawford and Cary wrote.
In an opinion piece for The Strategist, Research Analyst Ryan Fedasiuk presented an overview of the Chinese Communist Party’s united front system and its foreign-facing role. He wrote that the system “acts as a liaison and amplifier for many other official and unofficial Chinese organizations engaged in shaping international public opinion of China, monitoring and reporting on the activities of the Chinese diaspora, and serving as access points for foreign technology transfer.” A report written by Fedasiuk, Weinstein and Anna Puglisi found that staff based in STEM directorates of Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide “form the outward-facing portion of China’s broader technology transfer ecosystem, and monitor scientific breakthroughs, technology enterprises, and other forms of innovation that may be of interest to the Chinese government.”