Has China’s Young Thousand Talents Program been successful in recruiting and nurturing top Chinese scientists?

Dongbo Shi, Weichen Liu, Yanbo Wang

We study China’s Young Thousand Talents (YTT) Program and evaluate its effectiveness in recruiting elite expatriate scientists and in nurturing the returnee scientists’ productivity. We find that YTT scientists are generally of high caliber in research but, as a group, fall below the top category in pre-return productivity. We further find that YTT scientists are associated with a post-return publication gain across journal-quality tiers. However, this gain mainly takes place in last-authored publications and for high (albeit not top) caliber recruits and can be explained by YTT scientists’ access to larger funding and research teams. Our paper has policy implications regarding scientific talents’ global mobility, especially as early-stage scientists have increasing challenges to access research funding in the United States and European Union.