• Among S&E postdoctoral scholars, the share of temporary residents has increased from 37 percent in 1982 to 59 percent in 2002.3

  • More than one-third of US Nobel laureates are foreign-born.4

  • Nearly half the doctorate-level staff and 58 percent of the postdoctoral, research, and clinical fellows at the National Institutes of Health campus are foreign nationals.5

  • For S&E occupations, data from the 2000 US Census indicate that about 38 percent of doctorate-level employees are foreign-born, compared with 24 percent in 1990.6

  • Of the S&E tenure-track and tenured faculty, 19 percent are foreign-born; in engineering fields, foreign-born hold 36 percent of faculty positions.7

International graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom stay in the United States after completing their studies, make substantial contributions to our society by creating and applying new knowledge. Yet the analysis of their contributions to the nation’s leadership in science and technology and their effect on the domestic supply of scientists and engineers has not reached any firm conclusions. There is not agreement on (1) the benefits and risks related to our reliance on the many international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in our research and development enterprise, (2) the appropriateness of current immigration policies that influence the flow of such students and scholars into the country, and (3) the relevance of a large international S&E population to broader concerns about economic and national security. The purpose of this study is to examine the available evidence on these questions and to suggest foundations for sound policy making.

In the advent of increased security concerns after September 11, 2001,


National Science Foundation. 2004. Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates 2002. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.


Chronology of Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology or Medicine Web site. Nobel e-Museum–The Official Web Site of the Nobel Foundation, http://www.nobel.se/index.html.


Philip Chen, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Intramural Research, NIH, presentation to committee, Washington DC, October 12, 2004. The legislative authorities in the Public Health Service Act permit NIH to “employ” citizens from any country. Other national laboratories are limited by appropriations law to employ only US citizens or nationals of an “aligned” nation (such as a NATO country).


US Census 1990 and 2000 Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS).


National Science Board. Science and Engineering Indicators, 2004 (NSB 04-1a). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, Table 5-25. Data are available at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind04/pdf/volume2.pdf. Note that in 2001, 57 percent of those who were foreign-born S&E doctorate holders were US citizens.

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