Unfortunately, the attractiveness of becoming a U.S. citizen is waning because (1) current U.S. policies on science are extremely unfavorable to foreign researchers and (2) other countries are making it much more desirable to remain a citizen there than to become a U.S. citizen (this is a net win for humanity though)
I think (1) is in part due to a culture in the U.S. that really just doesn't care about science anymore. When I was in grad school a few years ago, most of my peers were from other countries despite the fact that the majority of undergrads at the same school were born in state. So in effect, the grad students would get advanced degrees in the hard sciences and take that knowledge back home with them, whereas the U.S. students would get a B.S. in literature, advertising, or business (generalizing of course).
Most of the things people work on in their PhD programs are very niche, and most do not work in academia or on the same thing after they finish their PhD. And most people never really make a noticeable contribution to science with their thesis. So I'm a bit skeptical that we're losing all this valuable knowledge overseas, rather than PhD programs being about signaling their skill to employers and our byzantine immigration process. Not to say that people learn nothing valuable, but the number of people I've worked with who did a Math PhD and then never used that knowledge ever again is surprisingly high.
I think the US should be less concerned about whether it is on top wrt publications, but about whether English remains the language of scholarship, because if Chinese folks start publishing in Mandarin, that's going to be a far bigger loss to English speaking countries than if we do not originate as much research.
They may, and then it will be like during the cold war where Soviets published in Russian and we'd be lucky if someone translated that into English. If it were to happen today, someone would make a business out of translating the publications --maybe even crowdsource the translations.
During my PhD I've translated about a dozen papers into English, mostly from Russian. Google Translate and Yandex Translate did the actual translation (I would compare the two), but what they produce is not always intelligible or correct. On a few more important papers I went through the paper sentence by sentence to clarify the translation. It's not uncommon that I have to change certain phrases because the software translates a phrase literally when the equivalent is not a literal translation, for example. Sometimes I didn't know what the equivalent terminology was without research and guesswork. I also added footnotes as appropriate if I thought they would help the reader understand something which would not be clear if they were unfamiliar with the original language or research culture.
I would not be surprised if I spent over 100 hours on a particular series of 3 papers alone. I don't mind the time, as I enjoyed the process and learned a lot from it.
The good news is that I think the feedback I provided Google Translate improved the quality of the product's translation of scientific Russian, it is slowly getting better.
My point was idiomatic translation is hard. “I could care less” means it’s literal opposite.
On the other hand, cooperation among Chinese scholars is only going to increase, so papers will increasingly be published in Chinese.
Another factor is that China doesn't really have a reputation for honesty and transparency...
Ignoring path dependency the same could be said of English. And while that path dependency provides hysteresis, it doesn't imply inevitability; Arabic and Latin had good runs as dominant scientific language but were eventually overtaken by English, which will ultimately be overtaken in turn.
Another really not nice thing about Mandarin is that its phonemes are generally less redundant. Let alone the tones, there are lots of consonants to distinguish, and in general, the average syllable contains more information than in other languages (Spanish or Hawaiian at the extreme end). So any noise in a communication channel, or a not-so-experienced speaker and it's unintelligible. That's also one reason why Mandarin still uses Chinese Characters. Especially with dialects, native Mandarin speakers can have trouble understanding each other.
Arabic has some of the same problems, if less pronounced, but its strength (in my opinion) was the reach of standard Arabic as written and spoken language of a major Religion, and it was/is used as trading language.
Latin was very good at assimilating foreign words. Again, it was the language of an empire and of a state religion.
I won't say that the success of English is only due to its linguistic advantages. Clearly, the cultural dominance of English speaking countries has helped. But still, it's a lot easier to learn than most languages, especially for people from indoeuropean backgrounds. Even for Chinese it seems to be easier to learn English than learn to write Mandarin to a high proficiency.
That's why I don't believe Mandarin will dominate over English, not even in a distant future. And there just is no other contender to the throne. The most likely alternative would be something that evolves from English, but with the current language being preserved in the cultural permafrost of books, movies and the internet, that's going to take a while.
This is compared to English or most Indoeuropean languages were you copy the term unchanged most of the time.
Just a minor point. But it makes learning the terminology of a subject rather hard.
You likely come (as did I) from a background in which such languages are quite unfamiliar but that doesn't make them harder or easier in general. John DeFrancis wrote a funny essay about the "Japanese plan to replace the Roman alphabet within their empire after conquering North America" as a parody of the people who think that the Chinese and Japanese should replace their writing with an alphabetic approach.
You may not realize how hard it is for many speakers to learn English spelling where spelling is more conservative (to preserve meaning) than more phonetic writing systems like German, Spanish, Korean etc. The terms are seemingly more obscure. In fact it's to reduce that problem that we violate English "rules" to conserve the declension of the original noun (e.g. felid/felidae) which is uniform when the term is a loan word common across languages.
It's also an objective reality that it takes more pieces of information to learn the Chinese representation of an English term than the other way around.
It doesn't mean learning English is always easier than Chinese, though it actually is for maybe even most Humans on earth.
It's not a simple thing, and what will likely happen is language balkanization for a significant period of time before any seismic shift from English to Chinese which is unlikely to happen for a number of reasons regardless.
Cixin Liu's "Three-Body Problem" sci-fi novel is pretty popular and is being made into a movie this year. And some Chinese musicians, like Faye Wong, have been well-known in the the west for many years.
So while American, Japanese and Korean entertainment is much more dominant, I don't think that's an entirely fair statement.
China is heavily investing on Africa, so I would not be impressed if Africans start learning Mandarin more actively than they do now. African population is the one experiencing the fastest growth at the moment.
In the Americas, I would expect things to remain more or less the same.
Historically, the Chinese have been very hermetic when it comes to foreign policy. Chinese yuans (RMB) are not as liquid as dollars, and that seems intentional as they want to keep tight control of their currency value. But they do seem more expansive recently... opening overseas military bases in Djibouti, etc.
The following report from the French ministry of education from 2014 (in french unfortunately)  states that in Europe, 94% of the students study english as a foreign language (high school and university). Then comes French (23%) and German and Spanish (19% each).
As for Brexit, I don’t think english is used as the main working language in the EU because of the UK’s infuence, just because it is the foreign language most people speak.
From my own experience (I speak/write in 5 different languages and live in Germany since 2011), it takes between 5 to 10 years to learn German minimally. Other Western European languages are simpler to learn and more popular: Spanish, English, Portuguese, French.
Much of the difficulty is not at knowing the German vocabulary and pronunciation. It is simply that the language is very strict in its written and spoken form. By comparison, other western languages had global exposure over the centuries and today are fitting like a shoe to the native speakers of other languages, so the learning curve is far less steep.
As a Norwegian, I found German far easier to learn than English, French and Spanish.
To your second point, Latin inflections are for the most part very mechanical, even for verbs. Latin is difficult to master due to the fact that it's for the most part only read. It's far easier to gain fluency if you develop an active vocabulary through speaking and writing.
If you are looking for objectively hard things to master I would pick German noun gender or Japanese Kanji. They both require rote memorization of thousands of items. Both have relatively weak patterns to cut down the amount of cases you need to memorize.
English: "My wife sent me an email", but "My wife sent an email to me".
Yes, very obvious :)
That's not true. The republic of Ireland and Malta (and possibly more) still have English as an official language.
Now there's a funny game of chicken to see if one of them will blink and switch to requesting English in the EU: https://www.politico.eu/article/english-will-not-be-an-offic...
But as a matter of practicality, I'm sure English will continue to be used as a working language across European institutions.
Spanish is on second place with the most native speakers, then comes English in third position and Portuguese on sixth from the European-based idioms: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of...
China tops that list, no wonder if they also produce a higher volume of literary works on their native language.
I would say it started 50-60 years ago at most.
That is true... but only 10% of Indians can speak English. It might appear higher because visitors are likely to remain in urban or tourist-y areas, where the percentage of English speakers is much higher.
I think what you're thinking about is when English supremacy started, that can probably be dated to the post-WWII world when the US economy was far ahead of everyone else for decades.
1. US isn't the only country which publishes in English. The entire Western hemisphere does. Not to mention India, already the most populous English-speaking country in the world, and has barely scratched the surface when it comes to English literacy.
2. Science needs interaction to thrive. Publishing textbooks in Mandarin is a very different ballgame than cutting edge research papers. I don't see that changing and China has invested massively in English education already.
Tldr: English will remain the defacto global Lingua Franca of science.
Just like Latin remained the defacto lingua franca of science? :-)
I'm talking about which language is the most popular second language used in international dialogue, especially research.
And the relevant speed there is not population growth but how fast the interconnections and traditions of science change. On the one hand, you have a lot of new scientists coming online, but on the other hand, the bigger the network of scientists, the harder it is to change -- e.g. the lockin effects are bigger.
Rather, I think today a lingua franca is much more sticky than it was in the past, when you were talking about scientists from just a handful of nations communicating with each other. It was mostly just Europe and North America. Now, it's global. The best chance of another language displacing english isn't today, it was in the past. Now, even if China, India, and Japan all ban English and adopt, say, Japanese as their Lingua France, the rest of the world will continue with English and they'll be pulled back into the orbit. Also, there is much more trade today than in the past, so you have a network that is bigger and more interconnected, that has settled on a lingua franca, and that system has much more inertia.
It's hard to imagine what could shift this trend, especially to Mandarin. China's population is probably not going to get dramatically larger than the current 1.4 bn, which is only 20% of the world total. Maybe some sort of civilization-destroying world cataclysm like a meteor impact, pandemic, or nuclear warfare.
If I could live long enough to see the payout, I'd be willing to bet that far future humans will speak only one language, and that language will have evolved primarily from English.
But even if that language is almost certain to be English, because english changes and has so many loan words, it would probably be unrecognizable to the english we speak today.
That Latin persisted for 1300 hundred years after the fall of Rome has more to do with the Roman Church than the Roman Empire. European universities were essentially religious institutions until the renaissance.
To me, it was a very interesting time. For example, that's the period of time in which we built the most beautiful and livable town squares in the world. Even today, when you go to Europe to visit a city, the city square was probably designed in the middle ages (Paris being a notable exception) and the "old city" dating back to the middle ages, is more beautiful than the newer stuff around it. It was a period of beauty in urban design.
Also, the patterns of Feudalism were incredibly stable, compared to previous economic models, so a lot of the rich cultural traditions that were necessary to catapult Europe forward in the Enlightenment were rooted in the middle ages, and wouldn't have existed without Feudalism. If you tried to skip Feudalism and go straight into the 17th Century, Europe would have turned into a horror show -- just think of the French Revolution reign of terror, but assume it just never ends, because at the reciprocal commitments that became established in the middle ages tempered the radicalism of the enlightenment.
And although the pace of learning wasn't as fast as before, there were huge advances made in architecture and construction, culminating with the beautiful Gothic Cathedrals that are still wonders today, and survive today. How many buildings built today will stand for 800 years in the same splendor as the Cathedrals built in the middle ages?
It was also a time of great flowering of crafts and craftsmen, working in guilds scattered across small city-states and distributed political organizations. Distribution, rather than centralization, was the mantra.
For a more nuanced view especially of the cult of crafts, I recommend reading John Ruskin's essay "On the Nature of the Gothic" from his series "The Stones of Venice"
And the dark ages aren't called that because human nature was "dark" during that time. They're called that because we know very little about them.
The Middle Ages is in the "middle" of the Roman Empire and Modernity. It's further divided into "early", "middle", and "late" middle ages. People don't use "dark ages" any more, you want to say "early middle ages". And while we don't know as much about that period as about other periods, we do still know quite a bit.
The point being that with the fall of the Roman Empire and these roving bands of germanic tribes coming in from the east, as well as Arab invaders coming in from the south, ND Viking Invaders coming in from the North, you had full blown race wars being fought all across Europe. People needed to form protective associations, and this created feudalism. If there is anything that defines the middle ages, it is Feudalism, and its remarkably stable system of reciprocal obligations. The lord had to protect the people working the land from the hostile world outside, and in return, they paid rent. This created a patchwork of little city-states, manors, and fiefdoms which collectively pacified Europe by creating a common sense of identity ("Christendom") as well as deterring invaders since there was no great Prize to sack anymore, there were thousands of little Prizes each defended with their own little perimeter. Across this patchwork there were large informal networks of guilds, monastic orders, etc. This is not to say that there were no wars, but the wars were between nobility, they were not race wars, which is huge. Race wars tend to be gruesome wars of extermination or enslavement because you don't view the other side as being human. When the whole continent shared the same faith and followed similar customs, and was connected by the same set of monastic orders and guilds, you couldn't fight a race war anymore.
Latin was for hundreds of years, if not longer, and it's still doing OK by the look of it.
3. China does not want Mandarin to become a Lingua Franca in anything.
Let's remember that China is a strongly nationalistic, protectionist, autocratic and most importantly successful country. Keeping Chinese for the Chinese give them enormous control leverage economically for their local market but also in entertainment, culture and more generally information.
I can see China simply promoting English in every field where it gives them a competitive advantage outside their border, like here in science.
Also there are technical and cultural difficulties for Mandarin to impose itself. Technically, Kanjis are a huge barrier to entry for learning, it takes years of personal investment to acquire basic literacy. You can't mix Chinese into English or English into Chinese very easily either. Culturally, probably by pragmatism because of the technical difficulties I mentioned, Chinese immigrants have not pushed for their language to the same level as South American for example.
So sure it is possible that this will changes, but that will take many decades.
I think that bird has flown... there are already many many ethnic Chinese outside the PRC, across Asia, in Taiwan, and in America. Wikipedia says 50 million.
Also the US education system prior to college takes an another interesting aim to cultivate students' confidence, not by equipping them with logical training, but circumventing hard subjects like math/science, which is really ironic. A very lazy excuse to insufficient investment in maintaining their domestic pool of potential STEM candidates.
While on the other hand, what China demonstrated here is, that it is totally possible for a poor country to bootstrap itself into a major science power, providing the society has strong focus on science education and an effective rewarding system to provide incentives to study science.
Plagiarism concerns aside, it is pretty successful, otherwise we won't be talking about it here, let alone compare it against US.
Maybe it's time for US to let it down its own myth about American exceptionalism, and revisit the true cause of its current lead in global research: large influx of foreign talents, first from Europe, then Soviet Russia and now China/India. US was lucky to have this constant grab of the best minds from the rest of the world, but sadly, or maybe not, I can't see this would continue.
Time to wake up.
All the American and European companies who moved production there bootstrapped China. The money had to come from somewhere. China saw the immense opportunity in western greed and ran with it.
This is not a manifestation of stupidity, I think it is motivated by distrust of authorities.
Essentially: "If I agree that X is true, what will you do next?". If I don't trust what you will do, well then X cannot be allowed to be true. Since I need rhetorical ground to stand on and by giving up that position I'll have no position from which to argue against the policies that follow on, I choose not to agree with X. Sure there are probably stupid people that don't understand but they are not driving so to speak.
This logic is true for all political stripes.
I'm not seeing how those things are mutually exclusive.
>Sure there are probably stupid people that don't understand but they are not driving so to speak.
For example, we're all aware of Einstein's flub wrt quantum mechanics, a mistake that was grounded in his religious beliefs. I think you'd have a hard time arguing he was a stupid man.
That actually is US weakness, US always had to import talent. Grad school is strong in US thanks to being constantly fed by world class academicians ready to work for peanuts just to get name of a prestigious university on their resume.
I will not say that US is that bad at growing homegrown talent, but it is worse at that than China. Much worse.
To understand what's happening there, you have to think that in China, non-academic tertiary education is much bigger and stronger, and it feeds both the industry, and higher tier academic studies.
In former Eastern Bloc, countries copied USSR's education system, and which itself copied from Prussia and pre-WWI German states.
Few of its distinctive features:
1. Doctoral level studies are SUPER TOUGH, and you will be laughed off if you try attempt them without at least 10 years of graduate studies, and/or nomination for at least a minor scientific award. That's why Eastern Bloc masters level equal Western PhD. It never saw the academic credential inflation after WWII.
2. People are told off to avoid academia until they are totally committed and able to make an academic contribution. This true when we talk about first tier universities.
3. Lion share of people are totally fine with 2 year technical school programs. Chinese 2 year tech schools are definitely better than undergrad studies in US. Some are so good, that even comparing them to masters level in US wouldn't be a stretch. This is made possible by the fact that Chinese secondaries graduate much more prepared pupils, with both strong STEM and basic industry related vocational education.
4. Plentiful supply of tech school talents feed the industry, and keep educated labour cheap. And delivers universities a higher quality of candidate pool. Person's resume speaks better than artfully worded application letters the US universities are known for.
5. This allows university level studies to be what they were supposed to be originally: academic research, and not doing degree milling. Because research universities can afford to be picky with applicants, they can stay very focused. 1 in 150 admission odds for are know for some universities. Be sure that professors pick people with the highest promise, right aptitude, and people whose personal interests match their studies.
6. The industry and academia are don't go very far apart despite there being an iron wall in between academic and practical tertiary education. In overall, the distinction is between grunt workers and "highly skilled" category much, much less obvious than in US. Companies can recruit more schooled workforce in general in China, than in US. Having assembly lines staffed with real engineers is not uncommon, and the same applies for the rest of the higher tech industries: chemical, biomedical, semiconductor. And nowhere it is as evident as in computer programming, with outsourcing sweatshops being staffed by people with 6 year education (Chinese computer science school is terrible though.)
Conclusion: Chinese academia being that strong is result of their undergrad studies being much stronger that American, and that itself is built on strong secondary education. But it is bad at retaining and attracting anybody qualifying as "world class"
You're right about the difficulty of getting into undergrad, but the system is well-known for having tremendously difficult years in middle/high school to prepare for the gaokao, and the students coasting through undergrad afterward.
I would bring up some articles to show but a cursory search doesn't reveal anything.
2 year Chinese tech schools teach practical skills and trades. They may well be laxer than high school studies, in regard that kinetic, practical skills are easier to learn than abstract academic disciplines, but that doesn't mean that they did their job wrong, it's exactly the opposite.
I'm 100% sure who will win if you compare a grad of US college/tech school vs a grad of average Chinese tech institute on their first day of the job.
A Chinese electric bike maker tried to open a shop in US where they simply assemble them from knock down kits. It didn't work for them: engineering undergrads they hired struggled to get around simplest circuits and weren't able to work without supervision whatsoever. In desperation, they started hiring people with way more senior EE background, only to find out that while those will do the job, but only after meditating over circuit diagrams for half an hour for each part...
Something they couldn't imagine back in China, where from their words 9 out of 10 new young workers can learn to assemble the whole bike without a circuit scheme in a day simply because they had a lot of practice in the school.
I myself been around the electronics industry since 2007, and I saw times and times again newcomers from the West failing at running manufacturing enterprises in China because they have zero regard for having real engineers at assembly line, and the level of education of workforce in general. They think that they can hire cheapest grunts possible, and then "smart managers" will somehow make it all work with some smart tricks.
There still is a reactionary part of Chinese society that is super obsessed with matters of class and status, or at least they are much more than Americans for sure.
Not having your child getting into a university can be seen as a social stigma, and parent of such child will be socially ostracised.
For such, having a child getting a place in US college for money with 100% certainty, is better than him/her taking risks with state exam back home.
The few standardized tests that do help in admissions like the SAT are just glorified IQ tests. Very hard to practice for beyond a certain point. Not that there isn't a whole industry of people cramming for SATs for nothing...
In most of mainland Europe you can easily pay peanuts to get into the absolute "top" schools. Yet few want to. American education is that much more valued.
> 1. Doctoral level studies are SUPER TOUGH
It's common knowledge that in China, graduate school admission follows government policy mandates. Government says we need more top-tier talent, and this is translated to having more PhDs, and then to admitting more people into doctoral programs. It's not uncommon to have one professor advising 20+ PhD students at the same time. The students often are just cheap labor at university labs, and sometimes even work as free childcare for the professors. I am not kidding.
The schools then set an explicit bar for graduation: publish N papers in SCI-indexed journals. Imagine if your company has a rule that says you need to close N tickets with M upvotes to claim your paycheck. Guess what will happen.
> 3. Lion share of people are totally fine with 2 year technical school programs.
Only those who score below the national cutoff score in the National College Entrance Exam go to technical programs. It's not by choice! There is a reason there are a lot of for-profit "private universities" in China these days: because you can pay to get into a private university and avoid technical school programs.
People want to avoid technical school programs so much that the most lucrative part of running a high school is actually prepping high school graduates who "failed" the NCEE for retaking the exam next year.
> 4. Plentiful supply of tech school talents feed the industry, and keep educated labour cheap.
The strength of manufacturing has nothing to do with tech school talent. It's simply because there a lot of people in China (4x the US population), and generally the Chinese workers have great work ethics thanks to whatever is leftover of traditional Chinese culture. The society is fairly ordered, and kids all follow the sanctioned path. No backpacking-in-Europe-for-a-year. No opioid crisis. Everybody is laser focused on career advancement and making money, and everybody has a sense of urgency.
> 5. This allows university level studies to be what they were supposed to be originally: academic research, and not doing degree milling.
Talk to anyone who graduated from a Chinese university. Seriously, anyone.
> 6. The industry and academia are don't go very far apart despite there being an iron wall in between academic and practical tertiary education.
This is quite true, because it's rare for academic folks to work on fundamental research. In the current incentive setup, doing hard fundamental research is just stupid. You need to get to that N publications quick!
3. There are people with perfect scores who don't get admissions, and people who do chose tech schools on their own volition. In many places, a graduate of tech school will be preferred over a grad of a weaker university. A graduates of top tier tech schools are being taken faster than hot cookies - on employability those fare way better than university grads.
For a progressive part of society, that's not a stigma in any sense. For reactionaries, it is.
4. I can't agree, see my comments how Western entrepreneurs fare in China when they hire random people.
5. Can you actually tell where you studies took place? Real academia is there in China, but to some extend it did get sidelined by the credential-inflated undergraduate studies. As I said above, anything below 博士後 don't really involve genuine research activity. The grind shop, and actual research that universities keep in great care are a world apart.
Still, I'd have a hard time settling in the US for the long run. The country comes across as so deeply troubled, drenched in toxic politics and a seemingly irrecoverably broken society. Even with lots of economic, scientific, etc opportunity, I'd be very worried about long term happiness in such an environment.
Maybe that's a rather personal take, but to me, what's the value of lots of opportunity if everyone still seems troubled and struggling?
Life is great here and I rarely come across divisive political fights except on TV and the internet. The media thrives on it, so that's what they focus on.
I'm not sure how seriously other people take this, but I find it curious that a huge part of entertainment in movies, shows and games made/consumed in the US is about violence horror, and/or the end of society or even the world (oh and "heroes" of course - always coupled with violence). That is not a global phenomenon, or it only is in as far as Hollywood has always been exporting culture. It also is not normal, I can say from my own (almost half a century) life experience (first part of it on the Eastern side of the German border).
Myself, I can empathize with scenarios of the post-apocalypse as shown e.g. in "The Last Of Us", especially the violence and distrust between surviving groups - imagining myself in the area of the US in such a world. I can't imagine the same scenario in Europe, at least not on the same dystopian level. I would feel significantly safer in Europe after the collapse of civilization (said this commenter before getting murdered an hour later by another desperate European end-of-society survivor, haha - yeah, sure, can happen, it's just my gut feeling).
I have to balance my post by saying I still feel strong and positive about many things in the US. I'm not a "dark side only" guy when it comes to the view of that country. Still, even if I were rich I would not go back to live there, I don't feel good about the overall direction, even if a lot of things were to improve. All this darn celebration of violence and "heroes", for example, and as was pointed out here, science (so many immigrants holding it up), economic policies, politics (result of a feedback loop with economics and business policies, e.g. incentives for the media - what kind of news sells? Plus incredible concentration in a few hands).
In contrast, small villages in New York State or California only have around 300 years of history at best, and most residents were uprooted from their ancestral homes less than a century ago, so the same sense of grounding and appreciation for history is not there. Even the wounds of the American Civil War have not fully healed and probably won't fully until a few centuries from now.
It is a global phenomenon. Chinese 'Three-body problem' and wuxia/xanxia flicks. Japanese films and animes. Also numerous books and films from France, England, Russia, Australia...
> I can't imagine the same scenario in Europe, at least not on the same dystopian level.
Well, two most bloody wars in past century were in Europe... and they were pretty dystopian.
Maybe now, but as I already said in my comment. It was not so when I grew up, and I would dare to claim that much of what you mention is based on aping Hollywood success, especially as a business model.
As for the wars, what exactly is the connection to the phenomenon we discussed? Those were state-sponsored wars. Not that it changes anything, I stand by my gut-feeling based claims that I trust civil society in Europe more - not if war(!) breaks out, not sure why you try to change the topic - but when society breaks down as in those mentioned stories and people are left on their own. Also, since you want to go after who has done more wars, did you compare Europe's wars and the US's wars since WWII too? Statistics that selects only the data that happens to support what you would like to show is dishonest at best. Let's not even mention the story of how the US was made - with guns, by individuals as well as the state.
Not that I have anything to criticize, I would not have mentioned any of that because it is not relevant to what I said. It's just that you brought it up for whatever reason, being very selective.
This. This applies to your post as well, don't you think?
> Let's not even mention the story of how the US was made - with guns, by individuals as well as the state.
Let's not, since I don't think there's a country in Europe (bigger than Monaco/Lichtenstein, ofc) or even in the whole world, that wasn't made "on guns".
You are very strong in whataboutism, it's just that I don't see a trace of substance in any of your silly replies. Instead of coming up with ANY useful point at all, all you have is "but what about this or that", none of which has any relation to the discussion. Is you name Dick? http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-06-07
From media produced in other countries from now and before it is clear that it is not a national phenomenon. It's more than likely your experiences are purely anecdotal and dont even represent the norm.
To U.S. researchers also - the proposal funding rate is so low on account of the resource/PI ratio that many U.S. researchers are moving to Europe where there is greater promise of hard funding.
Do we actually need a lot of science? A lot of the low hanging fruit has been picked and it seems to me like the next advances will require deep reflection and study that isn't compatible with the tenure-track-driven-by-grant-receipt / grant-receipt-driven-by-performance-on-other-grants cycle of government driven science. At the same time, if government does anything else the scientific endeavor it funds will devolve into an exercise in channeling funds to a few golden children that are selected.... How? And will be detached from any reasonable standard of good governance and accountability.
So I challenge someone to explain why the us government has a responsibility to fund science, where that authority comes from, and how acceptable standards of accountability will be established.
So the article makes the claim that left to its own devices, science wanders off into the weeds, spending a lot of money and brainpower on things which have absolutely no foreseeable application to the real world (e.g. stuff like string theory). FWIW, I do have sympathy for this viewpoint; while I think there is a place for purely curiosity driven blue-sky basic science, perhaps a smaller pie of the total R&D spending ought to be spent on such things.
From this you then conclude that government financing of science is bad (which goes against the econ 101 reason why the state must shoulder some of the R&D responsibility, so I won't bother to discuss that further here), whereas the article makes the opposite conclusion, namely that the state should take a much more hands-on goal-oriented approach to funding science (e.g. "get our boys to the moon before the commies").
Funding rates are low in many (all?) fields of science in the US, but I agree with @arcanus that some data showing US researchers moving to Europe is warranted.
In my field (astronomy), jobs in the US are tough to come by, but jobs in Europe are generally even more difficult to get. There seem to be fewer jobs in Europe and those jobs are often reserved for people who are already "in the system" and worked at the hiring institution. So many of those jobs to go people who've put in their dues by hanging around, rather than hiring the best people.
Europe does have large European Research Council (ERC) grants which are typically a few million Euros per award. If you win one of those, you're good to go and can fund a sizable research group (at least in astronomy) and can probably use that as leverage to get a faculty job. But those grants are tough to come by.
I can't speak for other fields, but the vast majority of people I've met in astronomy that are moving to Europe are doing so because they're from Europe and want to head home. But the availability of research/faculty jobs there is not good, compared to the US.
From which you can download R&D spending as a percent of GDP in an excel spreadsheet. They also have nice breakdowns for research, development, and facilities.
If you look at total Federal R&D (all of the 3 above), it has indeed declined as a percent of GDP (although not in real terms).
Then there is a plunge:
but the plunge comes with an asterisk:
"Beginning in FY 2017, a new official definition of R&D has been adopted by federal agencies. Late-stage development, testing, and evaluation programs, primarily within the Defense Department, are no longer counted as R&D. "
So, it's fair to say Federal R&D spending is at least stagnant and probably in a slow decline as a percent of GDP.
There is plethora of other Federal agencies that fund research, such as the EPA, NIST, NASA, Federal Aviation Administration, Food and Drug Administration, even the Bureau of Land Management is in on the act. The VA funds research in prosthetics. The Health and Human Services department (including CDC) funds research.
As best I can tell, total Federal outlays for research are about 120 Billion. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/ap_18_...
Exactly! And they are the main organization for funding non-medical basic science in the nation.
There may be unparalleled access to science research in the US, but it is unevenly distributed
Is there a path other than a PhD at this point?
The U.S. is fast becoming a retiree/senior citizen voting nation. Their top priority (understandably) is cutting taxes/costs to maximize their (poorly planned) retirements.
Being the best no long matters like it did when the boomers were young.
Yeah. Maybe we want to take a more global approach and cheer when other countries are doing well and are attracting scientists?
There was an article a while back how a Chinese professor or maybe recent grad, couldn't find a position in US and the Chinese government made them a generous offer, an apartment, a guaranteed research fund, etc. Everyone was bashing and shaming US but it seemed kind of nice that China is able to do those things.
> So in effect, the grad students would get advanced degrees in the hard sciences and take that knowledge back home with
I remember that too, but that's kind of the goal of the F-1 / J-1 educational visas. None of them are designed for permanent residency or imply a path towards citizenship. The idea is that these students will get a graduate education then return home and and apply that knowledge in various countries around the world.
I don't think that's necessarily true. Despite the politics and rhetoric of the current administration, just today the front page of the NYTimes ran an article titled: U.S. Has Highest Share of Foreign-Born Population Since 1910 ( https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/us/census-foreign-populat... )
The article opens with:
> The foreign-born population in the United States has reached its highest share since 1910, according to government data released Thursday, and the new arrivals are more likely to come from Asia and to have college degrees than those who arrived in past decades.
I know many of my peers from grad school are exiting US after a few years of grad school due to this.
My GRE / GPA wasn't going to get me into Princeton anyway.
But the road to a PhD in Physics in 1994 was basically 1) Probably 8 years of study + teaching assistant work and 2) a quality dissertation.
That gets you in the CV pile for the next phase.
The actual career of being a physicist includes 1) multi-year post-doc(s); 2) University job, which would have been associate professor then, adjunct professor now; 3) "Publish or perish"; 4) Hustling grants; 5) Managing TAs and RAs.
For peanuts (unless those grants are fat money) compared to a corporate job.
For foreigners, the difference between academia / corporate work probably isn't as stark economically.
You are talking about an event in the Great Terror (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reign_of_Terror), when thousands of people were executed by the Committee for Public Safety, both on the left and the right, as Robespierre descended into madness. Towards the end, he set up a festival in which he invented his own cult -- the cult of the Supreme Being, and posed as moses carrying the revelation of the Supreme Being from a mountain. That really started to freak people out.
Pronouncements from that era are not representative of French culture or thinking even a few months after the terror. For example, Napoleon was a great patron of science.
BTW, a fantastic source on the French Revolution is the revolutions podcast -- they cover it over 53 episodes
One of the more poignant episodes towards the end of the Great Terror was when, in one day, they executed a group of nuns whose only crime was living together communally, and a 16 year old pickpocket. Whereas before, the citizens were cheering on the Guillotine, towards the end, when the boy was beheaded, someone from the crowd shouted out "Please, no more children!"
Don't forget (3) being tax compliant as a US citizen/perm resident. Since Obama made this worse with FACTA, Trump now with GILTI, etc., US citizenship and permanent residency has become extremely hostile to expats.
Also, here is a Wikipedia link to what GDP PPP (Gross Domestic Product Purchasing Power Parity) actually is 
It's a bit old now (2003), but I think it still holds.
The fact is that scientific research has extremely poor returns on investment, with high specialization requirements and little opportunity for wealth, fame, or impact. Ground-breaking discovery in niche fields tends to favor one dimensional specialists over generalists, whereas in pretty much any other industry, being multi-talented can be extremely impactful.
In a wealthy country where most people are educated to be multi-talented, it's suboptimal for them to go into research because there are so many better opportunities. Whereas if you're a country with a billion people but doesn't have the luxury to educate people to be multi-faceted, if you have the talent to be a researcher, it's a great opportunity for you.
An illustration in RPG terms:
well educated, multi-faceted individual (can be from the US or China, doesn't matter)
scientific discovery: 70/100
(with science aptitude)
scientific discovery: 90/100
A not-as-well educated person
scientific discovery: 40/100
with science aptitude:
It's just a lot more common to find the latter in a country with 1.3 billion people, and the former in the richest country in the world.
For the latter example, being good at science opens up opportunities for them. But for the well educated, they probably have a lot better opportunities within their reach. And with the prevailing metric of a good researcher being novel discoveries or breakthroughs, they both have an equal chance to make contribution to the field, so there's no incentives for the well educated person (Chinese or American) to pursue research.
Not just "dont care", they routinely ridicule and make fun of scientific research personnels, everywhere. Hollywood being the worts offender.
It seems it is working out quite well by the Chinese remaining in China. Well done!
One could argue that the US students are simply more rational actors and perceive the fact that a PhD has no economic value.
This may be outside of US control. There are always exceptions, but based on experience of my friends who came to the US from other countries and stayed, scientists generally did not go to the US; they go from something: economic shock, persecution, hungry kids, crime, no science funding (not low, zero), etc. and will to go whatever decent, stable country that would take them. Big inflows of energetic, educated folks happen after wars (e.g., WW2). Collapse of communism made lots of folks from Poland to Uzbekistan search for another home.
Those greatly benefited US but were one-time events that cannot be easily extended. To lead in science a country needs to grow its scientists organically and encourage them to stay in science. My 2c.
Once China beats the US in both volume and quality, we'll know the balance of intellectual capital has really shifted.
I'm skeptical this will happen. The US has a much better culture of intellectual freedom. It's much more likely that China will surpass the US economically than intellectually. Business culture is so strong in China and probably even better than in the US already.
"As growth stumbles, Beijing is falling back on a tried and trusted solution: using large, government-backed companies to spur activity. That’s squeezing out private and small firms."
"Higher borrowing costs, weak household spending and rising prices point to the beginnings of what could be a wider consumption downgrade. Meanwhile, fixed-asset investment growth is near record lows, and the fiscal situation is looking increasingly constrained."
"Operating conditions for small companies are getting worse, they’re holding inventory for longer, and the time it takes them to convert working capital into cash is increasing"
"The number of money-losing private industrial companies jumped about 40 percent as of June from a year earlier, while the number of unprofitable state-backed firms stayed flat. "
Poverty and homelessness are both near all-time lows (homelessness is at all-time lows). Homelessness is an area where the US has made very big strides in the last two decades, and it's not talked about enough. The poverty rate is down to 12.3% and has been declining since the great recession ended, accelerating the last few years. There are only two short periods of time in modern US history where the poverty rate was much lower (the peak of the late 1990s boom, and for about three years in the 1970s).
In the last ~25 years the US has also reduced by about 50% the number of people that aren't covered by healthcare (currently 8.8% of people), mostly thanks to the ACA and Medicaid expansion. We're spending over $600 billion per year on free healthcare for the bottom quarter of people. In 2005, 42 million people (14% of the population) were covered by Medicaid, today that's 66.8 million (20.5% of the population). Cynics will claim that's a negative, it's not, it's an improvement in the US social safety net courtesy of expanding who is covered by Medicaid. CHIP and SS disability have further broadened free healthcare coverage in that time frame as well.
It seems like a lot of debates on HN could benefit from having actual facts like this.
I really hate to risk being the guy who says "they will never best us," until they do, but in my field and many others Chinese papers are known to be of a lower quality standard and a lot more mill-like. This may come as a surprise to many, but the simple fact is that integrity issues are common in Chinese academia - a pattern not specific to China, but repeated almost everywhere. Globally, a high-quality academia with a strong sense of integrity is the exception rather than the rule.
As it turns out, if you make a well-funded and sustained effort at something, you can get good at it.
As an example, within my specialty: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0431-5
In this case you may have perceived fraud or lower quality in a specific area and you are generalizing it to entire Chinese academia when like everywhere in the world they have high quality and low quality institutions and equal incentives for fraud.
There has been multiple frauds in western academia , the Stanford experiments was the most recent discussed here, but no one uses these instances to paint the entire system as fraudulent, in social sciences there is a giant reproducibility crisis.
And given they are developing its inevitable the quality will rise with more investments and resources and developing a culture and infrastructure of research that others already have for decades, more investments in science and advancements is better for humanity. It's not a competition.
The one mitigating factor is that the commercial sector is so savagely results driven that actual success really matters. That’s the one thing that stops the whole system devolving into a soviet style downward spiral of bureaucratic failure. Ruthless social and economic Darwinism has it’s costs, but at least it keeps some aspects if the system honest by pure necessity. I doubt state sponsored research and academia benefits much from this, but I don’t have any direct experience of that as none of my relatives are academics.
We have a family friend who is a university lecturer in CS. The one anecdote I can pass on is that, apparently, students there can graduate in CS on a course based on Java at his institution without ever having to demonstrate a program actually running. Apparently it’s all theoretical. I find it hard to believe or understand how that can be, or how prevalent that is but that’s what he said. This was 3 or 4 years ago.
That is absoluteley not limited to China. There are some CS grads that can't write code, and that doesn't mean they are idiots. I studied with some of them. Some are actually more inclined to abstract theoretical problems and are not very good at implementation. Others just learn by memorizing everything and never gotten the hang of analyzing and solving a problem.
>> Apparently it’s all theoretical
Well... yes, for me that is what CS really is about. You don't need a computer to do CS at all. All you need is a pen, a paper and some knowlegde of formal systems. In my opinion, a college/university is not the place to go to for learning how to code.
I am sympathetic to the idea that CS is not a vocational subject, but it is a practical discipline. Purely theoretical CS is like studying physics with without ever performing an experiment. There is a role for theoretical physicists, but to complement and inform the experimental side otherwise their theories could never be tested or confirmed. You need both to make it a complete discipline.
It's pretty clear China is progressing in the sciences substantially, so I don't want to discount that--no one should--but this progression is occurring in what I consider to be a crisis of academic integrity globally. The result is that metrics like publication rate and citation rate are much fuzzier to interpret, and something I distrust a lot because they are somewhat meaningless relative to replicability or something of that sort.
I generally feel like academics and industry at large is suffering from a kind of hype crisis or bubble. I think it's strongly related to income inequality (inflated attributed value of higher-income individuals relative to lower-income individuals) and all sorts of other societal problems at the moment. How this relates to China I'm not sure but overall it makes me skeptical of any attempt to measure or rank countries relative to one another (I'd say the same thing about the US or any other country for that matter).
Given this classification, you can weight an individuals impact factor by a factor representing how trendy vs deep the venues citations appear in.
The goal here is very much to beat the US at its own game . The US and Western Europe have trapped the whole world in an extremely harsh intellectual property regime and China, rather than fighting this regime, intends to dominate it.
It's very sad because what's being ultimately being legitimized is just Feudalism 3.0. It's also very corrosive to China's real strength, it's entrepreneurial spirit, which, until very recently, gave fuck all about patents. Now many Asian VCs won't even talk to you unless you have some valuable IP. Many people view this rapid "IP enclosure" in China, where IP is becoming everything and often the only thing, to be a very bad thing.
Thus scientific papers provide indirect benefits in the West, but direct benefits in China - encouraging the "paper mill."
Academia is toxic because again it is being measured. If a university cannot determine the quality of faculty other than counting publications and impact factors, the university itself is seriously lacking quality, alas there is a plague of it.
I wonder if it is directly related to the bloom/infestation of university administration sizes and top salaries.
I'm of the opinion that a university ought to be something like what you'd think a temple to discovery and knowledge ought to be, instead of a mill for producing credentials for students and a shitty game for faculty advancement.
if I had a billion dollars... (to the tune of the Barenaked Ladies)
There will be another Einstein. There will be another Darwin. And they will change everything. It is only a matter of time.
But I doubt they will come from China. While many a genius may be born in China, they may as well have been born on Mars because it is not a country that rewards exceptionalism and original thinking.
Also... I'm still trying to imagine what Dijon Ketchup would taste like.
Nobody has time to read everyone's papers, or evaluate someone's knowledge thoroughly, so we fall back on things like degrees, impact factors or university prestige.
Once you realise academia is all about signalling - being able to quickly judge people - everything makes sense.
In any Western university there's people fighting for tenure, which tends to hinge on publishing high-impact papers. This is an enormous economic incentive. The difference between getting tenure or having to leave academia and starting an industry career at a disadvantage can be measured in dollars, and it's large. In fact, even without measuring anything, I think it's quite clear that the overwhelming majority of people in this situation would take tenure over a $10K cheque. So it's disingenous to say that the Chinese incentivize publishing more because they pay cash.
If anything I find that the system of paying cash is more transparent, and it may be somewhat more balanced than others. For example, in Spain people fighting for tenure have a very large incentive for the reason mentioned above (and a PhD has zero or even negative value for most industry job offers here, so the value of the incentive is really huge). Youngish tenured professors have a not so large, but significant incentive (there are salary supplements one can get linked to journal publishing in 6-year periods. They are not too large -around €100/mo- but each one you get is for life, so for professors in their 30s we can be talking about more than 30K for publishing a few papers. This is pretty much cash for papers too, but no one bats an eye because we are Western, I guess). A full professor 5-10 years away from retirement has practically no incentive at all, by the time they can get another of these supplements they will be retired or almost retired so they won't get much, if anything. So it is quite common to see professors in this situation just not doing research at all. The distribution of incentives would be more uniform with cash.
To sum up, I think the outrage many people in the West express about Chinese universities paying for papers is pure hypocrisy. Either giving economic incentives to paper publishing is a good idea or it isn't. If it is, I don't see anything wrong with the incentive being cash, and if it isn't, we should probably criticise our own systems as much as the Chinese's.
Eventually, I think the criticism of the Chinese way boils down to prejudice. The whole mysticism about cash is an excuse to not say "incentivizing publication in the West is good because we are going to publish good papers, incentivizing publication in China is bad because they are dishonest and are going to churn out lots of crap if they are incentivized to publish".
That tenure would come from earning grants. Now keeping the grant gravy-train running smoothly does require churning out papers, but it is not the papers themselves that would be so important.
The US has a pop. of 325M and a score of 26k so a weighted score of 0.080 publications (per thousand people). Germany scores 0.094, the UK 0.10, Australia 0.097.
These "academic" countries hover around 1 publication per ten thousand people. A lot of small countries punch slightly above their weight, mostly those with a long history of academia.
Adjusted for population (1.37B), China would score 0.0095 - an order of magnitude less. That's not necessarily an indication of lack of quality, but it does suggest that they're not at capacity yet.
Using national population is naive. There are probably a lot of interesting metrics you could dig out of this to get an idea of the resaerch efficiency of a country. For example China has more researchers than the US[1,2] (1.69M vs 1.38M), but not in proportion to its increased population size. The US has, proportionally, four times as many researchers than China, but doesn't spend four times as much on R&D (2.7% US, 2.1% China).
Israel is a good disproportionate example, spending 4% of GDP on research to get a pop-weighted publication score of 0.12. They also have a lot of researchers - second only to Scandinvaia at around 7k per million inhabitants. So their publication success is probabily attributable to having an above-average number of scientists coupled with a huge research budget.
EDIT: Most of this data is 2016-2017, might be some muddling of years. It's also 3AM so maths maybe squiffy.
If you use the number of researchers instead of population, the US publishes 14.2 "good" papers per thousand researchers, China publishes around 5.3. Maybe that's a better basis for quantity vs quality.
You could phrase this as "Given a researcher in a particular country, what are the odds of them publishing a top tier paper in a year?" and following on, "Do we expect that, given how much this country spends on research (per scientist)?"
Using GDP from Google (11.2t and 18.57t) and figures from , the US spends about $365k on R&D per scientist. China spends $140k per scientist. That fits rather well - the US spends 2.6x more and gets 2.7x more top publications per scientist.
In the fields that i pay attention to (Im not a scientist, just a curious part-time pythonista) such as materials science, practical uses of AI and vision, it seems (just an opinion, dont ask me for stats) most of the work are coming from China scientists. In some other fields like programming languages, computer networking they seem significantly fewer. Of course this may be biased by my sources.
On a social level when one has a government where the top level politicians are mostly scientists and engineers this is a result to be expected. When govt is dominated by lawyers one can expect things go in other direction. China realised a long time ago that they had to educate and work to improve their position - productivity and improving standard of living comes from real productive stuff not from legislation.
This culture crossed language barriers, borders and such. Common cultural "hero's" of a scientific community (Newton, Copernicus..) helped a lot in developing this culture.
One of the (related) reasons for US science/technology success in the 20th century was making that "empire of the mind" physical, in places like MIT. The wide catchment was achieved through migration. This was very obvious in the post war period, when scientists and technologists from everywhere came to these places.
The Soviets also made use of their expanded talent catchment areas, and had some pretty impressive innovations at that time.
China is now learning the power of inward migration. They are starting to open up and subsidize international students. I think political goals (eg Taiwanese students in China smoothing the path to unification) where the catalyst, but internationalizing the institutions themselves will be an inevitable side effect.
US universities have been running for decades on foreign grad students (many of which are Chinese). At the same time the US education system is not producing a lot of domestic talent at this point. Not surprising given years of under funding, budget cuts, the excessive cost of getting educated, etc.
The fix is simple: invest, spend, nurture instead of divest, cut, and kill. Modern economies are primarily knowledge driven. Not investing in that is bad for business.
Also, noticed an uptick of Indian students doing research in China.
2018 Overview of the State of the US Science & Engineering Enterprise in the Global Context
My feeling is US could stand to double its R&D spend from 4% of GDP as a goal by 2040.
Steady progress builds results over time. I really encourage doubters to go visit China and see for yourself.
Yeah, like those Japanese cars and devices were "subpar" compared to the US ones in the 60s and 70s...
1. Members of Congress, judges, and high-ranking executive branch officials would be forbidden from owning individual stocks while in office. It would force the president and cabinet members to divest assets that could present conflicts of interest.
2. Members of Congress would be forbidden from lobbying after they leave office, existing lobbying restrictions would be tightened, and greater disclosure of influence peddling would be required.