International Scholars Task Force

The current U.S research enterprise is composed of >50% of international scholars (The state of US Science & Engineering). While scientific training received by international scholars is similar to that of U.S. citizens, the challenges faced by this group are very unique and differ significantly from other groups in academia. 

There is no doubt that the U.S academic enterprise is very welcoming for scholars from all over the world in offering a chance to excel and participate in being at the forefront of the scientific discovery process. However, a lot more support for international scholars is required from U.S. funding agencies, institutions, departments and principal investigators to help in the assimilation process within the U.S. academic enterprise, enabling them to reach their highest potential.

Challenges:

Some unique challenges faced by international scholars include: 

  • Funding
    • Having decreased access to funding opportunities to attain independence in research
    • Receiving wildly unequal salaries & benefits as compared to U.S. citizens
    • Obtaining non-uniform spousal benefits & work authorizations 
  • Academic Research & Life
    • Facing uncertainty regarding immigration status (visa) & travel restrictions (pre-pandemic and pandemic environment)
    • Encountering differential and discriminatory mentoring from advisors
    • Experiencing bullying and exploitation due to delicate visa situation 
    • Lacking training to be a “trainee” in a new research environment 
    • Adjusting to new social and scientific culture

All these challenges pose difficulty in career progression, achieving independence in research and can lead to a rise in mental health issues amongst international scholars. 

Missions & Goals

The main missions of the international scholars taskforce are to raise awareness about the challenges faced by foreign-born researchers currently employed in US academic institutions and advocate for their needs by collecting data, disseminating findings to broad audiences, and taking action towards improving international scholars’ academic experiences in the US. 

The overarching goals of this task force include: 

  • Identifying and listing unique challenges faced by international scholars during their stay in U.S research enterprise
  • Bringing awareness about these issues by publishing reports, documents, blogs & commentaries and presenting data at the National level annual meetings
  • Seeking input from international scholars to suggest possible solutions or actions expected from higher education leaders
  • Developing a handbook by international scholars for international scholars
  • Helping academic institutions and funding agencies setting up regulatory guidelines and best practices in preventing issues faced by international scholars 

The specific short term goals (2020-2021) of this task force include: 

Taskforce Members:

FoR Board help: 

Advisory Board

Sina Safayi: Rush University

Gary McDowell, Lightoller Consulting

Stay tuned!

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1st Action: Future of Research (FoR) Survey: COVID19 & EO’s impact on international Scholar community in the US:

In June 2020, this International researcher scholar community faced a difficult situation. In response to the growing COVID19 pandemic induced job losses (Pew Research Center, Sept 2020), surge in unemployment filings (Congressional Research Service, Dec 2020) (temporary workers on Visas are not eligible for unemployment benefits), and to save American jobs, the current administration signed an executive order (EO) titled “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak”. The order suspends entry for individuals under the H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 visa programs. What followed after the EO was a climate of confusion, uncertainty and chaos amongst the international scholars community. Many of us heard or read the personal stories of our colleagues being stranded in their home countries, awaiting visa renewal for re-entry into US for re-starting research work or our friends not being able to enter the US because their job offers were rescinded. This posed a grave new danger that threatens the diverse and collaborative nature of the scientific enterprise, including our ability to foster a flexible environment, creativity, and scientific innovation for researchers that come from all over the world. 

In order to assess the impact of COVID19 pandemic related recent EO on already vulnerable international scholars, the Future of Research (FoR) is launching a survey, “COVID19 & EO’s impact on international Scholar community”. The responses collected from this survey will help us understand the clear impact or no-impact of recent and ongoing events on the international scholar community. 

The survey participants will include foreign-born researchers, currently within the US, those who had to depart the US, could not return to the US or those who could not come to the US to be part of the US academic enterprise. 

Link to the Surveyhttps://s.surveyplanet.com/z3tvEjPGi


Volunteer Opportunities: Please fill out this form if you are interestd in getting involved.


Further Reading: 

COVID19 & Executive Orders:

International Scholars in the U.S :


Helpful resources for international scholars in the US : 


Groups to Follow: