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.
Some unique challenges faced by international scholars include:
- 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:
- Consolidating existing data about international scholars’ experiences in US academic institutions
- Conducting a survey on the impact of COVID-19 and the recent presidential executive orders on international scholars’ immigration status, research, and academic lives
- Harinder Singh – University of California, Irvine
- Christian Jorgensen – Georgetown University
- Adriana Bankston – Journal of Science Policy & Governance (JSPG)
- Sri Vedachalam – Environmental Policy Innovation Center
- Maiko Le Lay – University of California, Irvine
FoR Board help:
Sina Safayi: Rush University
Gary McDowell, Lightoller Consulting
If you are interested in becoming a member to receive all the latest news, updates on immigration policies for international scholars, articles, publications and data on international scholars, please subscribe to our listserv
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 Survey: https://s.surveyplanet.com/z3tvEjPGi
Volunteer Opportunities: Please fill out this form if you are interestd in getting involved.
COVID19 & Executive Orders:
- OPT suspension would force highly-educated graduates to leave the U.S. June 2020
- International students face an extra hurdle during COVID19. June 2020. Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Trump’s anti-immigrant crusade is about to strike the heart of the U.S economy. June 2020.
- The impact of COVID19 on noncitizens and across the US immigration system. Special report. 2020. American Immigration Council
- International students can’t vote. But the stakes are personal. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Oct 2020
- I came to Pittsburgh for higher education in 2017. It’s time to undo the harm Trump’s rhetoric and policies brought to international students. Public Sources, 2020
International Scholars in the U.S :
- Foreign born researchers in the US. National Science & Engineering Indicators. The state of US science & engineering 2020. NSF
- Foreign Postdocs in the U.S.Postdoc in USA
- Research & policy issues in high skilled international migration: a perspective with data on US.2001
- How international students and researchers benefit the United States. Their experiences, their stories. A report by American Physical Society. Oct 2020
- Preparing for the 21st century biomedical research job market: Using census data to inform policy and career decision making.2016. Figure 3 – Changing face of US biomedical workforce
- How economies shape science. Stephen P. 2012. Books
- International mobility of researchers. RAND Literature Review
- Training transitions: research dependence to independence (International scholars topic/theme). Singh, Bankston, McDowell.2020. Pre-print (Barriers faced by international scholars)
- Beyond 2 suitcases. Oct 2020
- Student and worker visa restrictions do nothing to help the country. Sept 2020
- Establishing a fixed time period of admission and an extension of stay procedure for non-immigrant academic students, exchange visitors, and representatives of foreign information media. Federal Register, Sept 2020
- Stop exploitation of foreign postdocs in the United States. Nature 2018
- Coming to America: doing a postdoc in the US, Science. 2010
- Foreign students and postdocs in the US worry about their future. ACS.2017
- Reliance on foreign PhD students ‘could harm US research’.Times Higher Education. Sept 2019.
- The disappearing American graduate student. New York Times. Nov 2017
- Fewer international students coming to US for grad school in Science and Engineering. Jan 2018
Helpful resources for international scholars in the US :
- Coming to America. Inside Higher Ed.
- International postdoc survival guide – Beginner’s guide to income taxes for international scholars. National Postdoc Association.
- International postdoc survival guide. NPA
Groups to Follow: