Feature

Immigrants foster innovation

Skilled immigrants inspire our native-born scientists to be more innovative, and their contacts also help multinational firms expand overseas, said Robert Guest in Salon.com.  

Robert Guest
Salon.com

Keep our borders open, said Robert Guest. That is the main thing the U.S. has to do to fend off China’s challenge to our dominance in technological innovation. No question, China is on the scientific rise. The country “probably has more scientists than America now,” and will likely overtake the U.S. this year as the world’s most prolific patent generator. But American scientists are still far more productive and influential; the average American paper is cited three times as often as a Chinese one.

One big reason for that is our far deeper engagement in cross-border collaboration. Top scientists of every ethnicity attend U.S. universities and work in our tech firms, creating “a web of ties” that puts the U.S. at the heart of the global scientific conversation. Research shows that these skilled immigrants inspire our native-born scientists to be more innovative, and their contacts also help multinational firms expand overseas, a huge source of U.S. growth. “Many things undermine American soft power,” but the biggest threat is “the backlash against immigration.” Our immigrants leave us “richer, more innovative, and far more influential.” We need to keep them coming.

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