IRG 2-7: Contributions of Foreign-Born Scientists to Nanotechnology Innovation

(Walsh, Ridge)


This research employs an original data-set to examine the nativity of scientists making significant contributions to nanotechnology research and innovation. In addition to identifying individuals central in nano-innovation, the research highlights the internal globalization of the American scientific community and informs intellectual and policy debates on immigration and its impacts on the American knowledge economy. Kotoff’s bibliometric methods were used to collect all journal articles on nanotechnology between 1999-2009. These were ranked by number of citations; the top 1%- or high-impact- articles were included in the study, which recorded the names of both corresponding and non-corresponding authors. Sources such as the biographical reference work American Men and Women of Science, department and faculty web pages, and Linked-In were used to determine the nativity of the population. Aggregate and yearly figures were benchmarked against the prevalence of the foreign-born in both the American scientific labor force and general population.


Preliminary analysis shows that the prevalence of the foreign-born significantly exceeds that of the general population and American Scientific community. Several trends are also apparent. First, both the number of nanotechnology related articles and the number of foreign-born contributions increased each year. While the United States contributed the largest share of corresponding authors China, India and Germany also made significant contributions. This analysis will be completed by the end of the calendar year.


A related study examines all nanotechnology-related dissertations, which are suggestive of emerging areas of specialization. Using the UMI electronic dissertation database through Proquest, Walsh and Ridge have identified the authors of all dissertations related to nanotechnology granted at US institutions between 1999-2009 (a total of 4,616 individuals). To date they have identified the population of relevant participants. The next step is to derive a random sample of all Ph.D.’s, and then conduct a survey that will provide basic demographic information, as well as information concerning place of birth, citizenship and migration history. This will permit some insights into the career trajectories of foreign-born recipients of U.S. Ph.D.’s in nanotechnology.