News Release

HKU Business School examines the effectiveness and implications of the talent recruitment programs

Peer-Reviewed Publication

The University of Hong Kong

Many countries around the world are introducing various initiatives to compete for talent, especially top scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Governments increasingly believe that access to global talent is key to growing local human capital and developing a knowledge-based economy.

Science, an internationally renowned academic journal on scientific research, has recently published a research paper co-authored by Dr Yanbo Wang from HKU Business School and Dr Dongbo Shi from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, titled Has China’s Young Thousand Talents program been successful in recruiting and nurturing top-caliber scientists, examining the effectiveness of China’s Young Thousand Talents (YTT) programme in recruiting, retaining and nurturing top scientists. 

Dr Yanbo Wang, Associate Professor in Management and Strategy of HKU Business School, said, ‘There were few studies that have systematically examined the Thousand Talents Program (TTP). This paper focuses on the junior branch of China’s TTP and examines the effectiveness of the YTT programme in recruiting and nurturing top scientists, aiming to shed some light on policy tools that may help groom future scientists.’

Two sets of analyses have been carried out. In the first set, the paper examines the educational credential and research productivity of YTT recruits (prior to the return); In the second set, the paper examines the change in research productivity of YTT recruits in comparison to their overseas peers who could have been qualified to join the YTT programme but did not.

Main Findings
1. Extremely attractive to young expatriate scientists who had the potential but lacked financial resources to pursue independent research

The paper finds that YTT recruits were generally of top-caliber, with more than half of them coming from global top-100 PhD programmes. As a group, these returnees would have been ranked around the top 15th percentile among early-stage, research-active, and US-based scientists. However, the paper also finds that the top-caliber scientists, say, those ranked among the top 10th percentile, were less likely to join the YTT programme, even if they received the offers. Also, the absolute majority of the YTT recruits were post-docs or research fellows rather than tenure-track faculty members at the time of YTT offers. The YTT programme was extremely attractive to young expatriate scientists who had the potential but did not have the financial resources to carry out an independent research agenda overseas.

2. YTT recruits recorded a noticeably higher post-return productivity compared with their overseas peers

The paper finds that YTT recruits were associated with a high increase in post-return productivity in comparison to their overseas peers, i.e. individuals who went to the same PhD institution, in the same field, graduated during the same period, had very similar early-career track records in publications and citations. The knowledge productivity gain was particularly large in the last-authored publications and can be mainly explained by the YTT scientists' access to greater funding and larger research teams in China (in comparison to those staying overseas), especially in the fields such as biology and chemistry which require large physical assets, financial capital, and human power.

Policy Implications
1. Talent recruitment programme can attract high-caliber foreign scientists to return

The empirical results show not only the strength and attractiveness of China's YTT programme, but also the mandate for countries such as the U.S. and EU to reform their science funding schemes. Over the past three decades, it has become increasingly difficult for early-career scientists to access research funding in these places. As a result, many capable and ambitious young researchers are structurally disadvantaged - they have to work in other and more established individuals' laboratories rather than being able to set up their own laboratories to pursue their independent research agenda. This creates opportunities for countries and regions such as Mainland China, Hong Kong, India, and Singapore to set up policy programmes to recruit high-potential early career scientists to join their research institutions.  

2. Universities in China will become more attractive for students to pursue scientific research career

If China continues to invest in higher education and academic talent, universities in China will become a more attractive choice for Chinese and international students who intend to pursue scientific research careers—students who would otherwise study in the U.S. or EU. In the long run, this may disrupt the current model of university science in the U.S., particularly in certain academic fields such as biology and chemistry where research laboratories heavily rely on under-paid (foreign) post-docs to retain their high productivity.

This press release is issued on behalf of HKU Business School by Yuan Tung Financial Relations Limited.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Yuan Tung Financial Relations Limited
Tiffany Leung
Tel: +852 9102 8037 / +852 3428 2361

Wong Hing-fung
Tel: +852 9031 4049 / +852 3428 3122

HKU Business School
Christina Chung
Assistant Director
Communications and Public Relations
Tel: +852 9092 2699 / +852 3917 1692

Cathy Wong
Communications and Public Relations
Tel: +852 6484 2385 / +852 3917 1552

About HKU Business School
Established in 2001, HKU Business School is the youngest and most dynamic member of The University of Hong Kong (HKU). The School strives to nurture first-class business leaders and foster academic and relevant research to serve the needs of Hong Kong, China and the rest of the world in the new Asia-led economy. As a top international business school in Asia, the School engages leading scholars from all corners of the globe and they instil in students global knowledge with an Asian perspective. The School attracts top students from Hong Kong and beyond, recording the highest proportion of non-local undergraduate students amongst all Faculties at HKU.

HKU Business School offers a full spectrum of business education, and has achieved remarkable growth in faculty strength and research capability in the last two decades. The School ranks Asia’s No.1 in UTD Research Rankings in 2021; its full-time MBA has been ranked Asia’s no. 1 in the World MBA Rankings released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for 10 years. The School has well-established and strategic partnership with world renowned universities and corporate partners, providing market-oriented content, superior learning and instrumental resources for our students.

To better serve our students and alumni in various cities and regions and facilitate collaboration opportunities with business communities around the globe, HKU Business School has established a unique international network that extends to Beijing, Shenzhen, Vietnam and Tel Aviv. The School is well-positioned to be a leading, globally-impactful academic institution of business and economics.

HKU Business School is fully accredited by the European Quality Improvement Systems (EQUIS) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

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