New Report Showcases Climate of Fear Among Asian-Origin Scientists and Researchers

September 23, 2022

Media Contact: 
Mary Tablante, Asian American Scholar Forum,

New Report Showcases Climate of Fear Among Asian-Origin Scientists and Researchers
Asian American Scholar Forum data shows decline in scientists of Asian descent staying in the U.S. and likelihood of pursuing federal funding due to climate of fear

Washington, D.C.—Today, the Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF) released a report, “Caught in the Crossfire: Fears of Chinese-American Scientists,” with data that shows a growing number of Chinese-origin American academics leaving the United States and switching from U.S. to Chinese affiliations. The research shows the chilling effect of potential federal investigation and prosecution since the U.S. Department of Justice’s “China Initiative,” which launched in 2018. 

The national academic climate survey, conducted between December 2021 and March 2022 in collaboration with 11 Asian American professional organizations, collected responses from more than 1,300 faculty members nationwide. Although an overwhelming majority of the survey respondents (89 percent) would like to contribute to the U.S. leadership in science and technology, 42 percent are fearful of conducting research in the U.S., especially engineering and computing science faculty, life science faculty, federal grant awardees, and senior faculty. Around 61 percent of the survey respondents feel pressure to leave the U.S., especially junior faculty and federal grant awardees, and 45 percent intend to avoid federal grant applications, especially engineering and computing science faculty, senior faculty, and those from public institutions.

Although the Department of Justice ended the China Initiative in early 2022 after community concerns and advocacy, the new report reveals that the widespread fear of conducting routine research and academic activities, along with the significant risks of losing talent culminated in hesitancy to remain in the U.S. and contribute to federal sponsored research in science and technology. Addressing the fears of scientists of Chinese origin and making the academic environment welcoming and attractive for all will help retain and attract scientific talent and strengthen the U.S. leadership in science and technology in the long run.  

Xihong Lin, AASF Board Member and Co-Chair of the Data and Research Committee, said, “There has been a significant increase of Chinese-origin scientists returning to China in recent years despite them wanting to contribute to science and research in the United States. The fear among Chinese-origin scientists is palpable and the U.S. runs a high risk of losing talent. We want to use our research to raise awareness of these concerns and continue the long history of the U.S. benefiting from attracting and retaining the best and brightest scientists and engineers from around the world.”

Yu Xie, AASF Co-Chair of the Data and Research Committee, said, “It is clear from our research that the impact of the chilling effect from the ‘China Initiative’ is far from over. We must address the fears of scientists of Asian origin so that we can make the academic environment welcoming and continue the global competitiveness and U.S. leadership in science and technology for future generations to come.”

Read the full report here.


Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF) promotes academic belonging, openness, freedom, and equality for all and represents more than 7,000 scientists, researchers, and scholars in the U.S.. In response to heightened anti-Asian sentiments in the U.S. and increasing profiling of Chinese Americans and immigrants in science, AASF has been a leading national voice fighting for the rights of Asian American and immigrant scientists, researchers, and scholars.

Yu Xie is Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Sociology and has a faculty appointment at the Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies, Princeton University. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Academia Sinica and the National Academy of Science. Professor Xie was appointed as the head of the Center on Contemporary China, Princeton University. 

Xihong Lin is Professor and former Chair of the Department of Biostatistics, Coordinating Director of the Program in Quantitative Genomics at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and Professor of the Department of Statistics at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University, and Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Dr. Lin is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.

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