Bootstrapping Science? The Impact of a “Return Human Capital” Programme on Chinese Research Productivity
628/2022 Elliott Ash, David Cai, Mirko Draca & Shaoyu Liu
We study the impact of a large-scale scientist recruitment program – China’s Junior Thousand Talents Plan (青年千人计划) – on the productivity of recruited scholars and their local peers in Chinese host universities. Using a comprehensive dataset of published scientific articles, we estimate effects on quantity and quality in a matched difference-in-differences framework. We observe neutral direct productivity effects for participants over a 6-year post-period: an initial drop is followed by a fully offsetting recovery. However, the program participants collaborate at higher rates with more junior China-based co-authors at their host institutions. Looking to peers in the hosting department, we observe positive and rising productivity impacts for peer scholars, equivalent to approximately 0.6 of a publication per peer scholar in the long-run. Heterogeneity analysis and the absence of correlated resource effects point to the peer effect being rooted in a knowledge spillover mechanism.