China launches most of AI’s top researchers, but the U.S. is their number-one destination.

What’s new: U.S.-based research group MacroPolo published the Global AI Talent Tracker. The report traces international trends in education and employment among elite engineers.

Findings: The study tracked the locations of 675 high-performing AI practitioners through undergraduate studies, graduate school, and employment.

  • Nearly 30 percent of the AI pros earned their undergraduate degree in China. Some 20 percent earned theirs in the U.S.
  • More than half relocated to another country after their undergraduate education. The U.S. was their favorite destination by far.
  • Over half of Chinese-educated researchers went to the U.S. for graduate school or employment.
  • While the U.S. and China dominated the educational and employment pipeline, a significant number of undergraduates came from India, Europe, and Canada.

Behind the news: MacroPolo sought to sample top AI talent by selecting its cohort at random from authors whose papers were accepted to NeurIPS 2019, one of the most prestigious and selective conferences in the field. The report’s conclusions align closely with previous studies that also used conference acceptance to track where AI researchers were educated and employed.

Why it matters: Developing AI is a global project. Collaboration and freedom of movement are essential to progress.

We’re thinking: The recent U.S. suspension of H1B visas will shatter dreams and disrupt lives. But the MacroPolo data shows that it will also be very damaging to U.S. innovation in AI. At a time when some countries are trying to make immigration harder, the AI community must redouble its effort to make sure that people from all over the world are welcome and able to contribute.

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