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Asian scientists struggle with belonging

Asian Scientists Grapple with Belonging

Asian scientists have said they struggled with feeling welcome in the US due to stereotypes and perceived cultural differences

Asian students and faculty have long been a cornerstone of science in the US, drawn by the promise of collaboration and cutting-edge research. However, the Asian community is facing increased racist attacks and scrutiny from the government. A cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, explores how Asian scientists are reassessing their futures in the US.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, racist attacks against the Asian community in the US have increased notably, with nearly 4,000 incidents reported between March 2020 and February 2021. Some attribute this to former President Donald Trump's rhetoric about the pandemic originating in China, writes senior editor Andrea Widener. 

Beyond the pandemic, the Trump administration implemented policies that hinder collaborations with researchers in China, including the China Initiative launched by the US Department of Justice in 2018. Initiatives like this have placed Asian researchers under increased scrutiny and suspicion, and many are still in place despite the new presidential administration. Even before Trump and the coronavirus, Asian scientists have said they struggled with feeling welcome in the US due to stereotypes and perceived cultural differences.

These challenging circumstances have led Asian scientists to change how they collaborate with other researchers, recruit students to their labs and choose a career path. Some scientists of Chinese origin in the US have been targeted by investigations from the China Initiative, and they say it's "like walking on eggshells" when disclosing collaborators and funding sources to the government. Visa restrictions and a hostile political climate are also making it harder to recruit international students and for the students to remain in the US after graduation. Some scientists are choosing to return to their countries of origin or seek new opportunities in other parts of the world. While the Biden administration hopes to revise immigration policies and retain US-trained international scientists, the Asian community is fighting for more awareness and tolerance despite an uncertain future.

- This press release was originally published on the ACS website. It has been edited for style