The US Is Turning Away From Its Biggest Scientific Partner at a Precarious Time

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One of the most productive scientific collaborations of the 21st century is pulling apart, as deteriorating relations between the U.S. and China lead researchers to sever ties. From a report: The decoupling, which began in recent years with investigations into Chinese researchers in the U.S., has accelerated as tensions have risen between the superpowers. Now some U.S. lawmakers are pushing to let a landmark agreement to cooperate on science and technology, signed in 1979 and renewed routinely since, expire this month. China has built itself into a powerful engine of scientific discovery in recent decades, partly with American help, and many in Washington fear that China could gain a security and military advantage unless the U.S. takes decisive steps to cut off cooperation in scientific research.

Many scientists warn, however, that Washington would be severing ties as China is making its greatest contributions to scientific advancements, and cutting it off risks slowing American progress in critical areas such as biotechnology, clean energy and telecommunications. While the U.S. remains the world’s pre-eminent science power, fundamental scientific research has grown borderless in the era of globalization, much as business has. More than 40% of America’s scientific production — measured by the number of high-quality papers that U.S.-based scientists produce — involves cooperation with researchers abroad, according to Clarivate, a London-based data firm that tracks global scientific research. China and the U.S. are each other’s No. 1 partner in producing scientific research, with collaborative research between the two consistently among the most-cited papers across fields, according to an analysis of Clarivate’s data by Caroline Wagner, a professor of public policy at Ohio State University.

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