Identity and Wellbeing
Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Iredale R. Robyn and Guo Fei
Chapter 12: Negotiating scientific identities: Chinese scientists in Australia and their networks
Xiao Niu and Tim Turpin
This chapter is based on a study of international mobility and migration of Chinese scientists moving between China and Australia. It investigates the social dynamics of relationship building between scientists working across the two countries. Chinese scientists in Australia provide an important human resource for science and technological development. However, this chapter also documents their capacity to maintain and extend scientific networks in their home country. Researchers in both countries build, maintain and extend their scientific networks that endure beyond their physical location in one country or the other. The concept of dual identities is a common feature among transnational migrants. Chinese respondents in this study reflected a ‘global scientist’ identity but also a more localized Chinese identity. While the two identities and associated roles co-exist, Chinese scientists have the choice of responding more to one or the other as they managed their relationships with colleagues, friends and employers. Chinese scientists in Australia utilize their different identities to navigate professional and social networks involving their home country, the Chinese diaspora in Australia and elsewhere, and scientists and colleagues of other backgrounds. They are contributing to the expansion of diaspora knowledge networks as well as global dispersed knowledge networks. While they recognize and respond to their Chinese identity in dealing with scientists in China, their research partners in China are also findings ways to meet expectations in the West. Thus both sides are trying to find a common place to establish and maintain relationships. Far from being constrained within either component of their dual identity these mobile scientists negotiate their progress through their careers making strategic decisions through a process of social exchange. The process involves scientists, their colleagues, employing institutions and their national science systems.
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