When was the last time you saw the word “stunning” used to describe growth in scientific research spending?

A new report (December 2006) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) details China’s new role as a worldwide scientific powerhouse. According to the OECD, in 2006, China will surpass Japan in total research and development spending, making the United States the only nation that spends more. Dirk Pilat, head of the OECD’s Science and Technology Policy division, says in a press release, “The rapid rise of China in both money spent and researchers employed is stunning.”

The rapid growth in China’s scientific research capability is a direct result of government policies that tie its economic growth strategies to technological development. And along with the Chinese government's financial commitment comes an equally stunning growth in the Chinese scientific workforce. The same OECD report says the number of researchers in China rose 77% from 1995 to 2004 to 926,000, second internationally to the United States, which has 1.3 million.

Much like the United States and other Western countries, China is looking to build its internal research capacity even as it looks outward for scientific talent. In recent years, China has negotiated scientific cooperation and exchange agreements with the United States, Canada, the European Union, and many Asian countries. These agreements are bearing fruit in the form of international collaborations in various forms--and collaboration opportunities for Western scientists. In this feature, Science Careers identifies some of the good--and not-so-good--opportunities for Western researchers in China, recounts stories of individual researchers working in China, and offers practical tips for Western scientists considering a scientific exchange experience in the world's most populous country.

In Looking East for Research Experiences , Nadya Anscombe tells how agreements between China and the E.U. and European scientific organizations are increasing the number of European scientists working in China. She also reports the recent experiences of several European scientists in China.

In Chinese Medicine, Western Style , Jim Kling describes how Western pharmaceutical companies are building R&D facilities in China and thus expanding employment opportunities for researchers--but mostly for Chinese nationals trained in the West rather than Western scientists.

Are you considering a science exchange experience in China? In A Primer on Science Research in China , Alan Kotok describes the Chinese research system, provides a few tips about preparing for the exchange experience, and offers a preview of what it's like to work in Chinese labs.

Finally, Timothy Reynolds reported in Science Careers in April 2006 on the experiences of several European scientists in China in Researchers Go East, to China .

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Alan Kotok is managing editor of Careers.