Virginia Tech students test software on a robot. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The U.S. and China, front runners in the race to lead the world in AI, are playing with different strengths: China has vast amounts of data and money at its disposal, but the U.S. has a significant leg up in talent.

The big picture: Crucially, the American talent pool is made up mostly of international researchers and students, according to a new analysis from Joy Dantong Ma of the Paulson Institute.

More than half of the best-of-the-best AI researchers in the U.S. are originally from other countries, Ma writes.

  • Why it matters: If Ma is right, the Trump administration's immigration policy may be damaging its efforts to win the AI race.
  • New visa restrictions specifically targeting Chinese immigrants could be especially harmful to U.S. universities trying to attract the best students for AI programs — and, by extension, to U.S. companies looking to hire top AI talent once they graduate.

By the numbers:

  • Ma began by examining the research papers accepted in 2018 to NeurIPS, a prestigious academic conference on AI. Last year, only 30 of the 4,800 submitted papers were accepted for oral presentations.
  • Those 30 papers had 113 authors in all. Of these leading researchers, 60% work at American companies or study at American universities, Ma found — four times the number who work and study in Canada, the runner-up.
  • But when Ma looked at where these top researchers did their undergrad studies, the picture shifted. The majority came from abroad — and about one in four are from China.

Continuing to import top AI researchers from around the globe is critical to maintaining the U.S. competitive edge, Ma tells Axios.

"A sweeping change in policy ... risks immediate loss of foreign talent and sends some of them right back to China. … In the longer term, it sends the signal to emerging and aspiring scientists that America is not open for business."
— Joy Ma, Paulson Institute

Go deeper

Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 12,859,834 — Total deaths: 567,123 — Total recoveries — 7,062,085Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 3,297,501— Total deaths: 135,155 — Total recoveries: 1,006,326 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. States: Florida smashes single-day record for new coronavirus cases with over 15,000 — NYC reports zero coronavirus deaths for first time since pandemic hit.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA chief projects "apex" of South's coronavirus curve in 2-3 weeks — Coronavirus testing czar: Lockdowns in hotspots "should be on the table"
  5. Education: Betsy DeVos says schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds — Pelosi accuses Trump of "messing with the health of our children."

Scoop: How the White House is trying to trap leakers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has told several White House staffers he's fed specific nuggets of information to suspected leakers to see if they pass them on to reporters — a trap that would confirm his suspicions. "Meadows told me he was doing that," said one former White House official. "I don't know if it ever worked."

Why it matters: This hunt for leakers has put some White House staffers on edge, with multiple officials telling Axios that Meadows has been unusually vocal about his tactics. So far, he's caught only one person, for a minor leak.

11 GOP congressional nominees support QAnon conspiracy

Lauren Boebert posing in her restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, on April 24. Photo: Emily Kask/AFP

At least 11 Republican congressional nominees have publicly supported or defended the QAnon conspiracy theory movement or some of its tenets — and more aligned with the movement may still find a way onto ballots this year.

Why it matters: Their progress shows how a fringe online forum built on unsubstantiated claims and flagged as a threat by the FBI is seeking a foothold in the U.S. political mainstream.