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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 35 mins ago - World

German election: Social Democrats narrowly beat Angela Merkel's bloc

SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Photo: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

BERLIN — The center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) clinched a narrow victory in Germany's historic federal elections on Sunday, just four years after suffering its worst loss since World War II.

Why it matters: It's a stunning political comeback for the SPD, paving the way for its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz to form a new governing coalition and lead Europe's largest economy into the post-Merkel era.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Liz Cheney: Americans deserve better than choice of Biden or Trump

Rep. Liz Cheney talks with Lesley Stahl on CBS' "60 Minutes." Photo: CBS News

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Americans "deserve better than having to choose between" President Biden's "disastrous" policies and former President Trump, "who violated his oath of office."

Why it matters: Cheney made the remarks after CBS' Lesley Stahl put it to her in the interview that Republicans feel that her joining the House select committee in charge of investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot helps "keep the focus on Trump instead of on the shortcomings of the Biden administration."

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: The LCV's $4M ad buy

A screenshot from a new League of Conservation Voters ad supporting Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

The League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power are aiming another $4 million worth of ads at centrist House Democrats, urging them to support the climate provisions in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Progressive groups are trying to counter the onslaught of conservative money pouring into swing districts. Both sides are trying to define Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and pressure lawmakers to support — or oppose — the legislation scheduled for a vote in the House this week.