The Paulson Institute’s Think Tank MacroPolo Releases Global AI Talent Tracker

New report assesses the global balance and flow of top AI talent

CHICAGO, June 9, 2020—Today, MacroPolo, Paulson Institute’s in-house think tank, launched The Global AI Talent Tracker. This data-driven report analyzes the global balance and movement of top scientists in artificial intelligence (AI) at a time when countries, companies, and institutions are moving to apply the power of AI to myriad economic and social issues. Attracting and retaining top AI talent is integral to gaining market share and is central to some of the most critical and contentious elements of industrial, innovation, and immigration policy.

The Global AI Talent Tracker highlights the movement of international talent determining the future of AI, movement that currently favors the United States. As the United States and China jockey for dominance in the AI space, understanding the current state of international competition in AI requires an earnest assessment of research and engineering talent. Building on MacroPolo’s analysis from 2018 and 2019, Matt Sheehan a fellow at MacroPolo and his co-author Ishan Banerjee focused on the Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) Conference—one of the largest, most popular, and most selective AI workshops, known for its focus on areas driving much of the modern AI boom.

They created a unique and extensive dataset of top-tier AI researchers, gathering data on where these individuals earned their undergraduate degrees, which graduate institutions they matriculated to, and where they are currently employed. From this information, Sheehan determines the current balance of AI research capabilities and identifies the international talent flows responsible for the current state of the AI industry.

The data and takeaways in MacroPolo’s Global AI Talent Tracker have implications for policy decisions related to national AI capabilities. “Today, the United States enjoys a huge advantage over all other countries because it attracts and retains the brightest AI scientists from all over the world. These researchers choose to come here to study and work, and the overwhelming majority of them stay in the US long term. But that advantage will disappear if the US begins closing its doors to these researchers from other countries, including China,” said Sheehan.

“Our unique research on the global flow of AI talent is as timely as it is relevant,” said Damien Ma. “Policy decisions need to be informed by sound data, especially in an environment where data-driven research is more accessible and more needed than ever. With this latest rollout, we at MacroPolo have consistently strived to bring high-quality analysis and products that are useful and yield distinct insights to our audiences across the business, policy, and technology worlds.”

The Global AI Talent Tracker sheds light on a system of international talent movement that will dictate the future of AI. The current flow of AI talent heavily favors the United States, though the US’ superior position is increasingly threatened by looming policy restrictions. This potential threat to US dominance of top-tier AI research presents an opening for other countries to close the gap by welcoming the highly mobile AI talent population, on whom the future of AI progress depends. Where this progress happens hinges increasingly on the actions of policymakers.

To learn more about the report, please visit


About the Paulson Institute
The Paulson Institute is a non-partisan, independent “think and do tank” dedicated to fostering a US-China relationship that serves to maintain global order in a rapidly evolving world. Our focus on US-China is dictated by the reality that it is the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world.  We operate at the intersection of economics, financial markets, and environmental protection by promoting market-based solutions to ensure green economic growth. Founded in 2011 by former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., the Institute is based in Chicago with offices in Washington and Beijing.

About MacroPolo
MacroPolo is the in-house think tank of the Paulson Institute in Chicago. MacroPolo decodes China’s economic arrival with incisive, market-relevant analysis and creative research products spanning three core areas: economics, technology, and politics.

MacroPolo is building a truly 21st century think tank. Instead of long research papers, MacroPolo specializes in thoughtfully designed digital interactives as well as dynamic content and databases. The think tank’s multinational team of experts provides timely commentary, valuable insights, and best-in-class research to market participants, corporate leaders, and policymakers.