Chinese government funding of R&D ranks third in the world. Yet China ranks only 17th in terms of scientific productivity per unit of investment. The author recently conducted fieldwork on the team structure of 22 Chinese stem cell research groups. Interview data suggest that although Chinese research groups closely resemble their international counterparts in many respects, there are also significant differences which are perceived by interviewees to affect levels of scientific productivity. One characteristic of Chinese research teams is a common deficiency in middle-layer positions. This shortage of experienced professionals is perceived by scientists participating in this study to have led to two consequences. First, inexperienced student researchers often form the backbone of scientific teams in China, which leads to frequent interruptions of research and extended laboratory training. Second, research teams consist of a relatively small number of personnel. These structural features are seen to create excessive social boundaries, which impede the exchange of information and further worsens the segmentation of resources. This article engages the question of the extent to which interviewees’ local ‘embedded’ understandings of these difficulties may make a productive contribution to the analysis of the structural, and infra-structural, organization of Chinese professional bioscience teams
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