This study investigates the influence of cross-border recruitment programs in China, which confer scientists with a “talent hat,” including an attractive startup package, on their future performance and career development. By curating a unique data set from China’s 10-year talent recruitment program, we employed multiple matching designs to quantify the effects of the cross-border recruitment with talent hats on early-career STEM scholars. Our findings indicate that the cross-border talents perform better than their comparable contenders who move without talent hats and those who do not move in terms of publication numbers, citation, publication quality, and collaborator numbers, given equivalent scientific performance before relocation. Moreover, we observed that scholars in experimental fields derive more significant benefits from the talent program than those in nonexperimental fields. Finally, we investigated how the changes in the scientific environment of scientists affect their future performance. We found that talents who reassembled their collaboration network with new collaborators in new institutions after job replacement experienced significant improvements in their academic performance. However, shifting research directions entails risks, which results in a subsequent decrease in future academic performances following the relocation. This study has significant implications for young scientists, research institutions, and governments concerning cultivating cross-border talents.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Author notes

Handling Editor: Li Tang

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For a full description of the license, please visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode.

Supplementary data