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International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences: Report of a Workshop Introduction International collaborations in behavioral and social sciences research can be immensely fruitful. These collaborations enable researchers to go beyond a view of culture as a static variable to be examined in isolation or controlled in an analysis. They give substance to often-repeated sentiments that the interesting actions are in the interactions—those associations that look different in different settings or contexts. They allow the study of rare health conditions and bio-environment-behavior interactions important to health and disease. They can mobilize a global network to consider and refine important ideas concerning education and psychological interventions, as well as social policies. They can give researchers new insights as they solve an unexpected problem. They can encourage more sensitive importing and exporting of ideas in the social and behavioral sciences by expanding the range of research topics as well as the scientific methods used to address them. They have the potential, for example, to address the plasticity of behavior in different environments and a variety of cognitive styles, and to increase the external validity of research. In summary, the research undertaken in international collaborations has the potential to inform theory, methods, education and training, policy, and practice. The processes constituting these collaborations, which can be seen as complex forms of joint activity, deserve attention along with their scientific results. These collaborations also face a variety of obstacles. What are the challenges and impediments to undertaking international research collaborations? How have researchers negotiated these hurdles? What are
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International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences: Report of a Workshop the trade-offs encountered in international collaborations that should be acknowledged and that can be managed? How can these difficulties serve as learning opportunities? What steps could be taken to facilitate more frequent and more fruitful international research collaborations? On October 5-6, 2006, the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Psychological Science convened the International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Workshop. There these issues were addressed, with the benefit of the experience, perspectives, and reflections of a number of behavioral and social scientists who have participated in international research projects. The workshop assembled individuals who have collaborated internationally, constructed international databases, helped establish research institutes and training programs abroad, created training programs for foreign scholars, and surveyed researchers who have been involved in international collaborations (see Appendix B). Workshop participants discussed their experiences, insights, and approaches to a variety of research challenges and offered a number of suggestions for facilitating and maximizing the scientific contributions of international research collaborations in the behavioral and social sciences. Although the focus of the workshop was primarily on encouraging U.S. behavioral and social scientists to engage in international research collaboration, the workshop’s findings may be relevant to researchers in other countries and other fields. COLLABORATION: INTERNATIONAL, CROSS-CULTURAL, MULTIDISCIPLINARY Although the workshop’s title was “International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences Research,” workshop participants were cognizant that coordinating work across national borders involves other kinds of border crossings. Collaboration with researchers in other parts of the world entails moving back and forth across cultural, linguistic, disciplinary, institutional, and political boundaries. The cluster of disciplines studying a particular phenomenon will vary in different settings. Academic disciplines are not equivalent in different parts of the world. For example, educational psychology may be the most highly developed area of psychology in one country and experimental psychology the most highly developed in another. Social psychology and social work may have close connections in one country but not another. Health psychology, which is well developed in the United States, does not even exist in some parts of the world. In addition, a
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International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences: Report of a Workshop given issue may attract psychological theorists in one country and empirical researchers in another. Ways of handling and managing data, including expectations regarding access to datasets, will not necessarily be similar across nations. Within research teams, negotiations about power and status may be complex and reflect different expectations of authorship or control over research design. Conventional work habits, including pacing, workloads, vacations, or sensitivity to deadlines and reporting requirements, may vary. What is considered adequate protection for human subjects also may differ. The concept of consent—what it consists of and who may provide it on behalf of whom—is different in different parts of the world. Thus, crossing an international border to conduct research will entail negotiation and cooperation across different institutional arrangements, educational backgrounds, cultural expectations, research habits, funding patterns, and public policy concerns. The point of this workshop was not to labor over the terminology or to arrive at agreed-upon definitions of international research, cross-cultural studies, cultural psychology, transnational communities of practice, or global perspectives on social science. Rather, workshop participants understood collaboration to involve potentially crossing several types of boundaries. The focus was on the specific challenges to research collaborations undertaken across boundaries and how to surmount the barriers and maximize the mutual benefits of such endeavors. Workshop participants therefore sought to identify the unique value of international research collaborations, current barriers to undertaking such collaborations, and avenues to improving and facilitating these initiatives. A number of good suggestions were generated during the discussion at the workshop and are summarized in Chapter 3. While committee members recognize that such a list would have been helpful to the community, it was outside the parameters established for this workshop report.