and work things out informally. As a result, misunderstandings can develop when the project is undertaken.

A written collaboration agreement does not supersede other sorts of agreements that exist in research, such as material transfer agreements, data use agreements, confidentiality agreements, cooperative research and development agreements, and memoranda of understanding. These are all important but none of them addresses some of the key issues discussed above.


Philip Altbach, Director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, emphasized one key takeaway: researchers should know about the universities and academic systems in which their potential overseas partners work.

World higher education has been expanding dramatically in the latter half of the 20th century and will continue to expand. In the rich countries, the rate of expansion has by and large stopped. In fact most of the growth in global higher education in the coming years will come from China and India.

In the United States, most research is performed in doctoral-granting institutions. In much of the world doctoral education is not well-developed. The majority of those individuals teaching in colleges and universities around the world (excluding the top institutions) do not have doctorates. There are essentially two approaches to doctoral education around the world. It is important to understand what they are and how that is developing. One is the American style PhD, or course doctorate, which involves heavy coursework, a dissertation and examinations. In contrast, most doctorates in most of the rest of the world are research doctorates, where students register for a PhD, write a dissertation under a supervisor, and get the degree when it is complete. There is a move globally, in the direction of the American style PhD or a modified American style PhD.

Dr. Altbach explained that the academic culture of a potential collaborator may be an important influence on their priorities and behavior. For example, countries may lack full academic freedom, which may raise issues connected with access to data and controls over the Internet, even in science and engineering. Some research topics may be restricted. University corruption in admissions, examinations, and promotions is also a problem in some countries. Even if one’s collaborator is not corrupt and wants to do the right thing, their context may make it difficult for them.

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