The globalization of science, engineering, and medical research is proceeding rapidly. As the National Science Board (2010) points out, “S&E (science and engineering) activities are occurring and intensifying in more regions and economies, largely in response to recognition by governments that S&E research and development (R&D) leads to economic growth, employment, and overall social well-being of their citizens.” For example, researchers working outside the United States, Europe, and Japan account for a growing share of the peer reviewed literature. The share of scientific publications and patents that is internationally co-authored has increased from eight percent to 22 percent over the past several decades (NSB, 2010). And international collaborative research projects such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN are critically important to the advance of knowledge.
The globalization of research has important implications for the U.S. research enterprise, for the U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and companies that support and perform research, and for the world at large. As science and technology capabilities grow around the world, U.S.-based organizations are finding that international collaborations and partnerships provide unique opportunities to enhance research and training. At the same time, significant obstacles exist to smooth collaboration across national borders. Enhancing international collaboration requires recognition of differences in culture, legitimate national security needs, and critical needs in education and training.
FIGURE 1-1 International coauthorship of S&E articles, by region/country: 1988–2007.
EU = European Union
NOTES: Asia-8 includes India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. EU includes all 27 member states. Articles classified by year that they entered the database and assigned to region/country on basis of authors’ institutional address(es). For internationally coauthored articles, each collaborating country or sector credited one count.
SOURCES: Thomson Reuters, Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index, http://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/; The Patent BoardTM; and National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, special tabulations. This figure originally appeared in National Science Board. 2010. Science and Engineering Indicators 2010. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.
In response to these trends, the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR) launched a Working Group on International Research Collaborations (I-Group) in 2008, following its meeting on New Partnerships on a Global Platform that June. Sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, GUIRR serves as a forum for dialogue among the top leaders of government and non-government research organizations. GUIRR and two organizational affiliates, the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) and the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP), facilitate research collaborations in the U.S. context. Past GUIRR discussions have also covered important aspects of the international environment for research activities (see Thursby and Thursby, 2006, which was commissioned by GUIRR).
l-Group was formed to examine international research collaborations in a systematic, practical way. The goal is to work with stakeholders to develop a more structured approach to collaborations and help companies and universities deal with various cultural, administrative, and legal complexities in undertaking them. According to its Statement of Purpose, I-Group “engages in dialogue and discussion to facilitate international collaborations among academic, government, and industrial partners by: (1) identifying policies and operations that enhance our ability to collaborate; (2) identifying barriers to collaboration—policies and operations that could be improved; (3) developing a web-based resource or other compendium of successful strategies and methodologies; and (4) suggesting how barriers might be addressed.”
As part of I-Group’s continuing effort, a workshop on Examining Core Elements of International Research Collaboration was held July 26-27, 2010 in Washington, DC. The National Research Council formed a Planning Committee to organize the activity. The charge to the Planning Committee was as follows:
An ad hoc committee will plan and conduct a two-day public workshop on international research collaborations. The agenda of the workshop will be developed with topics to enhance international understanding and diminish barriers to research collaborations, providing an important forum for the expected participants from scientific and engineering research communities in the U.S. and other countries. Issues to be addressed in the workshop include the following: (1) Cultural Differences and Nuances; (2) Legal Issues and Agreements; (3) Differences in Ethical Standards; (4) Research Integrity
and the Responsible Conduct of Research; (5) Intellectual Property; (6) Risk Management; (7) Export Controls; and (8) Strategies for Developing Meaningful International Collaborations. An individually-authored workshop summary will be published. In addition, a password-protected website will be created to permit workshop participants and others to post questions and share information on specific tools for research collaboration that have been useful to practitioners.
The Planning Committee was assisted by GUIRR staff and volunteers from numerous GUIRR member organizations in organizing the meeting. The workshop brought together subject matter experts from universities, government, and companies/corporations in the United States and other nations to share perspectives on the opportunities and challenges presented by international research collaborations, and examples of successful approaches. The agenda included plenary sessions that provided expert overviews of various issues, and breakout discussions to allow for a deeper sharing of perspectives. Following the workshop, the rapporteurs prepared this summary, which reports the main themes that emerged from workshop presentations and discussions. The organization of the summary follows that of the workshop by focusing on the “core elements” of international research collaborations identified in the Planning Committee charge. The goal for the workshop and the summary is to serve as an information resource for participants and others interested in international research collaborations. It will also aid I-Group in setting its future goals and priorities.
Financial support for the activity was provided by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the U.S. Army, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Institutes of Health.
In his opening remarks at the workshop University of Maryland President Emeritus C. D. (Dan) Mote, Jr. noted that the overall environment for international collaborative research is very positive, with significant freedom of action for institutions. However, the context is also characterized by risks that may not be well understood by participants new to cross-border partnerships. The formation and pursuit of international research collaborations is largely a decentralized process. As the president of a major public
1In this section and other sections summarizing presentations, views and opinions are attributed to the presenter unless stated otherwise.
research university, Dr. Mote faced few constraints in concluding research collaboration agreements with foreign governments, academic institutions, and companies. He estimated that the University of Maryland at College Park has over 50 agreements with entities in China alone.
Agreements are not only concluded at the University of Maryland’s central administration level—schools, departments and even individual faculty and student groups can conclude agreements with non-U.S. counterparts to pursue collaborative research. Particularly in the case of broad memoranda of understanding, special permissions are not generally required.
The types of governmental organizations participating are also proliferating. They can include multilateral organizations (such as the World Bank) and governments at all levels (including municipalities and tribal governments). Industry partners may be large, established multinational enterprises or small start-ups.
Partnerships become more vulnerable to pitfalls at the point where collaborative research is made operational through the allocation or transfer of funds, the specification of deliverables, and the development of concrete research plans. One primary goal of the workshop, Dr. Mote said, is to better understand the risks involved in international research collaboration for organizations and individual participants, and the mechanisms that can be used to manage those risks.
Kathie L. Olsen, Vice President for International Programs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), now Founder and Managing Director of ScienceWorks, LLC, was a keynote speaker at the workshop. She pointed out that the advantages of international research collaborations are being more widely recognized. At the same time, globalization poses some challenges to the United States. These challenges also represent opportunities to renew U.S. strengths.
For example, students may represent a competitive strength for the United States. Many campuses have multiple international research efforts. U.S. industry needs employees who are comfortable working in international settings. How can research be integrated with year-abroad and other educational programs to provide expanded opportunities for U.S. students? What should academic research programs look like in five or ten years? Can U.S. universities plan strategically so that students are prepared, research is enhanced, and U.S. global competitiveness is strengthened?
Dr. Olsen explained that part of the context is that the number of foreign students in the United States far exceeds the number of American
students abroad, although the latter has been growing consistently (IIE, 2010). Beyond the raw numbers, the characteristics of U.S. study abroad do not reflect overall U.S. international engagement and the overall U.S. population in significant ways. For example, Europe is the predominant study abroad destination, accounting for about half of the opportunities in recent years. In terms of subjects studied, social sciences, business management, humanities, fine and applied arts, and foreign languages combined make up about two-thirds of the total, with science, engineering, and related fields making up less than 20 percent. Over eighty percent of the students are white, and almost two-thirds are female.
Dr. Olsen encouraged GUIRR and its membership to stay engaged with the issue of international research collaborations, and to lead strategic thinking on how to maximize the benefit of these collaborations to the U.S. research enterprise.
IIE (Institute for International Education). 2010. Open Doors 2010. Washington, DC.
National Science Board. 2010. Globalization of Science and Engineering Research: A Companion to Science and Engineering Indicators 2010. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. Available online at: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsb1003/.
Jerry Thursby and Marie Thursby. 2006. Here or There? A Survey of Factors in Multinational R&D Location. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11675.