“The role of international collaborations in advancing knowledge and offering economic opportunities worldwide is growing, thanks to factors such as access to the Internet; globalization; and greater mobility of information, ideas, and people. Though international research collaborations also are growing (as measured, for example, by multinational co-authorship on publications and shared funding for international research projects), there are bottlenecks and frictions that can pose impediments to meaningful and successful international collaborations. This track will look broadly at trends and issues that pertain to fostering productive international collaboration from the point of view of governments, universities, and industry.” (Workshop Agenda)
The opening panel of the workshop on Examining Core Elements of International Research Collaboration featured several different perspectives on the overall environment for collaboration. Lawrence Gumbiner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Science, Space and Health, dis-
1In this section and other sections summarizing presentations, views and opinions are attributed to the presenter unless stated otherwise.
cussed how effective collaboration in science and technology can advance broader U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Although science and technology have long played a role in U.S. foreign relations, they are receiving renewed emphasis from the current administration. One indicator of the overall importance of science is the recruitment of several Nobel laureates to fill key executive branch positions, including Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, National Cancer Institute Director Harold Varmus, and Office of Science and Technology Policy Associate Director of Science Carl Wieman.
President Obama (2009) laid out the broad philosophical context for international research cooperation in a speech at the National Academy of Sciences: “So many of the challenges that science and technology will help us meet are global in character…. That is why my administration is ramping up participation in and our commitment to international science and technology cooperation across the many areas where it is clearly in our interest to do so.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reinforced this commitment. For example, she has stated (2009) that “science diplomacy and science and technology cooperation between the U.S. and other countries is one of our most effective ways of influencing and assisting other nations and creating real bridges between the United States and counterparts.”
Mr. Gumbiner explained that international cooperation in science and technology delivers several concrete benefits to the United States. The first benefit is that it opens doors. In many countries where political and economic relations with the United States are difficult or complex, scientists can and do work together to find answers and promote human advancements. This was true in the case of science and technology collaboration during the Cold War with countries behind the Iron Curtain, and the same is true today in relations with countries such as Cuba, Syria, and Iran.
The second benefit is problem solving. Many pressing global challenges have a scientific or technological component. Researchers gain greater access to information, ideas, and facilities through international collaboration. This can facilitate a more rapid advancement of knowledge and discoveries.
A third benefit of international science and technology collaboration is that it builds lasting relationships. While science has always transcended borders, the current level of global interaction among scientists is unprecedented. The communications revolution and today’s open innovation model allow scientists to partner with colleagues worldwide. Even in the heavily networked world of today, face-to-face meetings still play a critical
role. American scientists and engineers who have benefited from opportunities to work abroad testify to the value of their lifelong connections. Lasting relationships also deliver benefits at the national level, allowing the United States to share the costs of science, particularly for large, expensive facilities where the cost of going it alone would be prohibitive. One such example is ITER (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor).
Finally, Mr. Gumbiner pointed out that science and technology cooperation is a powerful tool for promoting democratic values. Scientific discovery is based on open and fluid discussion, and conclusions are based on fact, not on issues of national origin, age, ethnicity, gender, or political views. These values and the approach to international relations are close to the core of what the United States seeks to do internationally.
The U.S. Department of State promotes science in several ways, serving to coordinate and support over 20 technical agencies that actually implement collaborative programs. The State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) plays a key institutional role, including the negotiation and management of bilateral science and technology agreements, of which there are currently 47. These agreements create a framework for bilateral cooperation by facilitating the exchange of scientific results; increasing access to data, ideas, and facilities for researchers; addressing taxation issues; and responding to the complex set of issues associated with economic development, security, and stability. Intellectual property is often a key element of these agreements. For the most part, bilateral S&T agreements are funded through the annual budgets of research agencies.
The Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State is a position created about a decade ago in response to a National Academies report (NRC, 1999). Key tasks for the S&T Adviser are to build partnerships with international scientific communities; provide accurate advice; enhance science and technology literacy and capacity within the Department of State; and shape a global perspective on scientific and technological developments. The Department of State and individual bureaus also make use of less formal mechanisms for incorporating science into policymaking, such as fellows programs.
According to Mr. Gumbiner, another important policy area related to international cooperation is visa processing for foreign researchers. The Department of State has made significant progress in easing the difficulties some foreign researchers have experienced due to post 9/11 visa processing changes.
The Department of State also participates in several relevant activities of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), including the Global Science Forum, which recently completed work on dealing with allegations of research misconduct in international projects, and is developing a compendium on issues and options for establishing large-scale facilities.
Eduardo López Moreno, Director of the Urban Monitoring Division of the United Nations Human Settlements Division (UN-HABITAT), identified tasks in developing urban areas that can be addressed through international research collaboration. The Urban Monitoring Division is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and is charged with research on urban trends and urban policy analysis. It is responsible for producing UN-HABITAT’s bi-annual State of the Cities report, which identifies urban trends around the world. One of its main thrusts is the global sample of cities—about 500 cities around the world that are monitored constantly in order to discern trends that can be extrapolated to the rest of the world’s urban areas.
A second thrust is a project called “local urban observatories,” of which there are currently about 350. These are local groups of stakeholders that often include universities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), sometimes with the involvement of government. The local urban observatories produce urban indicators and policy analysis, performing studies for UN-HABITAT.
These programs provide opportunities for international research collaboration, with the ultimate goal of effecting positive change in cities, as opposed to advancing science or knowledge per se. One important issue is developing definitions that can be accepted broadly. For example, what is meant by “adequate housing”? There may be agreement that housing is a fundamental problem, but each stakeholder will use their own context to develop solutions. NGOs may tend to see adequate housing through the prism of advancing human rights, government through the prism of improving its technical approaches, and owners of land or real estate through the prism of their own interests. It is important to develop operational definitions that are nonthreatening to local actors. This can be helpful in creating conditions that are conducive to collaboration and to building local consensus.
Dr. López-Moreno cited Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, which is “to have achieved (by 2020) a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.” At that time there was not an agreed definition of what constitutes a slum in Mexico, in
China, or in Africa. Ultimately, a definition was developed that is based on five key indicators: (1) lack of access to water, (2) extent of public sanitation, (3) percent of durable structures, (4) overcrowding, and (5) security of tenure. This allows the United Nations to conduct analysis and track developments over time in a sustainable way, even in countries that may prefer to avoid the issue.
Another project undertaken by UN-HABITAT examined 250 cities in the developing world to find out what drives prosperity and positive change in these particular communities. The Latin American research concluded that cities prosper because of civil society and cultural and political rights; the Asian research concluded that national government efforts are critical; and African research focused on the importance of private sector activity. This illustrates that even research that is scientifically conceived and defined has fundamental limits in the cultural and ideological position of development in these regions. In UN-HABITAT’s own analysis, the ability of local, central, and provincial governments to articulate a vision of change and work together was very important to driving prosperity and positive change. Analysis of best practices is also important, but has limitations.
Finally, organizational partners in developing countries may have been created decades ago with very specific missions that may be outmoded. For example, although 60 percent of cities and regions are shrinking in populations, institutions aimed at controlling urban growth may still be developing policies. Rather than “smart growth,” it is necessary to think about “smart shrinking.”
Rafic Makki, Executive Director of the Office of Planning and Strategic Affairs, Abu Dhabi Education Council, spoke about how international partnerships fit into Abu Dhabi’s overall strategy for upgrading higher education. Abu Dhabi, home of the capital and largest Emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has developed its higher education strategy in order to meet changing human capital requirements that are resulting from major diversification of the economy. Dr. Makki estimated that the Emirate needed to add 232,000 workers over the next five years, with about 50,000 being Emirati citizens and the rest international.
Abu Dhabi has outlined ambitious plans to transition over the next several decades from an oil-based economy (oil currently accounts for over
60 percent of output) to one based on leadership in international exchange, culture, and media. These knowledge-based activities will require higher education institutions to become more research-focused, to produce graduates with the skills needed by employers, to raise the quality of instruction, and to expand access. The economic sectors of particular focus are semiconductor, aerospace, renewable energy, and health. Steady progress is being made. Starting from scratch a few years ago, Abu Dhabi has already moved into third place in the world in contract semiconductor manufacturing.
Dr. Makki explained that Abu Dhabi’s higher education strategy is centered around four priorities (Figure 2-1: Abu Dhabi Higher Education Strategy). The Emirate is poised to devote significant resources to research and education, with public investments in research projected to increase to 0.75 percent of GDP by 2019.
International collaboration has been central to developing Abu Dhabi’s higher education strategy, and strategic international partnerships will play an important role in pursuing it. For example, higher education institutions will be encouraged to seek accreditation from internationally recognized bodies, and to create the research environment needed to attract and retain world-class researchers. International higher education partners include INSEAD2 in business education, University of Paris-Sorbonne in science and law, Mohammed V University (Morocco) in Islamic Studies, and New York University, which has established a campus in Abu Dhabi.
International collaboration is not without challenges. For example, two foreign universities that established campuses in another Emirate have closed. Abu Dhabi is pursuing a partnership strategy that ensures long-term stability through carefully developed strategic and business plans.
Another perspective on how international research collaboration can advance national goals was provided by Professor Low Teck Seng, Deputy Managing Director of A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology, and Research) and Executive Director of A*STAR’s Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) in Singapore. For some time science and technology have been recognized as the driving force behind the rapid economic growth of this island nation in Southeast Asia. Singapore’s economy is 254 times as large as it was when it gained independence in 1965. Gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) is three percent of GDP, one of
2INSEAD (Institut européen d’administration des affaires) is a graduate business school based in France, with campuses and research centers in several other locations around the world.
FIGURE 2-1 Abu Dhabi Higher Education Strategy. Abu Dhabi has identified four priorities and associated flagship initiatives
NOTES: ADEC=Abu Dhabi Education Council; Mubadala=Mubadala Development Company, an investment vehicle of the Government of Abu Dhabi, which has a mission of helping diversify the Emirate’s economy through long-term, capital-intensive investments.
SOURCE: Rafic Makki.
the highest levels in the world. Singapore often benchmarks itself against Norway, because the populations are similar, at about 5 million, and GDP is similar. Singapore is much smaller in land area, however, at 700 square kilometers (a bit larger than Howard County, Maryland).
Singapore’s approach to S&T strategy has always been collaborative and outward-looking. It started with the movement of disk drive manufacturing from the United States to Singapore in the 1980s, starting with Seagate (a global leader in the manufacturer of hard drives and storage solutions). In a few years just about all the major disk drive companies were manufacturing in Singapore. By the late 1990s it was recognized that in order to keep the disk drive industry it would be necessary to build a stronger infrastructure in the areas of R&D and education.
Professor Low pointed out that Singapore’s explicit S&T strategy was launched in the early 1990s. Building on successful initiatives such as the Data Storage Institute—today the leading center for storage technology development as measured by papers and patents—the country has seen rapid growth in R&D spending. This period has also seen several periods of retrenchment, notably during the Asian economic crisis of 1997-1998. The 2008-2009 global recession has also brought challenges. In response to each setback, Singapore has reexamined its strategies and redoubled its commitment to fostering R&D activities.
A*STAR represents Singapore in the development of international collaborative activities with government agencies in the United States, Europe, and Asia. For example, A*STAR co-funds joint grants with the United Kingdom (UK) Medical Research Council for research collaboration between researchers in Singapore and the UK. Similar agency-to-agency joint funding programs are in place with Japan and China. When new initiatives of this type are launched, joint workshops are held involving researchers from each country to explore interest in working together.
A*STAR also helps to facilitate relationships with international universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The new CREATE campus at the National University of Singapore will support cutting edge research efforts by several foreign universities. A*STAR also continues to work directly with international companies in storage, microelectronics, and aerospace.
Research funding and collaboration are complemented by efforts to support education and to attract talented foreigners to Singapore, both students and senior scientists and engineers. The goal is to sustain Singapore as a global S&T node.
Dr. John Kirkland, Deputy Secretary-General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), discussed some of the broad trends in international research collaboration that he sees, and implications for institutions entering partnerships. Founded in 1913, the ACU is the oldest international association of universities, with over 500 members located in 54 countries. Two-thirds of member institutions are located in the “developing Commonwealth.”
Research management is one of several priority focus areas for ACU. The Global Research Management Network was launched in 2005 and brings together research practitioners around the world. Activities include benchmarking, strengthening research management systems in the developing world, and professional development.
Dr. Kirkland suggested that developed and developing country institutions be clear about commonalities and differences when they develop collaborative agreements. The commonalities include curiosity regarding the core research questions, the process being led by individuals and research teams rather than institutions, and a trend toward competitively-awarded projects. The differences may include resources, institutional infrastructure, time, and incentives. In the developing world, for example, academic salaries may not cover all of a faculty member’s salary, and they may operate more like a small business. Institutions may not have a research office. Expectations for how problems are handled during the project should be adjusted accordingly.
At the broad, conceptual level, sides need to be clear on how they and their prospective partner answer some simple questions: What are you trying to achieve? Why this partner? Who are you really dealing with? What is their motivation? What outcome would make both parties happy? The issues that arise in practice include the allocation of tasks, finances, contracts, intellectual property, continuation of the partnership, and public presentation. The partnership will benefit from clarity and directness upfront.
Nina Fedoroff, Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State and to the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), gave the keynote talk at the workshop. Dr. Fe-
doroff was in the last week of her government service at the time of the workshop, and reflected on successful examples of international research collaborations.
One successful example from the 1990s is the Nunn-Lugar program to redirect weapons scientists from the former Soviet Union with U.S. funding motivated by a desire to prevent nuclear proliferation. In parallel, the International Science Foundation, funded by George Soros, supported research and the provision of scientific literature to former Soviet scientists. Both of these programs changed over time to adapt to new conditions.
Today, the United States may be embarking on a new era of using science in an international setting, with recognition that science is one of America’s best diplomatic tools. One initiative that is a successor to those in the former Soviet Union is the Iraqi Virtual Science Library, a web portal for Iraqi scientists that the U.S. government developed with participation from Sun Microsystems. Today, the advent of digital technology has made the dissemination of scientific literature much easier.
Online access to scientific information is still a problem, but even underserved areas such as Africa are adding significant network infrastructure. There is still a lack of people-to-people connections to a large extent. Many of the university-to-university agreements between U.S. and developing country institutions are not on the radar of the average researcher. This may constitute a “last mile” problem in human terms, analogous to the problem of providing broadband access over the “last mile” to individual homes and organizations.
Dr. Federoff stated that many higher income developing countries now have mechanisms to fund their own investigators, but may face independent applications processes. Are there ways of reviewing collaborators at the same time in both countries? The United States does have some agreements with individual agencies abroad, but this is not done across the board.
Even longstanding international research programs such as the Human Frontier Science Program are difficult to sustain because of the need for annual appropriations from governments. The Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation was endowed some time ago, but this is an exception.
One very successful bilateral collaborative effort is the Pakistani-U.S. Science and Technology Agreement, where USAID and the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan each contributed funding to implement. The National Academy of Sciences independently reviews the applications for funding, and then there is a joint meeting. The program has accomplished
remarkable things, such as bringing telemedicine to Pakistan, retrofitting buildings following the 2005 earthquake, and creating electronic health records.
Hillary Rodham Clinton. 2009. Remarks at the Town Hall on the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review at the Department of State. July 10. Available at: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/july/125949.htm.
Barack Obama. 2009. Remarks by the President at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting. April 27. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarksby-the-President-at-the-National-Academy-of-Sciences-Annual-Meeting/.
National Research Council. 1999. The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in Foreign Policy: Imperatives for the Department of State. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9688.
United Nations Human Settlements Program. 2010. State of the World’s Cities 2010-2011: Bridging the Urban Divide. London: Earthscan.
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