‘Hotspots’ and international scientific collaboration

The OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011: Innovation and Growth in Knowledge Economies report was released on 20 September.  While I’ve only seen the summary (which is the source for the first three images below) and an informative entry (‘A Changing Landscape: University hotspots for science and technology‘) in the OECD’s Education Today weblog, it is interesting to see a now common pattern and message emerging in these types of reports, and in a series of like-minded conferences, workshops, and associated reports (e.g. the Royal Society’s excellent Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global Scientific collaboration in the 21st century, March 2011):

(a) relative stasis or decline in the OECD member countries (though they still do dominate, and will for decades to come);

(b) relatively fast growth within the so-called BRIC countries; and

(c) increased international collaboration, both as outcome and as aspiration.

And it is the aspiration for international collaboration that is particularly fascinating to ponder, for these types of scoreboards — analytical benchmarking cum geostrategic reframing exercises really — help produce insights on the evolving ‘lie of the land,’ while also flagging the ideal target spaces (countries, regions, institutions) for prospective future collaboration. National development processes and patterns thus drive change, but they interact in fascinating ways with the international collaborative process, which drives more international collaboration, and on it goes. As Alessandra Colecchia of the OECD puts it:

What does this [the changing landscape, and emerging 'hotspots'] mean and why is it important? As students and researchers become more mobile, new sets of elite universities outside of the US could materialize. Whether or not we call it the “Banyan” or “Bonsai” League is yet to be determined, but it is clear that OECD countries may no longer have the monopoly on scientific excellence in higher education.

Luckily for us, education is generally not a zero-sum game. When others gain important insights and breakthroughs in science and technology, the entire field benefits. So wherever you are in the world, you can wear your college sweatshirt with pride.

True, though questions remain about the principles/missions/agendas driving international collaboration. For example, there is an ongoing scramble in Europe and North America to link up with research-active Brazilian institutions of higher education; an issue nicely summarized in today’s OBHE story titled ‘Brazil leads the charge from Latin America.’

As noted in the fourth image below (which was extracted from the Royal Society’s Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global Scientific collaboration in the 21st century), the nature of coauthor-based collaboration with Brazil is changing, with some countries edging closer because scholar-to-scholar ties are deepening or thinning. The reconfiguration is most likely deepening from 2008 on as a slew of new policies, programs and projects get promoted and funded in both Brazil and actual or potential partner countries.

Some of the questions that come to my mind, after participating in some workshops where relations with Brazil are discussed include:

  • What values drive these new initiatives to reach out across space into and out of Brazil?
  • What disciplines are factored in (or not), and what types of researchers (junior? senior? elite? emerging?) get supported?
  • What languages are they dependent upon, and what languages will they indirectly promote?
  • Are these international collaboration drives built on the principle of ‘you are only as strong as your weakest link’ (i.e. an exclusive one), or are they attendant to the need for capacity building and longer time horizons for knowledge development?
  • Are these international collaboration drives built upon implicit and explicit principles of reciprocity, or otherwise?
  • What about the territorial dimensions of the development process? Will we see hotspot to ‘emerging hotspot’ linkages deepen, or will hotspots be linked up with non-hotspots and if so how, and why? Can an archipelago-like landscape of linked up hotspots ‘serve’ nations/regions/the world, or is it generative of exclusionary developmental tendencies?

These are but a few of many questions to ponder as we observe, and jointly construct, emerging ‘hotspots’ in the global higher education and research landscape.

Kris Olds

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Note: the first three images were extracted from the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011: Innovation and Growth in Knowledge Economies (Sept 2011). The fourth image was extracted from the Royal Society’s Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global Scientific collaboration in the 21st century (March 2011).

Brazil’s new Latin American and global integration universities launched

As 2009 drew to a close, Brazil’s Senate granted official authorization for the establishment of a new, very different kind of university in Brazil – the Federal University for Latin America Integration, otherwise known as UNILA.

Unanimously passed on December 16th 2009, the Bill now enables UNILA to formally announce itself as a university, instead of a fledging project under the banner of the Institute for Advanced Studies, with oversight by the University of Parana, in the Brazilian state of Parana.

UNILA is one of three regional integration universities launched by Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2006 to advance Brazil’s interests within the region and globally. The other two university projects are UNILAB – the Afro-Brazilian University of Integration, and UNIAM – the University of Amazonian Integration.

These Brazilian initiatives were the latest addition to a rapidly changing higher education landscape around the globe, and one that is set to continue in 2010 (as implied in a recent NY Times report about the implications of the collapse of Dubai’s overheated economy for branch campuses such as Michigan State University and Rochester Institute of Technology).

Dubai’s spectacular meltdown in December was matched by a stunning $61m launch party for Saudi Arabia’s ‘House of Wisdom’ – the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST which Kimberly Coulter covered for GlobalHigherEd.

As Kris Olds wrote in his introduction to Coulter’s entry:

KAUST is a unique experiment in how to organize an institution to facilitate innovation in scientific knowledge production, a secure and efficient compound (hence Saudi Aramco’s involvement), a defacto sovereign wealth fund, a demonstration effect for new approaches to higher education in Saudi Arabia, and many other things (depending on standpoint).

So what do these initiatives have in common? Money aside (KAUST has an endowment of around US$11bn), but like KAUST, Brazil’s three new universities reflect a shared ambition: to use international higher education networks to advance cultural, political and economic projects.

However while KAUST is aimed at developing a world class national university in Saudi Arabia via the recruitment of global talent (academics and students), state of the art buildings and cutting edge development projects, UNILA, UNILAB and UNIAM are aimed at creating a ‘supranational’, ‘global’ and ‘regional’  university respectively, drawing upon staff and students from within the wider region, or from across south-south networks (UNILAB) – though each,  as I will show below, have distinctive visions and territorial reaches with UNILAB the most global.

In August of 2009, I had the privilege of attending the official launch of UNILA.  Close to the fabulous Iguacu Falls,  in Foz, Parana, UNILA is being developed on a 43 hectare site granted by Itaipu Binacional, the bi-national energy company running the huge hydro-electric dam providing energy to Paraguay and the southern cone of Brazil.

The objectives of UNILA are to pursue inter-regional trans-disciplinary research and teaching in areas of joint interest of the MERCOSUL member countries (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay) focusing, for example, upon use of natural resources, trans-border biodiversity, social sciences and linguistic research, international relations as well as relevant disciplines for strategic development.

Unlike KAUST, however, whose model is US-oriented (in becoming the MIT of the East, the ‘Stanford by the Seashore’), UNILA’s mission and approach to knowledge is shaped by a distinctive Latin American commitment. Each course has a Patron and a Founder.

The first Patrons have been chosen for being Latin American names who have left relevant academic-scientific contributions associated to a field of knowledge , while course founders have been appointed for the high academic prestige in their respective fields of knowledge as well as renowned international competence in their specialities.

10 Professorial Chairs have been appointed to UNILA. Each Chair has a mandate to develop courses in ways that are inspired by, and advance, the intellectual legacy of the Patron. For instance, in the area of science, technology and innovation,  founding Chair, Hebe Vessuri, will draw inspiration from the patron Amilcar Herrerra (1920-1995) – an Argentinean geologist who valued inter-disciplinary knowledge and who have argued that the solution to problems lay not with science as progress, but in the interface with policy and politics.

These patrons are clearly not the organic intellectuals of the ruling classes. Many of these patrons, such as the Chilean writer Francisco Bilbao (1823-65), and Paraguay’s Augusto Roa Bastos (1917-2005), have spent years in exile.

The target student population for UNILA is 10,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and post-graduate programmes leading to MA and PhD degrees. Entrants will be required to sit a university entry examination that will be offered in two versions: one with a Portuguese language requirement for Brazilian citizens and a Spanish Language for the foreign candidates of eligible member countries. Lectures will be offered in both Portuguese and Spanish, as it is expected that half of the teaching staff will be from the regional member countries.

By way of contrast with UNILA, UNILAB is the most global in ambition. This unilateral Portuguese-speaking Afro-Brazilian University of Integration will have  campuses in various  Portuguese speaking countries (Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sâo Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor). Expected to open for enrolment in the beginning of   2010, UNILAB is hailed as a political-pedagogic innovation project (see here for information on UNILAB developments).

The principal aim of UNILAB is to encourage and strengthen co-operation, partnerships, and cultural, educational and scientific exchanges between Brazil an member states of   the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) listed above. UNILAB will also focus on collaboration with the African countries of the CPLP,  aiming to contribute to these nations’ socio-economic development, including reducing ‘brain drain’ problems currently experienced by African countries.

UNILAB is intended to become an integrated multi-campus institution with campuses in all the   African member countries of the CPLP. Each of these campuses will also be integrated within the regions where they are located. Its main campus will be established in the city of Redenção in Brazil’s North-Eastern state of Ceará, approximately 60 kilometres from the city of Fortaleza. Redenção has been selected to host the main campus because it was the first municipality that had abolished slavery in Brazil, and because the region currently does not yet host a university. The main campus is also expected to function as an instrument for the strategic social-economic development of the North-East of Brazil.

In a report carried by the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education on these initiatives, Brazil’s Minister of Education, Fernando Haddad, commented:

We will not offer traditional programmes, but instead we will construct a common identity between the countries, that makes it possible to contribute to the social-economic development of each of the countries involved.

The third, more regional, initiative, Universidade Federal da Integração Amazônica, or UNIAM, will be established as a public multi-campus university, with a main campus in the Brazilian city of Santarém, and three satellite campuses in the cities Itaituba, Monte Alegre and Oriximiná, all located in Brazil’s state of Pará.

The main aim of UNIAM will be to encourage social-economic integration of the Amazon region, which includes not only parts of Brazil, but also areas of eight surrounding countries.

UNIAM’s  main campus will be established in the Brazilian city of Santarém, and three satellite campuses in the cities Itaituba, Monte Alegre and Oriximiná, all located in Brazil’s state of Pará. The aim of the new institution will be to encourage social-economic integration of the Amazon region, which includes not only parts of Brazil, but also areas of eight surrounding countries.

While it is unclear at the moment when the new university will open for enrolment, by 2013 UNIAM is expected to offer 41 programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral levels.  The Brazilian government will reportedly cover the US$107 million budget that will be needed to pay for the establishment and personnel costs of the new university until 2012.

Described by the Brazilian Ministry of Education as particular ‘political-pedagogic innovation projects’, these three new universities are intended to enhance national, regional and global integration, and demonstrate to the world that it may be possible to unite different countries through education.

These are fascinating initiatives likely to liven up the global higher education landscape in 2010. They reflect not only emerging regionalisms, but potential shifts in the sites and stakes of global and regional knowledge production and power.

Susan Robertson

The global geographies of stem cell research activity and policy

Today’s Financial Times includes a full page analysis (‘An industry to grow‘) that examines aspects of state-society-economy relations with respect to stem cell research.

The author, Clive Cookson (who also runs the FT.com Science Blog), deftly weaves five threads through the article: the role of the state, and inter-state competition, in shaping a very geographically uneven development process; the role of key university-based researchers (like UW-Madison’s James Thomson) in spurring on innovation; the evolution of technology in shaping the research process and associated ethical debates; the evolving role of the private sector in fueling (or not) stem cell research and associated commercialization dynamics; and the factors shaping the actual and perceived temporal dimensions of stem cell research.

See below for some fascinating maps that the FT drew upon for their associated graphic in ‘An industry to grow‘. Our sincere gratitude to William Hoffman of the University of Minnesota’s Medical School for permission to reprint his maps.

Hoffmann1

Hoffmann2

Hoffmann3

Kris Olds

QS.com Asian University Rankings: niches within niches…within…

QS Asia 3Today, for the first time, the QS Intelligence Unit published their list of the top 100 Asian universities in their QS.com Asian University Rankings.

There is little doubt that the top performing universities have already added this latest branding to their websites, or that Hong Kong SAR will have proudly announced it has three universities in the top 5 while Japan has 2. QS Asia 2

QS.com Asian University Rankings is a spin-out from the QS World University Rankings published since 2005.  Last year, when the 2008 QS World University Rankings was launched, GlobalHigherEd posted an entry asking:  “Was this a niche industry in formation?”  This was in reference to strict copyright rules invoked – that ‘the list’ of decreasing ‘worldclassness’ could not be displayed, retransmitted, published or broadcast – as well as acknowledgment that rankings and associated activities can enable the building of firms such as QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd.

Seems like there are ‘niches within niches within….niches’ emerging in this game of deepening and extending the status economy in global higher education.  According to the QS Intelligence website:

Interest in rankings amongst Asian institutions is amongst the strongest in the world – leading to Asia being the first of a number of regional exercises QS plans to initiate.

The narrower the geographic focus of a ranking, the richer the available data can potentially be – the US News & World Report draws on 18 indicators, the Joong Ang Ilbo ranking in Korea on over 30. It is both appropriate and crucial then that the range of indicators used at a regional level differs from that used globally.

The objectives of each exercise are slightly different – whilst a global ranking seeks to identify truly world class universities, contributing to the global progress of science, society and scholarship, a regional ranking should adapt to the realities of the region in question.

Sure, the ‘regional niche’ allows QS.com to package and sell new products to Asian and other universities, as well as information to prospective students about who is regarded as ‘the best’.

However, the QS.com Asian University Rankings does more work than just that.  The ranking process and product places ‘Asian universities’ into direct competition with each other, it reinforces a very particular definition of ‘Asia’ and therefore Asian regionalism, and it services an imagined emerging Asian regional education space.

All this, whilst appearing to level the playing field by invoking regional sentiments.

Susan Robertson

More debates about foreign technology workers (many of whom were foreign students) in the USA

nytimesdebateFurther to our 6 April entry ‘Debating the possible decline of the USA’s attractiveness to foreign students and highly skilled foreign professionals‘, the New York Times sponsored a related debate (‘Do We Need Foreign Technology Workers?‘) on 8 April.  The six contributors (and the titles of their statements) are:

  • Vivek Wadhwa, Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University (‘Our Real Problem Is the Brain Drain’)
  • Norman Matloff, computer science professor, U.C. Davis (‘Suppressing Wages With Younger Workers’)
  • Guillermina Jasso, sociology professor, N.Y.U. (‘A Work Force in Motion’)
  • Ron Hira, public policy professor, Rochester Institute of Technology (‘Training Your Own Replacement’)
  • Mark Heesen, National Venture Capital Association (‘Why Reject Entrepreneurial Spirit?’)
  • John Miano, lawyer and computer programmer (‘Low Salaries, Low Skill’)

The debate has generated nearly 400 comments within day 1, and many (well some…) are worth reading to acquire a sense of the complexity of the issue and the often divergent viewpoints that exist.  Recall that the outcome of such debates have huge implications for graduate education in US universities, as well as the associated processes of ‘brain circulation’, ‘brain drain’, ‘brain gain’, etc.

I should add that the New York Times has a truly excellent group of cartographers on staff (I am biased here…some have UW-Madison ties).  The team has developed an associated interactive map (‘Immigration and Jobs: Where U.S. Workers Come From‘), and one of the many maps they produced is pasted in below.

nytimesmap

Kris Olds

Debating the possible decline of the USA’s attractiveness to foreign students and highly skilled foreign professionals

The USA’s experience with the ongoing economic crisis has been generating some illuminating debates about the possible tightening of post-graduation options for foreign students (including in the STEM disciplines, as well as in Business).  Today’s Washington Post, for example, includes an article titled ‘U.S. visa limits hit Indian workers: job offers rescinded or hard to come by‘. The article includes these two segments:

As the U.S. economy slows, highly skilled foreign professionals seeking work under various visa programs are finding it harder to get jobs. President Obama’s stimulus package stops U.S. companies, largely in banking and financial services, that take federal bailout money from hiring H-1B visa holders for two years if they have laid off American workers in the previous six months. The administration has vowed to tighten restrictions and step up oversight of all work visa applications.

The H-1B program brings in about 85,000 skilled foreign workers every year, ostensibly to fill jobs that U.S. workers cannot or will not do. But some companies in the science and technology fields, afraid of a backlash over hiring foreign professionals rather than American ones, are rescinding job offers. Analysts say it is part of a wave of mounting anger in the United States over work visas, especially at a time when more than half a million Americans are being laid off every month.

“Hiring H-1B visa holders has become as toxic as giving out corporate bonuses,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a Duke University professor and Harvard University research fellow.

….

During the past several months, the largest banks in the United States have announced 100,000 job cuts, [Bernard] Sanders said. Those same banks, which are receiving $150 billion in a taxpayer-funded bailout package, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for positions such as senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers and human resources specialists, Sanders said, citing an Associated Press review of visa applications that the banks filed with the Labor Department.

As the economy worsened last year and employees were laid off, the number of visas sought by the dozen banks in the AP analysis increased by nearly a third, from 3,258 in fiscal 2007 to 4,163 in fiscal 2008.

More than 5 million jobs have been lost since the U.S. economy fell into recession more than a year ago, according to the Labor Department.

But many immigration experts say shutting out the talent from abroad will only hurt U.S. competitiveness in the long run. “It’s really unfortunate because we will lose an entire generation of wonderful minds as a by-product,” Wadhwa said. “The next Google or Silicon Valley will be in Bangalore or Beijing.”

Nations such as Canada, Singapore and Australia have created “fast-track” immigration policies and incentives to attract foreign professionals.

kauffmanrepcover

A 1 April 2009 article (‘A rush for work visas even as demand dips‘) in the New York Times covers similar terrain.

This debate is being entered from a variety of perspectives.  One that is particularly relevant to GlobalHigherEd was put forward by AnnaLee Saxenian in the Financial Times on 29 March 2009 in a piece titled ‘Soapbox: Cold welcome in the US‘. Saxenian, author of some key books on regional development (Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128) as well as skilled migration (The New Argonauts), links the tightening of borders to the possible emergence of challenges to US universities to recruit the best and the brightest foreign students.  She frames the issue this way:

As policymakers in Europe and Asia create incentives to attract talented immigrants, there is growing resentment towards foreign workers in the US, based on the mistaken view that they displace native-born workers. In fact, foreign-born scientists have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, billions of dollars of revenue and substantial wealth in the US, primarily in high-technology sectors.

It is natural that many immigrants wish to return home. And economies benefit from “brain circulation” and the global ties that highly skilled immigrants build with their home country counterparts. These “new Argonauts” have contributed to the emergence of dynamic new centres of entrepreneurship and innovation in developing regions from Taiwan and Israel to Bangalore and Shanghai.

But circulation is a two-way street. The survey suggests the US is losing the openness that made it a magnet for the most talented immigrants. The health of US universities depends on the economy. In coming years, even the greatest universities will be challenged as developing economies invest their own systems of higher education.

Saxenian’s article draws from collaborative work being supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (see a recent report cover above).

Will the economic problems facing US university budgets also be matched by a decline in interest in coming to US universities given (a) concern about the lack of opportunity to acquire employment in the US after graduation, and (b) the emergence of more tantalizing and/or accessible higher education opportunities in other countries?

And what is being done to indirectly open up higher education systems, and post-graduation employment opportunities, in non-US countries such that they can take advantage of the political and economic challenges being faced in the US? Take note, for example, of the service sector impact figures I just reported on in Australia (see ‘Making sense of the economic contribution of international students in Australia (up to 2008)‘) that undeniably play a role in advocacy and lobbying to keep Australian borders open to foreign students, especially from countries like China and India (that have historically streamed towards the US).

The possible decline of the US as a key student migration destination, and subsequent place of employment, might be good or bad depending on which perspective one adopts, yet it is clearly worth thinking about given the unsettling effects it would have upon the global higher education landscape.

Kris Olds

Update: link here for the 31 March 2009 NAFSA Statement: H-1B Visas, which includes this segment:

As America and the world fall deeper into recession, it is important to break free of the rhetoric of the political debate and refocus on the fundamentals. One fundamental is that talent is always a scarce resource. There is not enough of it to go around, and every country needs more of it. Talent is also, in today’s world, highly mobile. Our economy is part of a global economy, and our job market is part of a global job market. In such a market, employers look for the talent they need wherever they can find it, and students and skilled workers look for the places to study and work that offer them the most opportunity.

To turn away individuals with skills that we need, who want to live and work in America, under the illusion that by doing so we are protecting our economy, is to deny ourselves a resource that we need to help pull us out of the recession and put our economy on a sound footing for the future. It will cost jobs, not save them.