HUBzero cyberinfrastructure for scientific collaboration

Over the next several months we will be exploring various aspects of international research collaboration. For example, a new entry on the EU’s new international science and technology cooperation framework will be posted shortly.*  We will also identify some new(ish) technologies that enable collaboration between geographically dispersed researchers and research teams.

hubzerologoPurdue University’s HUBzero, developed with National Science Foundation (NSF) support (via the multi-university Network for Computational Nanotechnology), is an example of one such technology. My university just posted news of a seminar on HUBzero.  I’ll report back in December after the event has been held.  For now, though, note that:

HUBzero™ allows you to create dynamic web sites that connect a community in scientific research and educational activities. HUBzero™ sites combine powerful Web 2.0 concepts with a middleware that provides instant access to interactive simulation tools. These tools are not just Java applets, but real research codes that can access TeraGrid, the Open Science Grid, and other national Grid computing resources for extra cycles.

This 4m15s video provides a summary of what HUBzero has to offer:

A high resolution version is available here.

See here for further information on HUBzero. It is important to note that hubs are “web-based collaboration environments” with the following features:

  • Interactive simulation tools, hosted on the hub cluster and delivered to your browser
  • Simulation tool development area, including source code control and bug tracking
  • Animated presentations delivered in a light-weight, Flash-based format
  • Mechanism for uploading and sharing resources
  • 5-star ratings and user feedback for resources
  • User support area, with question-and-answer forum
  • Statistics about users and usage patterns

Sample “hubs” include, according to HUBzero:

This document* outlines costs and details to establish a hub using this technology.

* McLennan, Michael (2008), “The Hub Concept for Scientific Collaboration,” http://hubzero.org/resources/12

Kris Olds

* Note: see ‘Europe’s new Strategic Framework for International Science and Technology Cooperation’

Do young ‘innovators’ flourish in universities?

After nearly a year in existence, one of the regular themes we have been profiling in GlobalHigherEd is the relative weight, or presence, of universities in the global research landscape. See, for example, the 4 August entry ‘Globalizing research: forces, patterns, and collaborative practices‘. Of course universities matter – as they should and always will – but the broad trend that we have noted is that firms, think tanks, NGOs, multilateral organizations, topic-specific expert groups, and so on, are playing an increasingly important role in the production of knowledge, of innovation, of creative impulses.

Today’s Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting story (‘Fewer University-Based Researchers Appear on 2008 List of Young Innovators‘) which highlights the fact the Technology Review (published by MIT) only lists 17 out of 35 “Young Innovators Under 35” with affiliations to universities.  This number is down from 22 out of 25 in 2007. The other 18 “young innovators” in 2008 are based in firms including Drupal, ICx Technologies, Thatgamecompany, and Twitter. The Technology Review article includes video interviews with other winners as well.

Now, it is easy to be be critical or suspicious regarding this pattern, and even more so as this is but one US-based technology-focused magazine (as proxy measure). Yet universities are becoming, according to increasing numbers of analysts (e.g., Arjun Appadurai), merely one of many sites of knowledge production; a diversification trend that begs the question why?

Is it because of relatively low pay, or rigid institutional structures and lack of opportunity for career progression? Or is it because of ever increasing demands on faculty as mission mandates widen? Or is it due to morale challenges in the context of limited (or declining) levels of state funding? My own university, for example acquires a mere 18% of its budget from the State of Wisconsin despite being a public university with significant state-focused responsibilities.

Or is it because the carrots associated with firms and NGOs, for example, are all too obvious to young researchers? I recently returned from a year in Paris, for example, and was shocked at the lack of opportunity for genuinely brilliant young PhDs. Why wait 10-15 years, if one is lucky, to get the position and space to be somewhat independently creative, when this space is on offer, right now, outside of academe? The creation of an attractive and conducive context, especially for young researchers, is a challenge right now in numerous higher ed systems.

The position of the university as a significant space of knowledge production is not to be taken for granted.

Kris Olds

Globalizing research: forces, patterns, and collaborative practices

The de-nationalization of research, and the creation of bi-lateral, interregional, and global frameworks for research cooperation, is increasingly becoming an object of desire, discussion, debate, and study.

The overall drive to encourage the de-nationalization of research, and create novel outward-oriented frameworks, has many underlying motives, some framed by scientific logics, and some framed by broader agendas.

Scientific logics include a sense that collaboration across borders generates more innovative research outcomes, higher citation impacts (see, for example, the Evidence Ltd., report below), and enhanced capacity to address ‘global challenges’.

Broader agenda logics include a desire to forge linkages with sites of relatively stronger research capacity and/or funding resources, to create and ideally repatriate expatriate researchers, to boost knowledge economies, to elevate status on the global research landscape, and to engage in scientific diplomacy. On this latter point, and with reference to our 16 June entry ‘Surveying US dominance in science and technology for the Secretary of Defense‘), see last week’s EurActiv profile of the new US Center for Science Diplomacy.

Over the next several months we intend on profiling various aspects of this topic in GlobalHigherEd. The early autumn will see, for example, the emergence of a formal Communication (in EU parlance) that outlines a strategic framework on the “coordination of international science and technology cooperation”. This Communication, and some associated reports, are currently being put together by officials at the Directorate-General for Research (DG Research) in Brussels. Meanwhile, down in Paris, the OECD’s Global Science Forum is sponsoring a variety of initiatives (and associated publications) that seek to “identify and maximise opportunities for international co-operation in basic scientific research” in OECD member countries.

Today’s entry is a very basic one: it simply provides links to some of the most recent reports that outline the nature and/or impact of international cooperation in research and development (R&D).

If any of you have recommendations for additional reports, especially those focused on non US and UK contexts, or fields (especially the humanities and social sciences) often absent from such reports, please let me know <kolds@wisc.edu> and I will add them to the list.

It is worth noting that some reports focus on academic R&D, while others focus on other producers of R&D (primarily the private sector). Both foci are included as focused reports often include broad relevant data, because of the emerging global agenda to bring together universities and the private sector (via the foment of university-industry linkages, for good and for bad), and because we recognize that the proportion of R&D conducted by academics versus the private sector or non-profit labs varies across time and space (e.g., see one proxy measure – academic versus total national output of patents from 2003-2007 within 10+ countries – here).

I/we are very wary that this is but a start in compiling a comprehensive list. The geographies of these reports is hardly global, as well. This said, the globalizing aspects of these uneven research geographies are undoubtedly fascinating, and full of implications for the evolution of research agendas and practices in the future.

2008 Reports

CREST (2008) Facing the Challenges of Globalisation: Approaches to a Proactive International Policy in S&T, Summary Report, Brussels, January.

Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (2008) International Research Collaboration in UK Higher Education Institutions, DIUS Research Report 08 08, London.

European Commission (2008) Opening to the World: International Cooperation in Science and Technology, Report of the ERA Expert Group, Brussels, July.

Committee on International Collaborations in Social and Behavioral Sciences Research, U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Psychological Science, National Research Council (2008) International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences Research:  Report of a Workshop, Washington, DC: National Academies.

National Science Board (2008) International Science and Engineering Partnerships: A Priority for U.S. Foreign Policy and Our Nation’s Innovation Enterprise, Washington, DC, February.

National Science Board (2008) Research and Development: Essential Foundation for U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Economy, Arlington, VA (NSB 08-03), January.

National Science Board (2008) National Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, Arlington, VA (NSB 08-01; NSB 08-01A), January

OECD (2008) The Internationalisation of Business R&D: Evidence, Impacts and Implications, Paris: OECD.

Universities UK (2008) International Research Collaboration: Opportunities for the UK Higher Education Sector, Research Report, London, May.

2007 and Earlier Reports

CREST Working Group (2007) Policy Approaches towards S&T Cooperation with Third Countries, Analytical Report, Brussels, December.

European Commission (2007) Europe in the Global Research Landscape, Brussels: European Commission.

Evidence, Ltd. (2007), Patterns of International Collaboration for the UK and Leading Partners, Summary Report, A report commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation, London, June.

OECD (2007) OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2007: Innovation and Performance in the Global Economy, Paris: OECD.

UNCTAD (2005) World Investment Report 2005: Transnational Corporations and the Internationalization of R&D, New York and Geneva: United Nations.

Kris Olds

Note: Thanks to Jonathan Adams (Evidence, Ltd.), Mary Kavanagh (European Commission), and Kathryn Sullivan (National Science Foundation) for their advice.

Surveying US dominance in science and technology for the Secretary of Defense

The global higher education and research landscape is a fast changing one at this point in history. Amongst many indicators we have increasingly powerful players (e.g., Kaplan, Thomson Reuters), new interregional and global imaginaries starting to generate broad effects (e.g., via the global dimensions of the Bologna Process), a series of coordinated multi-university attempts to create action on what some stakeholders deem “global challenges” (e.g., see The Global Colloquium of University Presidents), and a recent US-based attempt to create ostensibly global higher education action for global development.

On this latter initiative, deemed the Higher Education Summit for Global Development, I can’t help but think that the cost to organize and operate such a ‘summit’ was significant when compared to the related announcement of “$1 million [644,000 euro] to fund 20 partnership-planning grants of $50,000 to plan long-term collaborations between African and U.S. institutions of higher education“. Money of that scale is characteristically snatched from a dormant account inside some department to produce a ‘deliverable’ and seems somewhat incommensurate (in material and symbolic terms) with the stated ambition of the event, even if it is just the marker of a new phase of action.

The pace of globally-framed higher education and research change was abundantly clear to me last week when I was in Brussels (pictured to the left) meeting with a wide variety of informed and creative stakeholders; stakeholders who are actively creating elements of this new global higher ed/research architecture. The combination of insight and resources was impressive, and another reminder of what happens when states focus on building intellectual infrastructure for the medium to long term.

In this context, today’s entry briefly profiles one new contribution to challenging dominant views on the status quo of thinking about aspects of the globalization of higher education and research, though from the other side of the Atlantic – in the USA.

On 12 June the Rand Corporation released a major report titled U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology. The associated press release can be accessed here, and a summary Research Brief here.

This new report is a 2008 “companion report” to the 2007 collection, Perspectives on U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology, in which we flagged the Rand Corporation’s inclusion of one chapter by Jonathon Adams, a UK-based private consultant whose firm (Evidence Ltd) provides services in relation to the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology presents findings that challenge notions of a slide in the dominance of the United States in the global science and technology landscape, especially with respect to research. In summary fashion, Rand notes:

Is the United States in danger of losing its competitive edge in science and technology (S&T)? This concern has been raised repeatedly since the end of the Cold War, most recently in a wave of reports in the mid-2000s suggesting that globalization and the growing strength of other nations in S&T, coupled with inadequate U.S. investments in research and education, threaten the United States’ position of leadership in S&T. Galama and Hosek [the Rand authors] examine these claims and contrast them with relevant data, including trends in research and development investment; information on the size, composition, and pay of the U.S. science and engineering workforce; and domestic and international education statistics. They find that the United States continues to lead the world in science and technology and has kept pace or grown faster than other nations on several measurements of S&T performance; that it generally benefits from the influx of foreign S&T students and workers; and that the United States will continue to benefit from the development of new technologies by other nations as long as it maintains the capability to acquire and implement such technologies. However, U.S. leadership in science and technology must not be taken for granted, and Galama and Hosek conclude with recommendations to strengthen the U.S. S&T enterprise, including measures to facilitate the immigration of highly skilled labor and improve the U.S. education system.

Coverage of the report is now emerging in outlets like the Economist, in the general media, and in the blogosphere (e.g., see this critique of the Rand message in the Computing Research Policy blog)

U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology is also noteworthy for it is produced by Rand for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), a relatively sprawling institution as is evident in this organizational diagram:

As the inside page to the report puts it:

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute [NDRI], a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community under Contract W74V8H-06-C-0002.

The logic of the OSD funding NDRI-produced research likely relates to the US defense establishment’s concern about emerging science and technology (and research) ‘footprints’ of powers like China, India, and Europe vis a vis intra-US capacities to educate, produce knowledge, and have this knowledge disseminated (and generate effects) at a range of scales and via a variety of channels. Yet the report also seeks to use data and analytical narratives to prick holes in the emerging taken-for-granted assumptions that the era of American hegemony, with respect to global knowledge production, is over. It reminds me, a little, of the informed testimony of Michael S. Teitelbaum, Vice President, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, on 6 November 2007 before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives. Finally, the report is very clear in flagging the dependency of US science and technology capacity, and the US’ global research presence/impact, upon highly educated foreigners.

In an overall sense, then, U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology could be read as a detailed and insightful contribution to ongoing deliberations about the scale of US science and technology might, and an effort to reshape the contours of a critically important debate. I’m not sure if it could be classified as a contribution to thinking about “war by other means”, but rather as a reflection of a “new threat environment ” where thinking and analysis focuses on:

[h]ow and in what way do new challenges–from terrorists, insurgents, weapons of mass destruction, and the proliferation of technology–that the United States faces at home and abroad color America´s definition of and approach to national security? How will changes in the international economic, diplomatic, political, and alliance environments affect U.S. interests and capabilities? How will those changes and threats–from states, non–states, and other traditional and non–traditional sources– affect the United States´ ability to engage and project its power?

Regardless of the logics behind it, the report is thought provoking, laden with data and well designed graphic images, and is clearly written.

Finally, readership. I can imagine the current Secretary of Defense quite enjoying this read given that he was most recently President of Texas A&M University, and “also served on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the American Council on Education” and “the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges”. I am not as sure about the previous one, though. If he is still on the OSD mailing list perhaps he’ll be perusing the text for indicators of the declining health of “old Europe”!

Kris Olds

29 June update: This letter to the Economist (26 June 2008) is worth reading:

SIR – Referring to the conclusions of a RAND report on research and development in science and technology, you claimed that fears that America is losing its competitive edge in innovation are “overblown” (“What crisis?”, June 14th). Your evidence is that “America has lots of sources of R&D spending: federal money accounted for only $86 billion of the $288 billion it spent on R&D in 2004” and that “spending on the life sciences is increasing rapidly, a reasonable bet on the future.” The important point to be made here is that the composition of American R&D has changed markedly over the years.

Federal support for basic research at universities in the physical sciences and engineering—the type of research most directly coupled to technological innovation—has withered relative to spending on research in the life sciences and R&D carried out by industry. The increase in privately financed product-development (often the D in R&D) and biomedical research are both good, but neglecting basic research investments of the type that gave us the internet, solid-state electronics and medical imaging is not a recipe for future success.

Given that it typically takes 15 years for new ideas dreamed up in the laboratory to become commercial, America may be losing the technology race even while seeming to remain on top. At the very least, America’s relative position in the world is slipping, which bodes ill for the future economic standing of the United States.

George Scalise
President
Semiconductor Industry Association
San Jose, California

Science and the US university: video lecture series by editor-in-chief of Science and former (1980-92) Stanford University president

The Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of the more active centres of its type in North America. They sponsor an excellent working paper series (e.g., see ‘Universities, the US High Tech Advantage, and the Process of Globalization’ by John Aubrey Douglass. CSHE.8.2008 (May 2008)), workshops, seminars, and so on.

This newly posted lecture series, that the CSHE organized, should be of interest to GlobalHigherEd‘s audience. The speaker is Donald Kennedy (pictured to the left), the current editor-in-chief of Science, and former president (1980-1992) of Stanford University, amongst many other titles and responsibilities. The Clark Kerr Lecture Series on the Role of Higher Education in Society has been running since 2001.

I will paste in the CSHE summary of the Kennedy lectures below. The first two lectures were given in November 2007, while the third (and final) lecture was given in March 2008. If you click on any of the three titles you will be brought through to the UCTV site where the recorded videos can be accessed. Kris Olds

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Clark Kerr Lecture Series on the Role of Higher Education in Society sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and the Center for Studies in Higher Education

Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief, Science Magazine

Science and the University: An Evolutionary Tale, Part 1: The Endless Frontier

In which President Roosevelt asks Vannevar Bush and others,-including may helpers and some revisionists, to transplant the federal governments apparatus for wartime science into the infrastructure for growth of research in the nation’s universities. The result is not what Bush originally hopes — a single Foundation responsible for all of the nation’s science — but it ushers in a period of extraordinary growth and transformation. Universities deal with the challenges of allocating and rebalancing new resources of unexpected scope, but the twenty days after war’s end resource growth flattens and new challenges appear: federal support brings more control, and a new generation has new questions about the value of science.


Science and the University: An Evolutionary Tale, Part 2: Bayh-Dole and Enclosing the Frontier

In which universities, having been partly weaned from federal support, are recognizing new sources of help. Their quest is assisted by a new concern from the government: the money being spent on basic research is producing more prizes then patents. Congress finds a solution: in the Bayh-Dole Amendments of 1980 it forswears collection on intellectual property rights resulting from university research it supports. The result is a dramatic growth in academic centers devoted to patenting and licensing faculty inventions. This brings in new money, accompanied by new challenges: should the university go into business with its faculty? Can it retain equity of treatment across disciplines. Perhaps most significant, had the enclosure of the Endless Frontier created economic property rights that will change the character not only of science but of academic life?

Science and the University: An Evolutionary Tale, Part 3: Science, Security, and Control

In which science and its university proprietors confront a new set of questions. Whether in the later phases of the Cold War or in the early phases of the Terror War, universities find themselves witnessing a replay of the old battle between science, which would prefer to have everything open, and security, which would like to have some of it secret. Struggles in the early 1980’s regarding application of arms control regulations to basic data resulted in some solutions that some hoped would be permanent. But after 9/11 a host of new issues surfaced. Not limited to arms control considerations, the new concerns included the publication of data or methods that might fall into the wrong hands. At the same time, science was confronting a different kind of security problem: instead of being employed to decide policy, science was being manipulated or kept secure in order to justify preferred policy outcomes.

Cultivating scientific creativity in the city: what role for science festivals?

Editor’s note: many cities, regions and countries aspire to become ‘centers of excellence’ in science and technology for economic prosperity. Scientists strive to make breakthroughs and businesspeople seek to bring them into the marketplace. However, members of the public often have a hard time comprehending the associated scientific jargon, or merely recognizing what is going on behind the walls where scientists conduct their research.

In order to solve the problem associated with ‘science literacy’, some city-regions are now attempting to bridge between the science community and the general public by designing outreach programs. One of the most well known of such bridge programs is the Cambridge Science Festival (partly captured in the photo by Kris Olds to the right) in the US state of Massachusetts.

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Canada’s “powerhouse of research and innovation“, held its first science festival, titled Science Rendezvous, on May 10, 2008. This entry is designed to convey some features of the event, and is written from the perspective of a South Korean PhD student (Jae-Youl Lee), based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, though kindly hosted for six months by the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies (with field work helpfully supported via the Government of Canada’s Canadian Studies program). Jae-Youl’s report, which is based upon a day’s worth of field notes, pays particular attention to the ways through which Science Rendezvous, as a cultural event, helps people understand the current whereabouts of science in the City of Toronto.

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Science Rendezvous: Toronto’s New Science Festival

Hosting an annual science festival is becoming increasingly popular around the world – see, for example, the Edinburgh International Science Festival (Scotland), the Australian Science Festival, Pittsburgh’s SciTech Spectacular (United States), and two Cambridge Science Festivals (one in England and the other in the Boston area). While some festivals have existed for more than a decade (e.g., Edinburgh, Australia, and Cambridge in England), others were recently launched (e.g., Cambridge in the US). Most of the science festivals are organized by a consortium of various levels of government, universities and research institutions, but some such as Australian Science Festival are led by private entities which collect fees. In any case, science festivals are usually composed of public lectures and demonstrations, panel discussions, guided tours, exhibitions, hand-on experiments, etc.

Before launching a science festival, learning from existing events is a common practice. For example, the pioneers of Australia Science Festival were inspired by its Scottish counterpart in the late 1980s (for details, see here). Similarly, Dr. Dwayne Miller, professor of chemistry and physics at University of Toronto (UT), proposed Science Rendezvous after he experienced Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften in Berlin (Germany) three years ago. Dr. Miller told the Globe and Mail (April 26. 2008), a media partner to the Rendezvous, that “I was amazed to see the way in which the locals were getting into [science]”. The experience led him to organize Toronto’s science festival in partnership with not only UT’s collaborators, but also the university’s main local competitors (Ryerson University and York University). On the day of Science Rendezvous, citizens of all ages were invited to a dozen locations (including universities, research institutions, hospitals, shopping malls and even pubs) throughout the metropolitan area.

Science Rendezvous in Discovery District

The City of Toronto officially designated a downtown area bounded by Bloor Street, Bay Street, Dundas Street West, and Spadina Avenue as Toronto’s Discovery District in June 2002 (see this map). Biomedical and related sciences were chosen as the District’s strategic sector, and the City has implemented supporting policies in cooperation with provincial and federal governments, business communities, universities, and research institutions. The key project is the building of MaRS Centre, with Phase I of MaRS opened in September 2005.

As a part of Science Rendezvous, a select number of biomedical research labs at the MaRS Centre were accessible to the public in guided tours. Dr. William Wei briefly introduced the main function of MaRS in the beginning of a tour, in which he showed the use of 3-D display technology in new drug development. In a nutshell, the MaRS Centre was built to overcome a widely known problem in the biomedical industry: it normally takes for twelve to fifteen years to complete all the phases of preclinical and clinical tests to get a drug approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but a pharmaceutical patent expires in twenty years (for details, also read Profile 2008: Pharmaceutical Industry compiled by PhRMA, or Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America). In other words, the owner of a pharmaceutical patent enjoys its commercial benefit for only five to eight years before generic drug makers can use it for free. The Centre’s key concept of ‘convergence’, in which biomedical scientists, businesspeople, investors, and legal services providers locate together, is believed to shorten the time of drug approval so that MaRS tenants can get commercial benefits for a longer period.

The tours at MaRS Centre generated an additional dimension of convergence – they sought to be one with the public. Diverse visitors endeavored to achieve their own goals in the tours. For example, people in my tour group included parents with kids, a science journalist considering his new office in the Discovery District, a doctoral student in biomedical science from University of Waterloo in search of her future career, an accountant accompanied by his wife who works for Ontario government, etc.

The tour provided great opportunities for socializing as well as learning. Not only were a couple of kids in white medical lab coats happy at seeing cells through a microscope at Dr. Li Zhang’s cellar biology laboratory, but adult people were also enthusiastic. To some participants, the tours provided a venue for doing job-related activities. For example, a female employee working for corporate relations division at UT Scarborough was busying exchanging business cards with MaRS people at every presentation. It was her role to help undergraduate students at the school get hired at this state-of-the-art facility.

Right across the University Avenue, Mount Sinai Hospital also prepared programs for visitors (see this map again). Like MaRS, the Hospital had guided tours to upper-floor research labs, where the DNA of non-human organisms such as fruit flies was researched to advance our knowledge about cancer. Unlike MaRS, the Hospital opened booths for volunteers’ demonstrations and visitors’ hands-on experiments. At the booths, visitors learned how to extract DNA from a banana, tested their own knowledge about genetics, watched forensics demonstrations, etc.

Café Scientifique

Besides places of seeing and doing science, Science Rendezvous also offered places of talking about science. The Café Scientifique at The Rivoli, a pub in Queens West area, was such a place. The Café was not a special event prepared for the Rendezvous. Instead, the Café have been a monthly event in Toronto. Ontario Science Centre organizes the regular meeting. Begun in Leeds (United Kingdom) in 1998, the Café Scientifique is spreading around the world (link here if you want to find one near you, and here for Canadian offerings). At any Café Scientifique, all the participants are encouraged to discuss current issues related to science and technology over coffee, beer, or wine. As the organizer of Toronto’s Café Scientifique emphasizes, “it’s not a lecture! It’s a place for group discussion and audience involvement is the most important ingredient”. However, the Café usually begins with expert presentations.

Following the conventional procedure of holding a Café Scientifique, four panel debaters were invited to present their opinions on the topic of the day. The issue was the relationship between science and media. All the experts showed concerns over misleading and selective media reports about scientific discoveries. In particular, they pointed out, the media exaggerates the commercial benefit of science discoveries such as stem-cell research, pays far more attention to reporting ‘new’ discovery than helping people get out of science illiteracy, and neglects reporting perspectives different from (or, opposed to) the dominant view. For example, Shelly Ungar, sociology professor at University of Toronto Mississauga, pointed out the ‘silencing’ of politically and socially unacceptable scientific findings such as one that found out ‘passive smoking may not kill’. Similarly commenting on the view on climate change, Stephen Strauss argued, the fundamentally different methodology between science and media (i.e. experimental modeling vs. narrative style) is the main reason for the distortion and selectiveness common in the media report. When the expert presentations were all finished, the moderator of the Café encouraged the audience to participate in small group discussions about the issue.

TO Live with Science Culture

Toronto’s Mayor David Miller proclaims in the Agenda for Prosperity (p.2) that “we must put creativity at the heart of Toronto’s economic development strategy.” The Agenda’s supporting document Creative City Planning Framework (p.24) spells out two ways through which creativity can drive the City’s economy. The first is to develop an array of specific sectors such as cultural industries (for details, see Imagine a Toronto) and high-tech industries. The second is to normalize creativity as an everyday practice among citizens. In other words, encouraging citizens to behave more creatively is also believed to drive the City’s economy.

At Science Rendezvous, activities associated with the sciences were mobilized as a medium to cultivate creativity and awareness amongst Torontorians. As I described above, they were seeing, doing, listening to, and talking about, sciences throughout the City. As Dr. Ron Pearlman, biologist at York University put it, they wanted to make the Rendezvous “more of a cultural activity” (Globe and Mail, April 26, 2008) such that experiencing and enjoying sciences as such became part of the cultural life of the City.

It remains to be seen whether a more creative culture generates economic value and to what extent the benefits spread over the society. Nevertheless, in my observations, Science Rendezvous seemed to help people understand the current whereabouts of the sciences, which will surely affect their lives in the future. Visitors to the places where I moved through during Science Rendezvous certainly have their own answers to questions such as why the MaRS Centre is necessary, what scientists at the Centre do, how studying fruit flies helps in the treatment cancers, and why people should be cautious while reading media reports about the sciences.

Jae-Youl Lee

Cisco, KAUST, and Microsoft: hybrid offerings for global higher ed

The globalization of higher education has been going hand in hand with novel experiments in the provision of education services, as well as in the production of knowledge via R&D. These experiments have been enabled by the broad but highly uneven liberalization of regulatory systems, and spurred on by the perception (and sometimes reality) of inadequate levels of state support for higher education and research. A myriad of policies, programs and projects, of an increasingly sophisticated nature, are now bringing many of these experiments to life.

Experimentation is also being facilitated on some traditional public university campuses, with hybrid units in development (e.g., see the Oxford-Man Institute of Quantitative Finance), offers to select foreign universities to establish a formal presence on another campus (e.g., see this entry regarding the University of Warwick), and even private ‘campuses’ under construction by firms that lease space to mobile higher education service providers (e.g., see this entry on Chaska’s ‘Field of Dreams’).

Over the last few weeks a variety of examples of such institutional experimentation have bubbled up.

Cisco Systems, Inc.

First, the San Jose-based firm, Cisco Systems, Inc., announced that its Networking Academy, which has been in operation since 1997:

has achieved a key milestone with a record 47 percent increase in the total number of students enrolled in Morocco in the past 12 months. Since the program’s inception, this brings the total number of Networking Academy students over 7,500. Each student undergoes a comprehensive technology-based training curriculum that can provide them with skills which they can utilize in their future professional careers.

According to Cisco, its Networking Academy provides educational services in more than 160 countries, reaching 600,000 students per year. The Network Academy topics (e.g., LANs, IT networks, network infrastructure essentials) can be standardized in a relatively easy manner, which enables Cisco to offer the same “high-quality education, supported by online content and assessments, performance tracking, hands-on labs, and interactive learning tools”, across all 160 countries.

And growth is rapid: in Morocco, for example:

The first Networking Academy in Morocco started in Ain Bordja in February 2001, long before Cisco’s office in Morocco was established. Today, the total number of Networking Academies has grown to 39 throughout the entire Kingdom with many more new Academies across Morocco to be announced in the very near future.

Cisco’s growth in providing these education services partly reflects problems in the Moroccan higher education system (see, for example, the World Bank’s 2008 report The Road Not Traveled: Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa). It is noteworthy that nearly 1/3 of the students are female; a level of enrollment perceived my most analysts of the region to be significant and positive.

Further information on the Networking Academy is available in this short video clip. This initiative is akin to the Oracle Corporation‘s Oracle Academy, which has “partnered with more than 3,400 institutions and supported 397,000 students across 83 countries“. Today, coincidentally, marks the official opening of the Oracle Academy of the Hanoi University and Hanoi University of Commerce in Vietnam.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Second, over the last week the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), an institution we have profiled several times (see here and here), announced a series of major funding initiatives that will support other universities, around the world, to develop major R&D initiatives. The logic is to kick-start the creation of KAUST’s global networks (recalling that the KAUST campus is only now being built from scratch, as one of many photographs from the KAUST website, conveys).

KAUST’s Global Research Partnership (GRP) will be funding:

So three American universities, and one UK university. Further information on these centers can be found here.

KAUST also announced that its Center-in-Development scheme (note the in development moniker) will be funding one Saudi, one Asian and one European university in the form of:

Further information on these initiatives can be located here.

Thus we have a Saudi institution, which is really an instantaneously endowed foundation (to the tune of $10 billion), projecting itself out via funded programs, and translating institutional and researcher agendas in key centres of scientific calculation (to use some Latourian phrases), so as to enable itself to morph into a globally recognized, respected, and highly networked science and technology university within five years. Moreover, KAUST is forging ties with other types of knowledge-related institutions, including the US Library of Congress, so as to:

complement its academic and research programs in cutting-edge science and engineering with research and outreach programs aimed at giving students and faculty an appreciation of the rich history of scientific inquiry and discovery in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Microsoft & Cisco

Finally, my own university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has embarked upon two initiatives that splice together the institutional fabrics of a major public university, and select private sector firms (in software and the life sciences), with both initiatives facilitated by the alumni effect (another topic we have recently written about).

In the first, Seattle-based Microsoft is contributing substantial support to help UW-Madison open the Microsoft Jim Gray Systems Lab, which will focus on the advanced development of database systems. As the formal UW-Madison press release notes, this lab is:

helping expand on a highly productive 20-year research and alumni relationship between the company and the University of Wisconsin-Madison computer sciences department.

The Microsoft Jim Gray Systems Lab, named in honor of the Microsoft executive who was a founding father of the database industry, will open in downtown Madison under the direction of UW-Madison emeritus computer sciences professor, and Microsoft Technical Fellow, David DeWitt, one of the world leaders in database research.

“Microsoft is here because we are doing some of the best database work in the world and we have produced scores of graduates who have gone on to successful careers in the industry,” says DeWitt. “Our focus will be on continuing the production of talented graduate students and taking on some of the great challenges in database systems.”

David DeWitt (pictured above) was the John P. Morgridge Professor of Computer Sciences, though he has now taken up emeritus status to focus on this initiative. Further information on DeWitt and this scheme is available here.

And returning to the Cisco theme, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) sponsored a ground breaking ceremony last Friday for the development of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID), a $150 million project we briefly profiled here. WID is being developed with funding and other forms of support from UW-Madison, WARF, John and Tashia Morgridge (he is the former CEO of Cisco, while she is a former special education teacher), and the State of Wisconsin.

WID will open in 2010, though it is already in action via the efforts of WID’s interim director Marsha Mailick Selzer, and pioneer stem cell researcher, James Thomson. It is worth noting, though, that even the private component of WID (the Morgridge Institute for Research) is not-for-profit. This said the competitive impulse was loud and clear at the opening ceremony, according to the local newspaper reporter that covered the event:

The building will house an ambitious effort by the state to capture what Doyle hopes to be 10 percent of the market in regenerative medicine and stem cell technologies by 2015. The building is the centerpiece of a $750 million inititiave to develop stem cell research and biotechnology in Wisconsin.

So experiments aplenty. Fortunately, from the perspective of 7,500 Moroccan students, and UW-Madison’s researchers, Cisco Kid was a friend of mine (it’s bad, I know :)).

Kris Olds

The NSF’s ‘cool’ project: a charrette assesses interdisciplinary graduate education, with surprising results

kimcoulter.jpgEditor’s note: today’s entry has been written by Kimberly Coulter, the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s new Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) administrative coordinator. Kim will be developing entries for GlobalHigherEd from time to time, which we are very happy about given her knowledge base. Today’s entry links most closely to be previous entries by Gisèle Yasmeen (‘Articulating the value proposition of the Humanities’), Barbara Czarniawska (‘The challenges of creating hybrid disciplines and careers: a view from Sweden’), and Susan Robertson (‘A creative combination: adding MBAs and art schools together to increase innovation’).

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‘Interdisciplinarity’ in higher education is not only ‘in’—it’s institutionalized. In the last ten years, collaboration across traditional disciplinary boundaries has been valorized in university strategic plans and research foundation calls for proposals. The buzzword promises to spark scientific breakthroughs and ignite innovations. But how?

Based on the assumption that interdisciplinary collaboration can be trained, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) has made a formidable investment in its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program since 1997. Now at 125 sites, IGERT programs offer students interdisciplinary training along with $30,000/year stipends, tuition, and fees for five years of a doctoral program in the sciences. The IGERT program aims:

to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education, for students, faculty, and institutions, by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.

rhoten4small1.jpgBut what, exactly, does such a fertile environment look like? At a University of Wisconsin-Madison conference on The Future of Interdisciplinarity, a provocative keynote address from Diana Rhoten challenged assumptions. Rhoten is Director of the Knowledge Institutions program at the Social Sciences Research Council, and is currently on loan to the NSF as program director in the areas of Virtual Organizations and Learning & Workforce Development for the Office of Cyberinfrastructure. In a previous study of interdisciplinary research centers and programs across higher education (the article can be downloaded here), Rhoten had found that many “interdisciplinary” initiatives failed to reconceptualize disciplinary traditional modes into an integrative model. She observed that real collaboration—defined as working together from start to finish—was rare.

At the Madison conference, Rhoten reported results of a new NSF-sponsored micro-study testing for effects of IGERT training on student performance. The study used an innovative—even ‘cool’—methodology: 48 IGERT and non-IGERT students at early and late stages of their graduate programs were invited to participate in an environmental research design ‘charrette’ weekend at the Snowbird ski resort in the mountains (see below) of Utah. Only after students’ arrival did researchers inform them that the true object of study would be their collaborative processes. Students were grouped into interdisciplinary groups of six: two groups each of junior IGERT students, senior IGERT students, junior non-IGERT students, and senior non-IGERT students. Each group was tasked with working together to produce and present a seven page research proposal on ecosystem services. Students were allowed to do Internet research but could not make outside contacts.

snowbird.jpgAs the students worked, observers made narrative field notes on how they evaluated each other’s ideas and used each others’ talents and skills (both participants and observers were aware of the group’s IGERT identity). At the end of the weekend, ten blind experts from different sectors assessed the groups’ proposals and presentations on intellectual merit and broader impact per NSF standards, as well as disciplinary and interdisciplinary quality. So although this study yielded rich observational data, these data relied on an undeniably small sample of students working with peers at the training stage of their careers.

Still, the results are surprising. Overall, the experts were astonished by the high quality research design proposals. Yet junior IGERT students outperformed the others in every way, followed by the non-IGERT students. Rhoten suggested that as students’ GRE scores had been considered, this disparity could not have been an artifact of previous ability. She summarized the observations thus: the best junior IGERT team had an optimistic leader with gentle critics, and had framed the task as research. By contrast, the senior IGERT students (whose proposal and presentation received the lowest scores) framed the task as collaboration. The senior IGERT students assumed they would perform well, and appeared to enjoy being studied. They discussed how to cope with conflict, yet couldn’t get traction, and their results were vague and incomplete.

She does not conclude that IGERTs are a misinvestment, but rather that these results beg questions: Did overconfidence and familiarity poison the senior IGERT students? Had IGERT training replaced students’ assertiveness and results-orientation with a focus on inclusivity and the cooperative process? These questions, she suggested, may guide us to an improved IGERT program structure. The study’s most striking result was the powerful impression the charrette activity made on both students and researchers. Rhoten beamed about the charrette as a both a methodology and as a learning tool; students, she said, raved about the learning experience. Rhoten ventured that perhaps IGERTs should not take the form of five-year programs, but rather be intensive, collaborative periodic experiences with space and time in between them—like the charrette.

This insight about the charrette is powerful because it reminds us of interdisciplinarity’s goal. The charrette mimics the deadline-driven, temporary, problem-oriented projects for which scientists are being trained. ‘Interdisciplinarity’ is, in its essence, the modus operandi of the flexible, post-Fordist ‘project’ unit of economic action. In their 1976 research on theater production, Goodman and Goodman (reference below) explain a “project” as involving a:

set of diversely skilled people working together on a complex task over a limited period of time…. [especially] in cases where the task is complex and cannot be decomposed in detail autonomously ex ante ‘members must keep interrelating with one another in trying to arrive at viable solutions’.

To trade ideas productively, each participant must bring knowledge from a “home base” and stimulating ideas to the project network. The challenge for institutions is to find a balance between the stability of an institutional context and the rigidity of institutionalized “lock-in.” As economic geographer Gernot Grabher argues in Regional Studies (reference below), “transient collaborative arrangements and more enduring organizational and institutional arrangements” are interdependent—“‘Cool’ projects, indeed, rely on ‘boring’ institutions”.

Clearly, the NSF has the capacity to impact not only the scientific training, but also the attitudes and professional orientations of new generations of scientists. Effective interdisciplinary collaboration needs individuals with rigorous disciplinary grounding, creativity, and communication skills; these require a mix of stability, resources, and conventional training. Yet the current IGERT model, which values the institutionalization of five-year programs emphasizing collaboration, may not be the most effective way to cultivate flexibility and resourcefulness. As the Snowbird charrette demonstrates, perhaps more ‘cool’ projects—transient, face-to-face project-events in inspiring locations—can set the scene for successful learning and quality scientific production.

Reference

R. A. Goodman and L. P. Goodman, “Some management issues in temporary systems: a study of professional development and manpower—the theatre case,” Administrative Science Quarterly 21 (1976): 494-501, esp. 494 and 495, as cited in G. Grabher, “Cool projects, boring institutions: temporary collaboration in social context,” Regional Studies 36.3 (2002): 205–14, esp. 207-8.

Kimberly Coulter

The National Academies’ International Visitors Office: strategic communications while institutionalizing mobility

nalogo.jpgThe National Academies is a US-based institution that is made up of representatives from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. This institution was created by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and has evolved into a key stakeholder in debates about the globalization of higher education, especially with respect to science and technological matters. The activities of the Policy and Global Affairs Division should be of particular interest to GlobalHigherEd readers. Approximately 1,100 staff work at the National Academies’ offices in Washington DC.

ivo-bisologo.jpgThe National Academies’ Board on International Scientific Organizations has just released a podcast that explains what role their International Visitors Office plays in facilitating the movement of scientists and foreign students to the United States in the “fundamentally” transformed post-9/11 era.

The office, which was set up in 2003, seeks to facilitate human mobility but in a manner that is less problematic when the “national security interests” of the US can sometimes “alienate” the “skilled migrants” who play a critically important role in meeting the science and technology needs of the US. Thus the initiative also has diplomatic (aka strategic communications) objectives associated with it. The podcast is approximately five minutes long.

Kris Olds

Is 2008 a watershed for Europe’s ‘Lisbon Agenda’?

It’s all really good news for the EC, according to the report European Growth and Jobs Monitor: Indicators of Success in the Knowledge Economy 2008 released today by Allianz SE, one of Europe’s leading financial service providers and the Brussels-based think tank The Lisbon Council. Indeed the report goes on to claim that 2008 marks a watershed for Europe (see our earlier report on the EC’s assessment of Lisbon in 2007). When some parts of the world are reeling from more and more bad news stories about economic slow-downs and rising debt, this claim surely needs to be looked at more closely.

According to Allianz SE, despite earlier set backs and significant policy reorientations and renovations (see Kok Review 2004) as a consequence since 2005, the Lisbon strategy is now believed to be achieving its goals.

The report notes:

…at the time of writing, Europe outpaces the United States in economic growth. And, for the first time in more than 10 years, productivity is growing faster on a quarterly average basis than in the US – an intriguing trend which, if it proves sustainable, could signal a real turning point in Europe’s decade long effort to establish itself as truly “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”, as the original Lisbon Agenda proposed. In other words… …Lisbon is working.

jobs-abd-growth.jpg

However as Financial Times reporter, Tony Barber, notes:

It sounds almost too good to be true. The report’s tone would certainly surprise many political leaders and businessmen in the US and Asia, where Europe is often portrayed as a continent in relative economic decline. In fact, when you read the Lisbon Council report in full, you begin to suspect that its real message is that the European economy, though strong in many respects, has obvious weaknesses as well. For example, on research and development spending, there has been “limited progress” and “most countries have a lot of catching up to do”.

jobs-and-growth-then-now.jpg

Looked at more closely, it is clear this up-beat report hides what might be regarded as more disturbing facts.

For instance, spending on R&D, one of the big targets for Europe in realizing a knowledge-based economy, is still a long way off target. Add to this that a number of education systems in Europe are also off target with high-drop out rates of young learners whilst in countries like Germany only about one-fifth of 15-year-olds plan to go on to university and the picture becomes less rosy.

Leaving aside for the moment the contentious matter of whether greater levels of participation in higher education automatically lead to a knowledge-based economy, it is evident that there are several ways of reading this ‘good news’.

As we can see from the table of current ranking and one year ago, it is not so much a question of Lisbon now being realised–if we view this as a regional strategy, but some economies across Europe currently performing much stronger than others.

In other words, we are seeing the effects of the strong performance of some countries (Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Sweden) and the weak performance of others, especially Italy.

What is certain from the report is that higher education will continue to be a center piece of European policy and that the 2007 agenda – to keep up the pace of change – is likely to continue to ‘shake up’ the sector in continuing radical ways.

Susan Robertson

 

Producing the global knowledge economy: the World Bank and the KAM

What it means to either talk about, or indeed ‘produce’, a knowledge-based economy (KBE) is a bit like nailing jelly to the wall; it is dam slippery stuff! Part of the problem, of course, is that like all powerful metaphors, the KBE has a lot of political work to do, and it is powerful precisely because it can do that political work. It has something in it for everyone, whatever one’s politics.

Over 2008, GlobalHigherEd will run a series of analytical pieces making sense of the various players, projects and politics who seem to be involved in the production of a knowledge-based economy–from programs being developed by the World Bank, OECD and World Economic Forum, to knowledge spaces that include knowledge incubators such as Futurelab, local art spaces and cyberspace. Contributions to this theme from fellow bloggers out there, as always, are more than welcome.

We begin this series with the World Bank who, since 1998, have been busy undergoing a major ‘makeover’ – re-representing itself not as a ‘development bank’ but a ‘knowledge bank’. This move, under the leadership of Bank President James Wolfensohn, took seriously the idea that how we managed knowledge was important, and that knowledge was a key factor in technological creation, adoption and communication.

One outcome of the Bank’s move was the Knowledge For Development (or K4D) Program aimed at helping developing countries capitalize on the ‘knowledge revolution’. Specifically, developing (and also developed) countries are challenged to plan appropriate investments in human capital, effective institutions, relevant technologies, and innovative and competitive enterprises.

These challenges are then translated into the four pillars of a knowledge-based economy comprising:

  • an ‘economic and institutional regime’ which values efficiency and entrepreneurship
  • an ‘educated’ population
  • an efficient ‘innovation’ system
  • an ‘information and communication technology’ infrastructure

The four pillars feed into the Bank’s Knowledge Assessment Methodology – or KAM – an interactive benchmarking tool which now consists of 83 structural and qualitative variables for 140 countries around the globe to measure performance on the KE pillars against an imagined perfect score.

A Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) is generated giving an overall score, though scores can be broken down around each of the four pillars. Development advice is then fed out around a series of ‘product lines’.

The simplest ‘product line’ is a ‘do-it-yourself’ assessment of your economy in relation to either; all countries, others in the region, income, and so on. The user is also able to either generate a Basic Scorecard using around 14 key variables, or move to more complex representations that are based on respectively combinations of the 81 variables, the performance scores of all countries, comparisons over time, cross country comparisons, and so on. us-china-india.jpg

Other ‘product lines’ include the Bank doing policy reports for specific countries (for example, El Salvador, Turkey, Morocco), comprehensive assessments (for example India, China, Korea, Chile, the African region), and running learning events to exchange best practice. GlobalHigherEd’s blog on the reform of the Malaysian higher education system following a World Bank’s 2007  review is a good example of how the KAM is being used to reshape higher education policy and practice.

At one level this is fun. However this is a very serious business – as the benchmarking works like a learning tool. You learn where you are in this imagined perfect knowledge economy, and then strategize as to how to get to your preferred position using the pillars as policy guides and levers. top-ten-country-comparison.jpg

Benchmarking, ranking and other kinds of league tables are becoming more and more popular as tools for promoting particular kinds of learning among institutions, nations and regions. GlobalHigherEd has been profiling some of these – for instance PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment, the OECD’s Innovation Scoreboard, and University Rankings.

Like all of these systems of ranking and benchmarking, the most interesting issue with the World Bank’s Knowledge Assessment Methodology is what is being measured, why, and with what likely outcomes? Leaving aside the thorny issue of the efficacy of the indicators for the moment (such as the Human Development Index which is one of the 83 indicators making up the KAM), as we run through all 83 indicators, we get a quick sense of the political nature of the project; the production of a world order that values global trade, has few bans on imports and licensing, strong protections in place for intellectual property (IP), a system for ensuring payments for royalties and IP across borders, high levels of adult literacy, landlines and computers to support global connectivity, and so on. Absent in this list of indicators are ways of representing unpaid labor, alternative systems of knowledge production, cultural knowledges, and so on.

The developed Western economies are more likely to be advantaged by this kind of economy – given their interest in extending their services sectors globally and securing greater returns from the high end of the value chain. However, in areas like education, the policy levers are still rather crude. It is difficult to see, for instance, how investments in higher education per se will generate those innovative, creative and entrepreneurial individuals who are regarded as the engines of this new economy.

Susan Robertson