Pacific Rim views on global education: Hong Kong+Seattle

Editor’s note: this guest entry was kindly produced by Gray Kochhar-Lindgren (pictured to the right), Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, as well as Director of the First Year Experience, at the University of Washington, Bothell. During 2009-10, Gray served as a Fulbright Scholar in General Education based at the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong America Center. With Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren, he is currently working on a book entitled Designing the Global University. Our sincere thanks to Gray for a tantalizing entry that sheds light on some of the opportunities and challenges of fashioning deeper forms of internationalization, especially those of a partnership nature.  This is an issue that Nigel Thrift also addressed in a recent blog entry (‘Internationalization is difficult‘) in the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as via recent comments he made in the Times Higher Education (‘Global future: together alone‘), and one that I will deal with via a series of entries about international collaborative (e.g., dual and joint) degrees this coming September.   Kris Olds


Having spent September 2009-June 2010 serving as a Fulbright Scholar in General Education in Hong Kong , I have now returned to my responsibilities at the University of Washington, Bothell, as a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Director of the academic side of our First Year Experience. All the universities in Hong Kong are moving from three to four year degrees and UW Bothell started first and second year programs in 2006 and is now rapidly expanding its degree options. On both sides of the Pacific, curricular and administrative structural reform are moving forward at a sometimes dizzying, but always invigorating, pace. What are the connections and asymmetries involved in such an effort?

As in other parts of the world, a very similar language is emerging in both Seattle and Hong Kong around curricular reform, including the familiar rhetoric of student-centeredness; outcomes-based assessment; interdisciplinarity; writing, quantitative, and IT literacies; cross-cultural competencies; interactive pedagogies; and the development of new administrative structures that can serve the university as a whole instead of reproducing only department or College level concerns.

The most difficult challenges include how best to shape faculty participation in governance, teaching, and administration of the curricular shifts; how to change the culture of the university so that teaching is valued as highly as research productivity in promotion and tenure decisions; how to change faculty behavior toward more interactivity in and beyond the classroom; what forms trans- or interdisciplinarity teaching and research take; and, of course, how best to resource the curricular changes in terms of money and people.

In addition to these similarities, each site has its material and cultural specificities. It is, for instance, much easier to do student projects on different moments of urbanization in Hong Kong and on biodiversity of wetland habitats in Bothell.  The University of Hong Kong, where I was based last year, is an English-language institution, but the language politics of Hong Kong as a whole, which has Cantonese as its primary language and the use of Putonghua growing quickly, involves issues quite different than in the Pacific Northwest of the US. The global position of the US and the “one country, two systems” of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, create different sets of questions for teaching, learning, and university reform in each case.

As an outsider-insider in Hong Kong there were always, and inevitably, blind spots I did not even recognize as well as a torrent of learning from daily life, reading, conversation, teaching, and the curricular work itself.  As we all learn to work more effectively across global sites, we would do well to think much more rigorously about our theories of cultural translatability.

Finally, there is the formation of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research groups. I am in the very beginning of this process, so I am immensely curious about how it will unfold. I am collaborating with scholars in Hong Kong, Seattle, Macau, and elsewhere to collect a series of essays on Global Noir, with its affiliations with cities, political economy, the tradition of the genre, and a reconceptualization of the concept of noir.

On a larger scale, I, along with Robert Peckham, the Co-Director of the Centre for Humanities and Medicine at HKU, are forming a research project called “Transnational Asian Cities: Health, Virtualities, and Urban Ecologies” that will involve scholars from multiple disciplines in Hong Kong, Seattle, Shanghai, and Mumbai.  How will we construct the object of study? How will we stay in touch? What types of new understandings will we produce and in what media? How will such effort be judged and assessed? Such questions must, in our globalized but still localized contexts, be asked time and time again.

All of these efforts, which are part of redefining the contemporary globalized university, require leadership, visibility, inventiveness, collaboration, faculty and staff development, and consistency of effort over time.  We will all have to learn to articulate spatial-temporal consistencies and asymmetries, a host of rapidly shifting variabilities of culture and language, and a series of nodes of Intensity where we collect, share, and move our work ahead. What, in other words, does “Seattle+Hong Kong” signify? How do we actualize the links as new curriculum and new university structures? How do we move back and forth across the Pacific? As with any organizational change at such basic levels, there are difficulties, frustrations, and successes, but the necessity for change is clear.  Ready or not.

Gray Kochhar-Lindgren

Graphic feed: NSF’s cyber-network expands and connects half the globe



October 14, 2009

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Taj network has expanded to the Global Ring Network for Advanced Application Development (GLORIAD), wrapping another ring of light around the northern hemisphere for science and education. Taj now connects India, Singapore, Vietnam and Egypt to the GLORIAD global infrastructure and dramatically improves existfing U.S. network links with China and the Nordic region.

Taj promises far-reaching, stimulative and sustainable benefits in global research and education (R&E) collaboration. It will serve every knowledge disciplines from high energy physics, atmospheric and climate change science, to renewable energy research, to nuclear nonproliferation, genomics and medicine, economics and history. The population of countries served by the NSF-sponsored GLORIAD program, funded since 1997, now exceeds half the globe.

In a unique public/private partnership with NSF, Tata Communications is providing a new billion bits per second (Gbps) service connecting science and education exchange points in Hong Kong, Singapore, Alexandria, Mumbai, Amsterdam and Copenhagen (valued at $6 million) to interconnect vital national research and education networks in India and across Southeast Asia, including Singapore and Vietnam.

The new exchange point in Alexandria, Egypt affords new possibilities for science and education ties throughout the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia and the Caucasus regions. Taj opens up new horizons for U.S. scientists, educators and students, enabling direct access to key research facilities in India, and, through new exchange points in Egypt and Singapore, improved connectivity for potentially millions of end-users conducting international collaborative research….  [Link here for the full press release]

Source: National Science Foundation, NSF’s Cyber-Network Now Expands Across the Northern Hemisphere and Connects Half the Globe, Press Release 09-200.

Technology, international consortia, and geographically dispersed research teams

The Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) is one of several international consortia that have been created, since the late 1990s, to deepen linkages between universities. I’ve been involved with two of them (the WUN and Universitas 21) while working at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National University of Singapore.

As Lily Kong (Vice-President, Global Relations, National University of Singapore) noted in her 7 October 2007 entry (‘The rise, rhetoric, and reality of international university consortia’):

[o]ne of the challenges of making such university alliances work is the lack of clarity of intention, and the lack of a clear articulation of how such alliances, often formed from the top by senior university administrators, can achieve the stated objectives. In almost every new alliance, establishing research partnerships and collaboration among member universities is said to be a priority. Are alliances really an effective way to develop research collaboration though? Member universities that are chosen to be part of an alliance are often chosen for political reasons (”political” in the most expansive of its meanings). They may be chosen because they are thought to be “research powerhouses”. But different universities have different areas of research strength, and university administrators sitting together to decide an area/s among their universities for research collaboration can be quite artificial. Such alliances can then at best facilitate meetings and workshops among researchers, but the collaborative sparks must come from the ground. Throwing a group of people together once or twice and asking that they produce huge grant applications to support collaborative research is not likely to happen. Those with the responsibility of developing alliances, however, will be anxious to show results, and sometimes, just the act of bringing researchers together is hardly sufficient result.

Given these challenges, some of us have been trying to think through ways to use the international consortia framework as a vehicle to deepen regular connections between geographically dispersed researchers. In doing so, though, we’ve been faced with debates about the costs of facilitating relatively frequent human mobility between member universities, not to mention which types of people (Graduate students? Faculty? Staff?) to target with available support. To be sure there is nothing quite like face-to-face engagement: intense sessions in meetings, workshops, summer institutes, and in situ collaborative research. However, these face-to-face moments, which can never be replaced, need to be supplemented by regular virtual gatherings. Furthermore, the ongoing financial crisis is now generating troublesome ripple effects in research networks where bodily movement across space is the ideal.

In the course of thinking about the development of UW-Madison’s WUN website, we have been considering the establishment of some web-based resources for researchers who seek to collaborate virtually, including via sound and video in synchronous (ie concurrent/real time) fashion. We have used a variety of such technologies – Skype, video-conferencing, Access Grid Node – before, though we have not formally identified, at UW-Madison’s Division of International Studies (the host unit of WUN staff), the full array of options, which ones are best for what activities, what the full cost (if any) of using each of them are, and how researchers can access them (if they need to be booked). Yet a search for a model website via an associated consortia (the Committee on Institutional Cooperation) failed to identify examples of one.

Given the above, we met with the Division of Information Technology (DOIT) a few days ago. DOIT’s savvy staff ended up having more questions for us – very simple yet telling questions – than we had for them.  They wisely helped us think through the forms of collaboration being undertaken via WUN-funded initiatives, and what types and level of resources we had to enable such collaboration to occur.

Now, the vast majority of WUN-related research collaboration does not involve the transmission and analysis of large-scale data sets – the type dependent upon the Internet2 cyberinfrastructure and collaborative platforms like HUBzero.  Rather, it tends to involve formal and informal dialogue within and between research teams, fora such as workshops and conferences, virtual (video-conference) courses for students in multiple sites, and formal and informal graduate student advising. Given this, DOIT’s staff recommended that we explore, more intensively, options for web-conferencing. There are, of course, many other options but we settled on web-conferencing as the likely best option.

Web-conferencing is a form of collaboration that enables geographically dispersed research teams to connect via computer desktops, while allowing engagement throughout the link-up process. Deliberative engagement, versus ‘passive learning’, is important for research teams typically do not want to sit quietly while someone they know is speaking.

Typical features of web-conferencing include:

  • Slide show presentations – where PowerPoint or Keynote slides are presented to the audience and markup tools and a remote mouse pointer are used to engage the audience while the presenter discusses slide content.
  • Live or Streaming video – where full motion webcam, digital video camera or multi-media files are pushed to the audience.
  • VoIP (Real time audio communication through the computer via use of headphones and speakers)
  • Web tours – where URLs, data from forms, cookies, scripts and session data can be pushed to other participants enabling them to be pushed though web based logons, clicks, etc. This type of feature works well when demonstrating websites where users themselves can also participate.
  • Meeting Recording – where presentation activity is recorded on a PC, MAC or server side for later viewing and/or distribution.
  • Whiteboard with annotation (allowing the presenter and/or attendees to highlight or mark items on the slide presentation. Or, simply make notes on a blank whiteboard.)
  • Text chat – For live question and answer sessions, limited to the people connected to the meeting. Text chat may be public (echo’ed to all participants) or private (between 2 participants).
  • Polls and surveys (allows the presenter to conduct questions with multiple choice answers directed to the audience)
  • Screen sharing/desktop sharing/application sharing (where participants can view anything the presenter currently has shown on their screen. Some screen sharing applications allow for remote desktop control, allowing participants to manipulate the presenters screen, although this is not widely used.)

Note, though, that this is not a new technology: web-conferencing has been heavily used in some disciplines (e.g., Chemistry), and of course the business world, for some time. It has also moved through a number of development phases, and is increasingly affordable and simpler to use.

There are, as you might expect, plenty of platform options for web-conferencing. I’ll cut to the chase and state, given our needs and the evolving discussion, that Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro software emerged as the most likely option for enabling the type of engagement that we are seeing in the vast majority of WUN-supported projects. Link here for information about other platform options including the relatively popular Elluminate and WebEx. See a brief YouTube summary of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro below.

We’ll be testing out this platform in the near future and will report back. We’ll also be comparing notes with WUN staff who have been using Marratech, a platform bought up by Google in 2007. But from what I can detect, this type of web-conferencing software, in conjunction with weblogs and wikis (to aggregate research group output, and enable the joint development of papers, presentations, and so on; see a brief YouTube summary of what a wiki is below), should satisfy the majority of our needs given the dispersed nature of WUN-sponsored research networks.

Synchronous communication technologies, that operate via computer desktops, are increasingly important when working to deepen network relations between members of small-scale yet geographically dispersed research communities. This said, such technologies can never create nor determine; they simply enable. Yet the enabling process is hindered by lack of knowledge about the technological options at hand, and how they mesh with the nature of the research communities (and cultures) associated with the creative process. It is at this level – that of the textures of practice – through which international networks are brought to life, and international consortia show their worth, or not.

Kris Olds

PS: please let me know if your institution has developed a single portal/website that outlines (and ideally evaluates) the wide array of technological options that enable geographically dispersed small-scale research teams to function. I’ll post the links that come through below, assuming such sites exist!

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 <> 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.