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,”

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 <> 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.

Global geographies of R&D: 2007 R&D Scorecard released today

The UK Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills released its 2007 R&D Scorecard today. The report, which is available here, focuses on UK firms, though it also includes a substantial analysis of the largest firms, at a global scale, that invest in R&D.


The global highlights include:

  • Global R&D spending by the G1250 rose by 10% to £244 billion. It continues to be dominated by companies registered in just five countries – the USA, Japan, Germany, France and the UK – which contributed 81% of R&D by the G1250. Firms from India and China have yet to establish themselves as significant players in the G1250, although other evidence suggests that both countries are increasingly important locations for R&D. Globally, average R&D intensity remains unchanged at 3.5% of sales.
  • R&D investment in the global pharmaceuticals sector grew by 16% in the last year; it has replaced technology hardware (which grew by 13%) as the largest global R&D sector. Other rapidly growing sectors amongst the ten largest investors were the software and aerospace & defence sectors which both grew at more than 12%.
  • There are well-established links between R&D growth and intensity and sales growth, wealth creation efficiency and market value. Alongside excellent operations and strategic decision-making, companies continue to regard investment in R&D as a key factor determining future success: the Scoreboard shows this especially strongly in the UK’s aerospace, software and technology firms.

The Financial Times has created an informative interactive map of the report’s findings, with one screen capture (highlighting France in this instance) pasted here:


New types of geovisualization techniques are being developed by a number of media outlets (the FT, the New York Times), and academics (especially my colleague Mark Harrower), and the time is right for them to be more frequently (and better) used in our teaching and research practices given the nature of our visual culture.

Kris Olds