How Collaborating in International Science Helps America

Science and Diplomacy ConferenceBy Elizabeth E. Lyons, E. William Colglazier, Caroline S. Wagner, Katy Börner, David M. Dooley, C. D. Mote, Jr., & Mihail C. Roco

Science & Diplomacy

International collaborations embed American scientists and students in vibrant, globally collaborative networks that strengthen the U.S. science, technology, and innovation (STI) enterprise, while benefiting both America and the world. Because such benefits have not been systematically explored in the United States, we present a framework for organizing and enumerating them, with national-level examples provided to illustrate scientific, economic, health, national security, educational, societal, and diplomacy and development advantages that can result from international STI collaborations. Our objectives in presenting this organizing structure are threefold. First, the framework can help those in government, academic, and private sectors who make decisions with national impact better understand how and what kinds of positive outcomes can result from international STI cooperation. Second, given the distributed and decentralized nature of the U.S. STI community, the framework can serve as a starting point for subnational decision makers to identify benefits of STI internationalization at their operational scales. Third, this organizing structure and its examples can serve as a call to action for scientists to more clearly articulate to decision makers and the public how working in areas of mutual scientific interest with international colleagues can advance U.S. national, regional, local, or institutional interests.

As a group of individuals who have worked across national and global science landscapes for many decades, we were motivated to develop a framework for better understanding and communicating the benefits of international science, technology, and innovation collaboration to the United States. The global STI system has seen dramatic change in the last several decades. For example, it is now marked by worldwide growth in investment that is significantly reducing U.S. global scientific market share, e.g., in expenditures, globally mobile students, publications, patents, and technology revenue.” The construction of advanced STI infrastructure is now more often built outside the United States by other nations or consortia. And the geography of scientific knowledge creation and use has shown new dynamics within and across many world regions. These changes have kindled a dialogue in the United States about how the nation, facing both a more worldwide distribution of STI excellence and domestic budget constraints, can best adapt to the twenty-first-century environment of international partnerships and globally distributed knowledge networks. Missing thus far from this dialogue has been a comprehensive and deliberate exploration of how international STI collaboration provides benefits to America at many levels.

We undertake such an effort by presenting an organizing structure or framework for such benefits that we hope achieves three objectives. First, given the complexity of the U.S. STI enterprise, this framework can help decision makers (including government officials at all levels, as well as academic and private sector leaders) better understand how and what kinds of positive national impacts can result from international STI cooperation. We do this by providing examples within our framework of who can benefit, in what ways, from which types of activities undertaken by different sets of U.S. and foreign partners working in various policy sectors. Second, the framework can serve as a starting point for subnational decision makers to identify benefits of STI internationalization at their operational scales. Third, this organizing structure and its examples can serve as a call to action for scientists to more clearly articulate the benefits of their international collaborations to decision makers and the public.

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Picture: The Official CTBTO Photostream (CTBTO / Symposium / 25.01.2016) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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