Human Connections Across Nations Charting the Future of Academia

Map of Scientific Collaboration 2008-2012. Data from Elsevier, Scopus synthesized and processed by Olivier H. Beauchesne olihb.com
Map of Global Scientific Collaboration 2008-2012. Data from Elsevier, Scopus synthesized and processed by Olivier H. Beauchesne olihb.com (Creative Commons Licensing)

Economists tend to agree that knowledge is the quintessential “non-rival good” – meaning it does not diminish by sharing, and in fact increases with greater connectivity. Among the greatest collective triumphs of globalization and the internet has been the speed and span of research collaboration. The value of such international exchanges cannot be underestimated for various reasons. First such exchange promotes the flow of ideas between epistemic traditions which has the potential for harnessing synergies between different research methods, and a constant questioning of entrenched biases in particular knowledge geographies. Second, cognizance of research activities across universities worldwide ensures that redundancies and inefficiencies that occurred in times like the Cold War can be avoided. Most significantly academic collaborations create a higher purpose for cross-cultural communication that can be the most potent antidote to global distrust and conflict through “science diplomacy.” Yet knowledge transfer has a human element that cannot be neglected. The most efficacious messengers and manifestations of such knowledge exchange are migrant students who traverse the globe far more freely today.

I had an opportunity reflect on the virtue of the migrant academic’s experience this week when I attended the valedictory celebration of our Provost at the University of Queensland, Professor Gao Qing Max Lu who will be joining the University of Surrey as Vice Chancellor. This move marks a particular milestone in academic history since he will be the first Chinese-born and educated academic to lead a university in an OECD Country. The personal journey of Professor Lu as an immigrant from an impoverished region in China to take on his doctoral studies in Australia more than 25 years ago exemplifies —> Read More

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