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Research “must prepare” for geopolitical upheavals


To cope with potential obstacles in the future, universities should develop a clear policy for vetting international research partnerships, diversify academic partners to “avoid dependencies that can become vulnerabilities” and broaden their understanding of the rapidly evolving international research landscape.

Published by the Institute of Politics, King’s College London and the Harvard Kennedy School research draws on new data from 20,000 academic journals, finding that China is now the world’s biggest R&D performer.

Over the past two decades, it has become the first or second most important scientific partner for many countries, while Russia’s scientific base and research results have deteriorated and become marginalized.

China is now the first or second most frequent research partner for all G7 countries, as well as the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, Australia, Singapore and South Korea, the newspaper noted. Russia, on the other hand, ranks only 16th in the world according to research results.

However, lessons should be learned from the events that led to the isolation of Russia after the attack on Ukraine. “Recent developments will have greater implications for Western engagement with China and other authoritarian regimes that may be tempted to pursue expansionist foreign policies,” the report said.

Principled and solid cooperation with China must continue to “protect our values, as well as enable our academic institutions to remain at the forefront of global science,” the statement said.

“As geopolitics change, global science is rapidly shifting from a win-win to a battleground,” said Jo Johnson, former UK universities minister and co-author of the report.

“Western countries cut Russia out of science partnerships after its invasion of Ukraine, which has clear implications for what could happen in other theaters in East Asia.”

Research institutions should “publicly and repeatedly” uphold the core value of free and open inquiry in a bid to strengthen the research environment, the document added.

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has called for a “new approach” to the formation of international relations in the field of the country’s science policy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In our multipolar world, there is a need today more than ever for strategically placed ‘science diplomacy’ that enables understanding, dialogue and negotiation of conflict in the scientific realm, even in times of increasing conflict and fierce global competition,” said DAAD President Joybrata Mukherjee. said July 6.

Both the DAAD and the Policy Institute note the importance of cultural expertise.

Foreign studies and joint research projects create “long-term mutual bonds” between people and institutions, the DAAD said, while the Policy Institute document called for the cultivation of a “cadre of professionals” with relevant language skills, historical knowledge and cultural competence.

Although China is not mentioned in the DAAD document, the Policy Institute study argues that teaching Chinese language and cultural skills should be a national security priority.

“Universities must also prepare for the worst by diversifying their academic partnerships”

Governments should fund advanced Mandarin studies at universities at home and in mainland China or Taiwan, as well as postgraduate studies in quality programs in mainland China and Taiwan.

“There is a clear risk that today’s highly globalized networks of knowledge creation will collapse if countries reject research that takes place within the narrow confines of their own institutions and those of like-minded countries,” Johnson added.

“While universities will understandably hope for the best, they must also prepare for the worst by diversifying their academic partnerships and international student organizations to reduce the risk of financial and strategic dependence on potentially hostile autocratic countries.”

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