Scientific collaboration: a royal society report

The UK’s Royal Society has released a science policy report titled, Knowledge, Networks and Nations; Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century. I have taken a brief glance at this 114 page report and am impressed with the analysis and the thoughtfulness and range of the discussion about the ‘global scientific landscape’. The authors claim this landscape is becoming largely collaborative while the research enterprise becomes multipolar, i. e., less dominated by a few countries (US, UK, Germany, Japan, etc.) as China, Turkey, India, Brazil and many others increase their scientific output. From the Royal Society’s webpage (http://royalsociety.org/policy/reports/knowledge-networks-nations/?utm_source=social_media&utm_medium=hootsuite&utm_campaign=standard),

Knowledge, Networks and Nations surveys the global scientific landscape in 2011, noting the shift to an increasingly multipolar world underpinned by the rise of new scientific powers such as China, India and Brazil; as well as the emergence of scientific nations in the Middle East, South-East Asia and North Africa. The scientific world is also becoming more interconnected, with international collaboration on the rise. Over a third of all articles published in international journals are internationally collaborative, up from a quarter 15 years ago.

If you’re interested in reviewing the report you can go here (http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/Influencing_Policy/Reports/2011-03-28-Knowledge-networks-nations.pdf) to access the PDF directly. I particularly noticed this bit in the executive summary,

Science is essential for addressing global challenges, but it cannot do so in isolation. A wide range of approaches will be required, including the appropriate use of financial incentives, incorporating non-traditional forms of knowledge, and working with the social sciences and wider disciplines. Science is crucial but it is unlikely to produce all the answers by itself: the science infrastructure works best when it is supported by, and enables, other systems. [emphases mine] (p. 7)

It’s good to see this notion that ‘science alone is not the answer’ stated elsewhere and it’s particularly good to see that it was stated by scientists themselves. (This is the point I was trying to make to the expert panel for the recent Canadian public consultation on innovation (aka Review of Federal Support to Research and Development)  in my Feb. 18, 2011 posting [http://www.frogheart.ca/?p=2836], in my March 15, 2011 posting [http://www.frogheart.ca/?p=3118], and in my submission.)

The recommendations in the Royal Society report include these (from the Royal Society wepage),

It makes 5 major recommendations:

1. Support for international science should be maintained and strengthened
2. Internationally collaborative science should be encouraged, supported and facilitated
3. National and international strategies for science are required to address global challenges
4. International capacity building is crucial to ensure that the impacts of scientific research are shared globally
5. Better indicators are required in order to properly evaluate global science

I don’t have anything to say about the recommendations other than they seem sensible. One final note, the visualization of the data is quite interesting and worth a look. I’d love to have made a copy and embedded one of their visualizations here but I guess they’re not quite as collaboratively-minded as they like to think of themselves because it’s not possible. (I always think that collaboration includes giving some of your material to another party.) I do urge you to visit here (http://royalsociety.org/knowledge-networks-nations-graph/) to see a figure representing the number of collaborative papers as a proportion of national output. Not your standard bar chart. If you glance through the report, you’ll see different types of these visualizations, some of which I understand better than others.

ETA April 12, 2011: David Bruggeman at his Pasco Phronesis made an insightful observation about Iran and the discussion that the Royal Society’s report has generated (from his April 7, 2011 posting, Meet the New Science Superpower…Iran),

Yeah, you read that right. New Scientist noted that in the Royal Society’s recently released report Knowledge, Networks and Nations that Iran has the fastest rate of growth in scientific publication in the world. I find that an interesting variation in the press coverage of the report, which is almost exclusively about how China is, once again, playing catch-up to the U.S. in scientific publishing.

Do take a look at the comments in full. There are more tidbits.

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