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New Opportunities in International Research

Illustrated world map over green background

At the University of Minnesota, research knows no boundaries. University researchers currently collaborate in 152 countries across the globe, with over 30% percent of their publications including international co-authors, according to a recent review of Scopus data.

A new strategy of the U’s Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) aims to further enhance international research collaborations by cultivating and expanding research efforts in countries with high growth potential and a diverse set of existing research collaborations. The strategy targets three key regions as high-potential areas where new research collaborations could make the greatest impact: Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda in Sub-Saharan Africa; Argentina, Peru and Chile in South America; and Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore in Southeast Asia.

The international research strategy comes in response to a goal of the U of M’s research strategic plan, Five Years Forward: to increase the prominence of international research.

“Growing international opportunities is a crucial part of our research mission, and we should be strategic about where we invest in new collaborations,” said Brian Herman, Ph.D., vice president for research. “New partnerships in those developing countries can build on our existing research collaborations and other international initiatives where the U of M has built great strengths.”

Analyzing Opportunities Across the Globe

In February 2014, OVPR appointed a committee of faculty and staff to examine the international collaborations already underway at the U and look for ways to further encourage such projects. The committee came up with several recommendations, which included a need to identify the greatest areas of opportunity for international research.

To find these opportunities, Claudia Neuhauser, Ph.D., director of research computing, looked to the numbers. Neuhauser analyzed a large collection of publication data from U of M researchers working with researchers in countries across the globe through Scopus and Web of Science, two abstract and citation databases of peer-reviewed literature. She then compared that information to other data on those countries, such as each nation’s gross domestic product. She looked specifically at geographic areas that showed trends of a rising number of publications with U of M collaborators and a rising GDP, noting that these areas are growing their academic infrastructure and offer many opportunities for research partnership.

The results allowed Neuhauser to pinpoint a group of countries that showed a growing number of collaborations with U of M colleges and campuses, as well as emerging economies and predictable economic growth. These countries, highlighted in the images below, are areas where she concluded the U could have the greatest impact from limited resources.

Expanding Research in Key Areas

Moving forward, the OVPR plans to bring together U of M researchers who currently collaborate in a specific region or country with other U researchers who are interested in working there. Where there are promising collaborations, OVPR plans to provide seed funding that might catalyze these partnerships, such as through paying for U researchers to travel to conferences, covering expenses for collaborators from these countries to come to the U, and making core research infrastructure, such as supercomputing resources, accessible to researchers from developing countries. Finally, OVPR will work to bring together leaders from the targeted areas along with Minnesota industry, funding agencies and philanthropy to develop new relationships that University researchers can build upon.

While highlighting new opportunities, this strategy will not detract from the longstanding, fruitful collaborations U researchers have already established, including those in Canada, Europe and China. Researchers are encouraged to continue pursuing their curiosity wherever it takes them. Instead, this new international research strategy will expand on the existing work being done at the U, including the efforts of Global Programs and Strategy Alliance, the Institute for Global Studies, the Academic Health Center and other units, to find the best use for limited research resources. The effort could also inform planning at the Office of Information Technology, which can establish the technology needed for virtual meetings to catalyze collaborations across great distances.

Stay tuned for more information on seed funding opportunities from OVPR.

Kevin Coss

Kevin Coss

Kevin is a writer and public relations associate with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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