June 16, 2011

The case for interoperability in global research

  • Merrilyn Fitzpatrick, and others
  • Forum for European–Australian Science and Technology Cooperation
  • 16 June 2011Over the past two decades the increase in global research output has been driven largely by an increase in international research collaborations (highlighted by the need to solve major global problems, for example in medicine and the environment). It is evidenced in increasing rates of co-publication, co-patenting and mobility of labour between countries and fields of research. Such international efforts are generally of a larger scale, and exhibit increased quality and impact, than purely domestic research.

    Matters of national significance are relying more and more on globally conducted research to provide solutions, since international cooperation enables the pooling of resources, reduces risks, allows for knowledge sourcing, aids in globalization efforts, and many other tangible and intangible benefits.

    The increasing connectedness of events globally, and the rapidity of transmission of their manifestations and consequences (e.g. the Asian and, more recently, Global Financial Crisis, diseases such as SARS and Swine Flu, Internet crime etc.), demands that if research is to be a part of the solution (i.e. understanding as a basis for preparedness, prevention/mitigation and response) then the international links need to be capable of rapid and flexible configuration and re-configuration.

    FEAST’s reflection on the global strategic aspects of these challenges prompted an exploratory paper looking at the implications of these challenges for national research and innovation policies as well as international science diplomacy. The paper provided the underpinning idea for a symposium that was jointly hosted by FEAST and The University of Queensland (UQ), in Brisbane on 24–25 March 2011, titled Enhancing interoperability in the emerging global research order.

    The symposium’s objectives were to:

    1. Refine and develop the notion of interoperability as a new strategic objective in facilitating international cooperation in science and technology;

    2. Consider the implications of the geopolitical dimension to international cooperation in science and technology for delivering enhanced interoperability;

    3. Develop and propose improved policy stances able to balance the inherently international role of public science against the national competition-driven emphasis on innovation;

    4. Explore new forms of agile contractual templates able to facilitate interoperability, and;

    5. In the light of the above, agree a joint stakeholder statement and cooperative action plan for refining and demonstrating the interoperability-based approach in a politically sensitive geopolitical context.

    This Discussion Paper, focussing on defining interoperability in a global research sense, is the first of two that will capture the main threads of discussion from the recent symposium hosted jointly by FEAST and The University of Queensland (UQ).

    Full details of the symposium, including speaker biographies and presentations, further references, and other resources are available on the FEAST website atwww.feast.org/symposium2011.

    Authors: Merrilyn Fitzpatrick, Kerrie Glennie, Rado FaletiÄŤ, Dennis Rank, Christopher T. Hill