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Culture matters: International Research Collaboration

coverShortly after hosting an engaging and timely “Workshop on Examining Core Elements of International Research Collaboration” in July 2010, members of an active working group convened by the National Academies and its Government‐ University‐Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR) agreed that there was more exploration to be done around the notion of culture and research. More specifically, the group, which goes by the moniker “I‐Group,” began to question aloud how culture and cultural perception factor into, influence, and impact the process by which research agreements are made and negotiated across international boundaries.

Challenges associated with language differences are perhaps most obvious when one thinks about culture; however, many other challenges come in to play as well when negotiating on a global scale. For example: How do differing cultural attitudes toward ownership of ideas and intellectual property (IP) affect cross‐cultural partnerships? How is IP enforced? How is project risk assessed through different cultural lenses? Which country’s legal framework prevails when or if a project goes awry (beyond budget, timeline, etc.)? What happens when ideas about ethics and the conduct of research fail to align or harmonize across geographic boundaries? How does culture influence the wording/shaping/development of standards? What impact does culture have on a nation’s ability to innovate?

Ponder the influence of culture on multi‐party, multi‐country, possibly multi‐disciplinary and/or multi‐sector (government, universities, industry, other) partnership arrangements and the questions just keep coming.

This line of inquiry led to the proposal of a second international workshop, this one designed to look very carefully at cultural issues within the context of research and global partnering. A small planning committee was established and worked over several months to lay out a broad framework to address the IGroup’s questions. The committee identified and secured internationally recognized experts who could speak to and share insights from their respective areas of expertise.

Click here to read more from this new National Academies workshop summary.

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