Scientists identify key steps to respond to growing Asia Pacific research strengths

Apr 10, 2012

The most dramatic new developments in science are taking place among nations in the Asia-Pacific and the phenomenon is changing the dynamic of science around the globe, according to three science and academic leaders from the U.S., Canada and Singapore.

In an article published in the current issue of the journal Science, University of British Columbia President Stephen J. Toope, National University of Singapore President Chorh Chuan Tan and the (AAAS) Board Chair Nina V. Fedoroff cite a Royal Society report that shows the publications output of Chinese scientists is set to surpass that of U.S.-based scientists by 2013.

Meanwhile, major investments in discovery and innovation are building capacity in Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. "A concerted and immediate effort is required to enhance Asia-Pacific science collaboration," the authors say.

The authors propose several strategies, including promoting researcher-to-researcher linkages, sharing curricula, creating incentives for university researchers to engage in productive international collaborations, building "innovation ecosystems," and enabling greater talent mobility among graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and established researchers.

"More flexible visa arrangements, for example, similar to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation business travel card which allows for pre-cleared multiple entry for frequent business travelers within the APEC region, would go a long way to facilitating mobility among researchers in the region," says Prof. Toope.

An "innovation ecosystem" consisting of researchers, entrepreneurs, investors and industry partners, who promote a free flow of people, ideas and experiences across institutions and sectors, will also drive sustainable innovation, the authors say.

"One of the least efficient aspects of global university culture is the constant reinvention of curriculum, and can help address this issue, as well as bringing together complimentary expertise to achieve higher-impact research," Toope adds. "Academic leaders must consider investing collectively in curricula that could be shared regionally and reducing the duplication of research equipment and expertise in different localities."

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