Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A thought about international university cooperation

As Europe and Asia have now joined the United States in the forefront of science and technology (after decades of catching up), there should be more interest in twinning of U.S. and overseas university groups. While I have been primarily interested in the past in university partnerships in which U.S. institutions help build developing country institutions, it is increasingly to U.S. interests for our best institutions to partner with the best institutions abroad.

The Internet makes a big difference since it makes transaction costs so much lower. It is possible to offer joint courses or to develop joint curricula or joint research projects with little added cost using the Internet, the cloud, email, Skype, etc.

Actually being present in someone's lab or classroom remains important. There is a lot of tacit knowledge that is transferred by "being there", as there is a lot of information transferred by non-verbal communication such as body language. I discovered in my grant management in the past that university professors in the United States often have resources at their disposition that they can use to support someone once that person is located nearby, but have great difficulty obtaining the travel money to move themselves or their colleagues across borders. A small grants program, with grants of a few thousand dollars each, could make a lot of difference in promoting better international networking of U.S. universities.

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