Tackling grand challenges: Boosting interdisciplinarity to embrace complexity, unknowns and imperfection
By Gabriele Bammer, The Australian National University
For a team-based interdisciplinary effort to successfully address complex, real-world grand challenges, we need to boost our problem-solving skill sets. In addition to reductionist thinking, which gives us detailed understanding of specific elements of the problem, we need to enhance our ability to also understand the problem as a system. This involves understanding interconnections, possible vicious or stabilizing cycles, simple rules that may underpin complex behaviors, properties that emerge when the focus moves from one level in a hierarchy to another, and so on.
By Andrew Plume, Elsevier
The International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base: 2011 report assessed the performance of the UK's research base. It found that UK researchers generate more articles per researcher, more citations per researcher, and more usage per article authored, and that the researchers' mobility was a key factor.
By Jeremy Adelman, Princeton University
So long as faculty mobility is regarded as a begrudged necessity and not as an opportunity, we sever global research from local teaching and drive a deeper wedge between the different functions of the faculty in the 21st-century university.
By Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski, Elsevier
The author explores recent findings about team assembly and composition, as well as trust and communication, and offers related tools leaders can use to implement effective practices in team science.
By Norhayati Zakaria, Universiti Utara Malaysia
With the globalization of research teams, institutions are increasingly paying attention to the interconnections between management competencies and culture. Whether the team is together in one physical location or operates in a virtual environment, challenges can arise from many sources: cultural, managerial, operational, efficiency or effectiveness concerns, and more.
China: Building an innovation talent program system and facing global competition in a knowledge economy
By Yu Wei and Zhaojun Sun, Peking University
China is experiencing a serious shortage of high-level innovation talent, which presents a challenge to current efforts to develop the knowledge economy and build an innovation-oriented country. Efforts are underway to recruit special talents from among the 200,000 Chinese citizens estimated to be working in major developed countries after completing their overseas studies.
By Georgin Lau and Lei Pan, Elsevier
By mining authors’ institutional affiliation data in research publications, Elsevier’s Analytical Services developed and applied a researcher mobility model to Nigeria and China at each country's phase of research development.
By Mohd Jailani Mohd Nor, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka
Realizing that R&D excellence cannot happen in bits and pieces, the Ministry of Higher Education has launched a comprehensive initiative to create synergistic efforts in promoting R&D excellence throughout Malaysia. To secure the new incentives, all parties interested in conducting research in Malaysia, including university administrators, research offices, research groups and individual researchers, must now work together in multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional teams.
Interview with Mary Ellen Perry, NIH, and George Weinstock, WUSTL
Hundreds of researchers and multiple academic institutions and NIH institutes participated in the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) to sequence and analyze microbial genomes, create resource repositories, and examine the associated ethical, legal and social implications. The NIH Common Fund supported the HMP as its goals spanned the missions of several NIH Institutes and Centers.
Interview with Da Hsuan Feng, National Tsing Hua University
The Academic Executive Brief interviews Da Hsuan Feng about the formation of the University System of Taiwan. People in Taiwan realized that merging the four universities would be virtually impossible because of the extremely competitive climate within Taiwanese higher education. Instead, another model was proposed to achieve some sort of commonality for competing not only nationally, but globally.
By Jiecai Han and Xiaohong Wang, Harbin Institute of Technology
To survive the fierce competition for scholars in China, HIT decided to bring talented researchers from abroad to HIT for initiation and fusion of disciplines, and to cultivate talented researchers by having them spend time abroad to open their academic field of view and to go further with their careers.
By Mike Conlon, University of Florida and Kristi L. Holmes, Washington University in St. Louis
In modern science, like never before, it often takes a top-notch team to maximize the discovery process and compete effectively for essential funding opportunities. Forming a world-class team requires a rich and varied type of research discovery, one in which member scientists have both a broad and deep awareness of what is going on in their discipline. To fully understand the 21st Century landscape of science, we now need networks to better collect, observe, disseminate, and evaluate what is going on in science. One such interdisciplinary network is VIVO, which comprises more than 100 institutions representing more than 1 million scholars and support staff across more than 25 countries.
By Bertil Andersson and Tony Mayer, Nanyang Technological University
By changing mind-sets and creating new interactions, we can open universities to new ways of working and generate excitement about interdisciplinary possibilities. Young institutions such as Nanyang Technological University may have advantages in this realm; their structures are not as constrained as those of older institutions. By promoting interdisciplinarity within a Humboldtian ethos, combining research and education, young institutions can be at the forefront of change.
By Brad Fenwick, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
In the winner-take-all system, everyone pays to compete but only one person walks away with the prize. In the competition for grants and contracts, the investment in infrastructure is enormous if you want to remain competitive. As the cost of winning goes up, the resources become scarcer, the prizes become more precious, and the bidding rises. It is increasingly clear that the focus must be on the development of systems that enhance institutional productivity and effectiveness.
By Ram Ramaswamy, University of Hyderabad
Many academic leaders believe that the most exciting developments of any given field lie along its boundaries with other disciplines. This article describes the various multidisciplinary centers established by the University of Hyderabad after it received a grant of approximately US $6 million to focus research in Interfacial Studies. Making faculty members think more about the ways in which disciplines can mesh has encouraged UoH colleagues to venture into exciting and unexplored regions of the academic landscape.
Challenge accepted – Japan’s AIMR champions mathematical integration to afford infinite possibilities
By Motoko Kotani, Tohoku University
In the 21st century, materials science seems to be at a turning point, changing into a more exact science based on fundamental principles and prediction. AIMR is playing a leading role by gathering top international researchers from various backgrounds and developing interdisciplinary research in a supportive environment.
By Chris Llewellyn Smith, University of Oxford
The global scientific landscape has changed dramatically in the last two decades. Since the beginning of the century, global spending on research and development has nearly doubled, and the number of scientific publications has grown by almost a third. This article, based on the Royal Society's "Knowledge, networks and nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century," describes changes in the global scientific scene and analyses their implications.
With Keith Micoli, New York University Langone Medical Center
The Academic Executive Brief interviews Keith Micoli, Postdoctoral Program Director at New York University Langone Medical Center and former chair of the National Postdoctoral Association. Micoli reflects on the importance of postdocs to the US research enterprise, the largely international nature of the position, and the importance of making the postdoc an attractive career option.
By Adam Tickell, University of Birmingham
During the past 15 years or so, the University of Birmingham progressively slipped according to the UK’s research evaluation measures. Under the leadership of a new Vice Chancellor, Professor David Eastwood, the university went through an ambitious transformation to achieve its goal of becoming a leading global university.
Eye on Mexico: Public support for science is high, but transition to a research-based economy remains the challenge
By Edmundo A. Gutiérrez-D., National Institute for Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics, Mexico
Most Mexican companies are oriented towards low-tech production and commercialization of imported goods, while the government is steering the research community, through the evaluation process, towards an international qualification level, which is not correlated with the country’s current industrial needs. This disconnect is hindering the transition toward a more technology-oriented base economy. There is an urgent need to build confidence in the joint university-industry relationship and to reorient high-skilled human resources to meet Mexico’s industrial and technology needs.
By Francesc Xavier Grau Vidal, University Rovira i Virgili
The recent large reduction in public finance in Spain is affecting all public services, including the pillars of our society: the health service, social cohesion, and education. In the case of universities, the effect is twofold. In addition to negatively influencing their role as providers of higher education, the reduction in public finance is harming our universities’ ability to generate knowledge and their power to bring about cultural, social and economic change.
By Byoung Yoon Kim and Sung-Mo “Steve” Kang, KAIST
For the new economy, KAIST is recharging itself to educate future entrepreneurs and to create an ecosystem for world-class technology startups. It is planning new programs for entrepreneurship education and adding the supporting infrastructure, while strengthening basic R&D activities to sustain creativity and innovation.
By Scott Rutherford, Queen's University Belfast
It is no surprise that the need for research information comes from both internal and external drivers. Perhaps the most important external driver for information within the UK context is the Research Excellence Framework (REF), an initiative of the four UK higher education funding bodies to assess the performance of UK researchers.
Interview with Yuko Harayama, Council for Science and Technology Policy, Cabinet Office of Japan
In Japan, we realized we needed to take advantage of our existing universities’ knowledge-creation capacity and transform that into industry. However is there a danger in moving away from basic research? The serendipitous use of created knowledge is a key component of innovation, but the pressure from policy makers is to explain the impact up front, which cannot be done in such a scenario.
Interview with Per Eriksson, Lund University
Exemplifying adaptation and innovation, institutions like Lund University help Sweden consistently top the European Union’s Innovation Scoreboard. The university offers a comprehensive education as it establishes top research teams and a new international hub for materials science, and champions local development while seeding global companies.