By Dr. Anders Karlsson, Vice President of Global Strategic Networks, Elsevier; Dr. Christopher Tremewan, Secretary-General, APRU; Jack Ng, Director, Communications, APRU; Sherman Cheng, Chief Financial Officer, APRU; Yuhri Ishizaki, Global Strategic Networks Associate, Elsevier.
Survey Results Show the Global Importance of U.S.-China Research Collaboration and Value of International University Networks
At a time when global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have drawn our attention to common interests such as health and climate change, China-U.S. competition has spilled over into bilateral research collaborations in recent years, threatening to undermine various mutually beneficial projects and partnerships. US universities have been warned that intellectual property must be protected to avoid conflicts of interest, some partnerships have become unstable, and some scientists have even taken legal action against the situation. China and the United States have also generally reduced cooperation in research areas not directly related to national security. According to data from Elsevier, the bilateral academic output between China and the United States has flattened in the past two years, and the number in 2021 is even slightly lower than that in 2020. In contrast, countries such as Japan, the UK, and Australia continue to increase their co-published academic research with China, despite their low bases. Another analysis by the journal Nature, also based on Elsevier data, found that the number of academics who declared their affiliations in research papers in the past three years fell by more than 20%. The decline reflects the weakening of U.S.-China cooperation. The academics pointed to signs of declining cooperation numbers at least partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also linked to continued geopolitical tensions.
However, according to a recent report jointly published by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) and Elsevier, the world cannot afford to divide the world’s two largest producers of published research. China’s academic output compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2021 is as high as 5.5%, and in 2019 it surpassed the United States’ academic output. The academic output of China and the United States each accounts for about 20% of the global academic output. Not only is the world’s largest academic output country, but the joint publication of the two countries constitutes the largest bilateral research relationship so far, sharing top research talents from both sides.
In an environment of geopolitical tensions, international academic cooperation in various fields of science remains critical to addressing global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the existential risks to humankind posed by intensified climate change. The report “For the Global Common Good: APRU and the China-US Research Landscape ” (https://www.apru.org/resources/) found that nearly 40 percent of U.S.-China joint research publications included at least one APRU member university, reflecting the association’s importance in maintaining and strengthening various partnerships.
Geopolitical divisions around national interests and technological sovereignty may not disappear anytime soon, leading to increased governance or controls related to research collaborations. However, we believe that themes around global common interests and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must continue to be pushed forward, as these issues cannot be solved by a single country alone. The strengths of China-US bilateral relations and APRU member universities are precisely the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to health, energy, sustainable cities and communities, and climate action, which are extremely important to solving contemporary human existential crises. question. Taking Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7) as an example, China and the United States have the largest academic output related to renewable energy in the world. The number of megacities in China continues to increase, making Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG11) one of the research interests.
Asian universities lie in their geographic location — the Pacific Rim is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. APRU’s collective work, such as collaboration in the Multi-Hazards and Global Health projects, will build resilience and reduce risk in the region. From the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that started in Asia in 2003 to the new crown epidemic that has lasted for more than three years, APRU members such as the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have all played a role in the scientific understanding of the epidemic and the countermeasures key role.
Promoting international cooperation is still important for global common interests and future trends in related research. Therefore, research conducted by the world’s two largest research countries — China and the United States — and collaboration between them will be key. In this bilateral relationship, leading university networks such as APRU can exert their influence as catalysts for research collaborations, facilitators of student exchanges, and hubs for discussions on university governance and crisis management, and international university networks can become a re-establishment between China and the United States. A bridge for research collaboration. —— Anders Karlsson, Vice President of Global Strategic Networks, Elsevier; Christopher Tremewan, APRU Secretary-General; Jack Ng, Director, Communications, APRU; Sherman Cheng, Chief Financial Officer, APRU; Yuhri Ishizaki, Global Strategic Networks Associate, Elsevier.