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Researchers must ‘shape change’ in int’l cooperation

Research-intensive universities across Europe have agreed a set of principles that will strengthen international cooperation during a time of “unstable geopolitical context”, especially following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

The organisations called for "massive investment" in post-secondary education and research excellence, including increased support for basic research. Photo: pexels

A rethink on the approach to international collaboration and a reaffirmation of common principles and values is needed on a "European level"

In a joint statement, three organisations – The German U15, The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, and Udice in France – reiterated that international cooperation is “essential for the progress of science and benefits humanity as a whole”. Scientific cooperation carried out by research universities can act as a “major diplomatic tool”, they added.

International research and higher education collaboration is also “essential” for sustainable and balanced development worldwide.

As a pillar of “European development and technological sovereignty”, research universities are willing to help prevent risks associated with international cooperation, the organisations noted, as they expressed “uncompromising solidarity” with Ukrainian universities.

“Despite the crises, tensions and now war on our doorstep in Europe, international cooperation remains paramount for research intensive universities,” Christine Clerici, president of Udice and rector of Université Paris Cité, said.

They also committed to support students and researchers from Ukraine affected by the war, and Russian staff and students who face persecution for opposing it.

“The war in Ukraine, and the need for solidarity with Ukraine, must go hand-in-hand with a vigorous embrace of international collaboration in science,” Jan Palmowski, secretary-general of The Guild, added.

“At a time of crisis, the need for international partnership and collaboration are all the greater to address common challenges. Europe’s universities have a huge part to play in helping the EU address fundamental societal, technological and economic challenges, and we are ready to do so.”

Russia’s war against Ukraine is like to “cause substantial changes to international cooperation in science”, Jan Wöpking, managing director of German U15, asserted. “We have to shape these changes,” he said.

“At a time of crisis, the need for international partnership and collaboration are all the greater to address common challenges”

A rethink on the approach to international collaboration and a reaffirmation of common principles and values is needed on a European level, Clerici continued.

“Together [with European partners] we can build a realistic, balanced and mutually beneficial vision of international cooperation in higher education, research and innovation.”

The three organisations added that European programs “in favour of academic and scientific cooperation must contribute to making Europe more attractive, open to cooperation with the rest of the world”.

The “openness” of the European Education and Research Areas is especially attractive, and they called for European funding programs for collaboration to open up more to third countries. They also reiterated their support for the participation of the United Kingdom and Switzerland in the Horizon Europe program as associated countries.

“Association would benefit all parties involved and make Europe both stronger and more sovereign. This was never more important than today,” they said.

All three are signatories of the Stick to Science campaign, launched in February by Universities UK, EPFL, ETH Zurich, the ETH Board, Wellcome and The Royal Society.

The campaign is pushing for agreements so that the UK and Switzerland can continue association to the Horizon Europe program. Political barriers that “have nothing to do with science” are currently holding up agreements.

Head of Policy Lab at the Wellcome Trust, Martin Smith, tweeted this week that the “only thing left is formal finalisation”.

“This is really a situation where we are running out of time,” director of UUKi, Vivienne Stern replied.

The group made the statement ahead of the ERA Forum’s Standing Subgroup on the Global Approach meeting at the beginning of May.

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