Strategies that promote international research collaboration

Representatives from Texas Tech University and FAPESP highlight the importance of mechanisms such as SPRINT in the globalization of science

By Heitor Shimizu, in Lubbock  |  Agência FAPESP – The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) maintains international cooperation agreements with more than 160 funding agencies, institutions of higher education and research, organizations and companies from 30 countries. One of the most productive among these agreements is with Texas Tech University (TTU).

Signed in 2014, the agreement has already had three calls for proposals under the scope of the SPRINT – São Paulo Researchers in International Collaboration, which involves the simultaneous announcement of opportunities for collaboration by FAPESP with various partners abroad.

The three calls for proposals have resulted in the selection of 12 projects in a wide variety of fields, which are being carried out by researchers from the State of São Paulo together with colleagues at TTU.

The success of the collaboration between FAPESP and TTU was underscored by Michael Galyean, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at the university, during FAPESP Week Nebraska-Texas, taking place September 21-22 in the Texas city of Lubbock.

“This conference, held with a key partner of ours, FAPESP, is an important part of the internationalization process at Texas Tech. We have worked on a strategic plan, entitled Making it possible… 2010-2020 Strategic Plan, in which we emphasize the goal of becoming a research leader in fields such as agriculture, food, the environment, sustainability and health. And these are precisely the fields addressed by the research projects we support together with FAPESP that are being presented at this event,” he said.

Ambassador Tibor Nagy, vice-provost for international affairs, also emphasized the importance FAPESP Week holds for his university. Nagy served as U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia (1999-2002) and Guinea (1996-1999).

“This is a wonderful time to be holding this conference. Wonderful for the history of TTU because we are moving as fast as we can as we pursue our efforts to become a globally prominent university. It is also a wonderful time, especially when there are forces in the word that are attempting to undermine the process of globalization and the global exchange of information and cooperation. But it is a time in history that will be short-lived, and I am certain that we will return to what should be the normal state of the world,” he said.

“We are working to totally internationalize the DNA of Texas Tech University. And this does not mean just increasing the number of students from other countries at our university, which has grown 70% in the last four years,” he said.

According to Nagy, during the 2016-2017 academic year, 1,333 Texas Tech students took part in academic activities in other countries through the university’s Study Abroad program.

“Internationalization is also not about simply increasing our research grants for international development, in which we have invested more than US$ 40 million since 2013, but rather it means cultivating strategic partnerships with key institutions from key countries. And I cannot think of a partner more ideal in this regard than FAPESP, the most dynamic institution in the most dynamic state of Brazil,” Nagy said.

“Our collaboration with FAPESP has already proven to be a huge success, but there is more to the process and I believe this conference will call attention to what has been done and show the way to what can be done,” he said.

“We thank you for the opportunity to collaborate with FAPESP. Our goal at Texas Tech is to be an internationally recognized university. But we cannot be a prominent global university without being globally engaged. For this reason, international cooperation is essential to what we would like to do at Texas Tech,” said Galyean.

SPRINT and other mechanisms

Euclides de Mesquita Neto, a professor at the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), in the State of São Paulo, and member of the FAPESP Adjunct Panel for Special Programs and Collaboration of Research, used the event to present the opportunities for research support offered by FAPESP.

“FAPESP has initiatives, mechanisms and financing strategies that target researchers, academic institutions, research and industry funding agencies and other sectors of the economy,” he said.

“Most of FAPESP’s investments are related to funding proposals and ideas submitted by the research community through the Foundation’s regular programs. But FAPESP also has a series of initiatives of its own. One of these initiatives is related to increasing international collaboration of scientific research conducted in the State of São Paulo,” he said.

Mesquita mentioned that among the reasons for promoting this type of collaboration is the fact that international collaborative work is best suited for dealing with the most complex and challenging issues.

“Emerging issues can also be addressed more productively and effectively through the understanding and complementary experience of collaborative groups. Science produced in an international collaborative network has more impact than science produced by each of its participants individually,” he said.

Mesquita cited some figures related to international collaboration funded by FAPESP: nearly 6,000 research grants and 9,200 scholarships aimed at funding partnerships between researchers and students from the State of São Paulo and colleagues and institutions from other countries.

He also talked about the opportunities FAPESP offers to researchers and students from other countries interested in spending time in São Paulo on collaborations with colleagues from the state, such as grants under the Visiting Researcher Program, postdoctoral fellowships and the Young Investigators Awards Program.

“And this edition of FAPESP Week is proof of the success of SPRINT, since most of the projects whose findings are being presented here were selected through this FAPESP strategy,” Mesquita said.

Besides encouraging the engagement of researchers affiliated with institutions of higher learning and research in the State of São Paulo with research partners abroad, SPRINT is designed to contribute to more advantageous planning for submissions of seed funding proposals.

SPRINT has four calls for proposals per year, with deadlines for submission of proposals on the last Monday of January, April, July and October. Learn more about SPRINT at