UK needs links with US as well as Asia

April 28, 2006

British researchers are so eager to forge relationships with China and India that they are neglecting more profitable opportunities in the US, a report warned this week, writes Anna Fazackerley.

Sir Gareth Roberts, president of Wolfson College Oxford, has published an outline of how universities should strengthen collaborations with the US this week.

In it he argues that the US was "much the strongest research system in the world" and that the UK had to drop its "laissez faire approach" to cultivating links there.

According to the report, UK-US collaboration accounts for one third of the UK's strongest research.

Sir Gareth said: "This is a strong message to researchers to get up and go."

But he stressed that this was not solely an issue for the sciences, and he urged arts and humanities researchers to shake off their lone scholar culture and seek partnerships in the US.

He said: "There are lots of opportunities for scientists to get together, but what has there been for the humanities? Absolutely nothing."

To address this problem, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council have agreed to fund 20 new fellowships each year, sending the chosen academics to undertake research in the US Library of Congress.

In addition, the British Library will work with the Library of Congress to digitise research resources for the two countries to share.

According to the report, about 100 British researchers are currently on three-year postdoctoral fellowships at the National Institutes of Health Laboratories in the US.

The report says that most UK staff who leave do come back to the country - resulting in a knowledge gain.

Sir Gareth urged grant-giving bodies such as the research councils to look favourably on applications that included hiring postgraduate or postdoctoral researchers from the US or at proposals to send young UK researchers to the US.

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