Global Science Research and the Value of International Collaboration

Science research spending around the globe has increased by 45 percent to more than $1,000 billion (one trillion) U.S. dollars since 2002. In 2008, 218 countries generated more than 1.5 million research papers, with contributions ranging from Tuvalu’s one paper to the U.S.’ 320,000 papers. The U.S. leads the world’s production of science research, accounting for 21 percent of publications and nearly $400 billion worth of public and private science R&D. BRIC and other developing countries, including China, India, Brazil and South Korea, account for much of the increase in scientific publications.

Science Research in the BRIC Countries of China, India and Brazil

A study by the U.K.’s Royal Society points out that the BRIC countries, along with South Korea, “are often cited as rising powers in science.” From 2002 to 2007, the China, India and Brazil more than doubled their spending on science research, bringing their collective share of global spending up from 17 to 24 percent.

Engineering is a common focus of science research in China, India and Russia. Scientific fields in which China has developed a leading position include nanotechnology and rare earths. Agriculture and biosciences are two important fields of emphasis in Brazil, which is a leader in biofuels research.

In keeping with their rapid economic development and massive populations, China and India, the world’s first and second most populous countries, produce large and growing numbers of science and engineering graduates each year. In 2006, about 2.5 million students in India and 1.5 million students in China graduated with degrees in science and engineering.

International Collaboration

Today, over 35 percent of science research articles are the result of international collaborations among researchers from different countries, a 40 percent increase from 15 years ago. The number of internationally co-authored papers has more than doubled since 1990.

The U.S., U.K., France and Germany continue to be key hubs of international collaboration in science research. Researchers in other developed and developing countries actively collaborate with scientists from these countries. According to the Royal Society report, “while links between the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have been growing in recent years, they pale in comparison to the volume of collaboration between these individual countries and their partners in the G7.”

International science research often takes the form of regional collaboration. Regional political institutions, including the European Union (EU), African Union (AU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), each have their own research strategies that foster and facilitate regional collaboration in science research.

“South-South Collaboration” between developing countries is a growing form of international science research. The International Centre for South-South Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation was inaugurated in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2008 under the auspices of UNESCO. An initiative of India, Brazil and South Africa promotes South-South cooperation in several arenas, including science and research collaboration in fields such as nanotechnology, oceanography and Antarctic research.

Collaboration’s Benefits and Drivers

There are a number of important benefits, motivations and enabling factors that help explain the growth of international collaboration in science research, including:

1) greater impact;
2) scientific discovery;
3) scale of research projects;
4) scope and complexity of research topics and international issues;
5) capacity-building; and
6) advances in technology and communications.

Fourteen countries experienced more than a three-fold increase in their standard domestic publication impact by collaborating with one or more of 22 partner countries. Each additional international author leads to an increase in a paper’s impact, up to a tipping point of about ten authors. By collaborating with one another, scientists can access complementary skills and knowledge and stimulate new ideas.

The scale of some major science research projects is too large for most countries to undertake on their own. In such cases, international collaboration is necessary to meet extensive requirements for human, financial and other resources. The scope and complexity of certain science research topics and objectives can also drive international collaboration.

Many of the world’s most pressing social problems are international issues that call for collaboration and cooperation. Climate change, food security, public health (e.g., AIDS/HIV, malaria and tuberculosis) and sustainability are just a few of the global issues that require international collaboration and solutions.

Collaboration allows scientists in one country to build their capacity to conduct significant science research by leveraging the resources of partners in other countries. Collaboration can be particularly beneficial to partners from developing and developed countries.

Advances in technology have contributed greatly to the feasibility and appeal of international collaboration. For researchers in developing and developed countries alike, improvements in communication technologies and services have made international collaboration simpler, faster and cheaper than ever before.

Success Stories

The Royal Society study presents several encouraging examples of cases where science research and international collaboration have contributed greatly to addressing important international issues.

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) encompasses an international network of independent centers of agricultural research in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Despite operating on a modest yet significant annual budget of $550 million, every $1 invested in CGIAR is estimated to yield a very healthy return of $9 worth of additional food in developing countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) set up FluNet in 1996 as a global tool to monitor and evaluate influenza virus strains by leveraging data from a number of national influenza laboratories around the world. When the epidemic of severe respiratory illness broke out in Hong Kong in 2003, the FluNet network contributed to a coordinated, rapid response from the international science and medical community that identified the virus and helped minimize the related public health threat and consequences.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization has immunized more than 200 million children and prevented over 3.4 million premature deaths since receiving a start-up grant of $750 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1999.

Royal Society Study – Knowledge, Networks and Nations

These are some of the key findings published recently in the Royal Society’s examination of global science research entitled Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global Scientific Collaboration in the 21st Century.

The Royal Society study is based on statistics from international organizations, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Society’s own analysis of data on science research articles published in roughly 25,000 separate scientific journals by the more than 7 million researchers around the world.

Science research encompasses both research and development, the “R” and “D”, respectively, of public and private R&D efforts, which range from abstract and conceptual exploration through to market-oriented development of scientific applications.

Research Findings

The Royal Society study paints an encouraging picture of growing international investment in science research. International collaboration is a highly valuable mechanism for promoting scientific discovery and maximizing the impact of science research. Publicly and privately funded science R&D has played a key role in successfully addressing key issues related to public health, food security and the environment, among others.

Corrupted Research – Exposing the Peer Review Process

When you hear about new medical breakthroughs in the news, you will only hear about peer reviewed research. Peer reviewed means that it passed some sort of basic standards for quality. It is the gold standard of research.

But is it real gold, or fool’s gold?

Medical research seems especially mystical and awe inspiring to the average person. The basic concepts of medicine, which aren’t really difficult to understand, are deliberately cloaked in Latin terminology and other confusing jargon, making medical knowledge and theory seem out of reach to the common person.

After all, every profession needs to make you think you need their services. Lawyers make the legal system so complex and confusing that the average person is completely helpless without legal assistance. Accountants help the IRS tweak the tax code to make it virtually impossible for the average person to know it all, understand it all, or follow all the changes constantly being made. Doctors have made it so you cannot request medical tests or take drugs without their prescription. You name a profession, and you can see ways it perpetuates itself by disempowering the public.

What about the medical research profession?

One of the most important things to know about medical research is that, above all else, it is a profession. Researchers make their money usually from both salaries and grants. The job of the researcher is to find a sponsor for their special type of research. The more research projects and publications they get, the more sponsors they have, and the higher their income. And if a researcher comes up with a patentable device or drug, there are intellectual property rights to throw into the compensation package.

This means that researchers do not work for free. They are mercenary. There may be very interesting and, by social standards, very important research that needs to be done that they could do. But unless, and until, they are paid to do it, the work does not get done.

This means that the funding sources of research, be it the government or private sources, determine what research is actually done. Most of the money for medical research comes from the private sector, usually drug companies, which is why drugs dominate modern medicine. Government funding is little different, since it comes from agencies that are highly lobbied by drug companies, and are run by doctors trained and paid by drug companies. Medicine is a public-private partnership, giving the pharmaceutical industry government-like power over the culture and its healthcare research.

Research into non-drug alternatives are rarely done for this reason. It is also why medicine claims it knows very little about the causes of most diseases of our time. They care much more about the treatment than the cause, since treatment is profitable for the research sponsors, while knowing the cause can lead to prevention, which translates in medical terminology into “unbillable”.

Of course, this is a pretty big scam to pull off. Consider its scope. The public is taxed and begged for donations to pay for medical research that goes into discovering drug treatments that the public will later have to pay incredibly high prices to obtain, and only after paying the doctor for an office visit to get a prescription. And if the drug gives nasty side effects it only leads to more calls for more money to find newer drugs with different side effects.

Is the public getting a good deal here? How do you know the research is scientifically valid? Where is the quality control?

Since most people have been conditioned into believing that they cannot judge medical research unless they have a Ph.D., M.D., N.D., or other license, the research is evaluated for you by other scientists in the field. This is called peer review.

Scientists doing research, as with all professions, belong to a club of like-minded researchers in the same business, promoting their services and products. They belong to the same kinds of industries, such as universities or large multinational drug corporations. They have the same education, which means they all think alike. The purpose of their organization is to provide standards of practice that are supposed to assure quality. Any research must first be somehow reviewed by the peers of this club to make sure the quality guidelines are met, before the research can be published.

Yet, despite this assurance of quality, the fact is that most of what is considered true today will be discarded as false in the future. “Ninety percent of what you learn in medical school will be out of date and considered obsolete in ten years,” we were told by the dean of students when I began medical school. This means that most of what doctors learn is wrong. It also means that the new information which will come in 10 years to replace and update current misconceptions and errors will also be considered obsolete in another ten years’ time. This is a powerful indictment of medical research, which seems to produce little more than temporary information.

It also means that the peer review process does not assure truth. It only means that current standards of practice are followed. Currently, this allows conflicts of interest, since most drug research is paid for by the companies that produce and profit from those same drugs. Even research testing drug side effect hazards is paid for by the companies standing to lose, big time, if their drugs are proven unsafe. Since drug companies have their bottom line, and not unselfish service to mankind, as their reason for existing, it is extremely unwise to trust them with research into their own products. Researchers take no oaths of honesty or integrity. They work for whoever pays them, and they are not above fudging the results to get the desired outcome.

This is not good science, of course. But it is science as practiced in a culture that has professionalized research into a profit-making enterprise. It is not, as people fantasize, the sacred trust needed for helping the sick and injured with unselfish devotion. Medical research is about making money coming up with newly patented drugs to replace the ones that have just gone off-patent and are being sold too cheaply by generic drug competitors.

Peer review does not stop the conflict of interest. Medical journals accept conflict of interest, knowing that it is the way medical research is done. Knowing what research is coming down the pike allows these insiders to get a whiff of new drug developments before the public knows, so they can change their investment portfolio mix for anticipated stock price adjustments.

Peer review also keeps out alternative theories and ways of doing research. All innovation threatens the status quo, and those who control the peer review process, like Supreme Court Justices, can decide on which cases to hear and which to ignore. They are gatekeepers of the status quo, which keeps the current powers that be in power. Since the medical peer review boards are the culture’s final authority on quality, there is no way to challenge their decisions. The quality of the research may in fact be poor, which is evident when you see how many research articles criticize other, peer reviewed research as being flawed in some way. Any researcher will tell you that lots of bad research is done that gets published. However, it’s a publish or perish world. Since researchers and their peers are all caught in this same publish or perish demand, and review one another’s work, they subtly collude to get as much research as they can funded and published. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. They argue among themselves in the journals as to the quality of their work, and for sure there is some competition among scientists as they solicit grants from the same sources to do pretty much the same thing. But there is overall an understanding that, as peers, united they stand and divided they fall.

Of course, this means that peer review is nothing more than a political arrangement for research workers, like a guild or union. It’s goal is to keep control over their field, suppress the competition, and assure continued cash flow. It has nothing to do with science, the systematic search for truth, which must not be tainted by financial motives or tempted by personal gain.

So the next time you hear a news story about some new wonder drug, look for the union label. If it is peer reviewed, there’s a ninety percent change it’s wrong.

The Scary Truth About Pesticides

Why should we be concerned with pesticides? Aren’t there plenty of checks and balances in place to make sure the public is safe from harm? With the processes companies go through with Research and Development plus registration with the government, do we really need the additional burden of further research when we have so many other things to worry about?

If the public knew the scientific history of pesticides along with the powerful political and economic battles raged surrounding them, Americans would be aghast. The truth about these toxic chemicals is shocking yet these liquid, granular and powdered poisons lurk everywhere. In the air we breathe, in the products we use and in the food we eat. Not only are these contaminants incredibly toxic but the scariest part is they are pervasive to the point that it is almost impossible to completely avoid them. And the worst part is that the motivation for all this toxicity is monetary.

First of all, a brief history of pesticides… Man has been fighting against bugs since time began in the form of personal comfort (bed bugs, mosquitoes, etc.) and for destructive capabilities (crop damage, termites, etc.). Early preventive measures against insects included using plants and herbs for repellency and began to transform once Man discovered chemicals. The greatest shift in pesticides came after the engineering and scientific explosion of information generated during World War II when nerve gas was perfected.

Most synthetic pesticides on the market today are based on post war nerve gas technology. Scientists discovered that certain chemicals affect brain function and are therefore referred to as neuro-toxins. The effects can be immediate death, targeted to specific functions like digestion or reproduction to cause eventual death, or they can be slow, long-term effects on a cellular level that manifest over a period of time.

Because these neuro-toxins are synthetic, human bodies are not able to metabolize them. These substances enter a human body either through digestion, absorption or inhalation and remain in the body just like plastic will sit for centuries in a landfill. The human body does not have the capability to excrete them as they are not a natural substance so they accumulate in our tissues, in our cells, and in our organs.

So how exactly are we exposed to these chemical toxins? In an average day, Americans are bombarded with pesticides – often unknowingly. Exterminators apply odorless, colorless pesticides in public spaces like office buildings, schools, malls, theaters, grocery stores, etc. on an ongoing basis. As an example, your child’s school could have been treated in the early morning hours to make sure there is adequate drying time and then your son or daughter sits on the floor during circle time wallowing in the odorless fumes of pesticides.

The food we eat is full of pesticides. The most recent figures show that in the United States, more than 877 billion pounds of pesticides were used on crops in 2007 which represents almost 3000 pounds of pesticide per person. These pesticides are NOT just applied to the outer skin of crops which can be washed off – they are often put in the soil which then enters plants through the roots and becomes systemic meaning the pesticide is now inherent in the structure of the plant. You cannot wash that away! Unless you buy strictly organic, you are eating these pesticides.

What is causing this madness? In a word – money.

Obviously a farmer wants to increase crop yield so using pesticides can help make that happen. In theory, there is nothing wrong with a businessman trying to increase profits and I do not fault a Farmer from doing what he or she is assured is the best solution. But here is where this changes from ‘providing for your family’ to just plain wrong…

Farmers are smart people educated in the functions of farming which takes a great deal to balance well. Soil conditions, weather patterns, planting, harvesting, pests, weeds, crop rotation, micro-nutrients, and irrigation are just a sampling of what a farmer must juggle to take a seed to harvest. Each of these areas is broad and complex and produces a multitude of consultants and experts that Farmers rely on for the latest in technology and research. When a chemical company produces the latest, greatest, strongest and most capable pesticide for less money requiring fewer applications, a Farmer will be pleased. The Farmer improves crop yield and the chemical company sells more product. Everyone is happy, right?

Not so fast… What about the long term? What does this pesticide do to the crop that absorbs these toxins through the roots to infiltrate the cells of the fruit? What happens to the soil that is infiltrated with these synthetic chemicals that may take hundreds of years to breakdown? What about the unsuspecting parents buying this fruit and feeding it to their children who then ingest the pesticides to be stored in their tiny little bodies forever?

Well the long term IS manifesting itself in the form of disease – neurological based diseases such as Autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s; and degenerative diseases such as Cancer, Heart Disease, and Diabetes. Birth Defects, Learning Disabilities, Depression and other Mental Health issues are all indisputably linked to pesticides. One of the most obvious cause and effect stories of pesticides and their potential damage is quite recent – the Department of Defense has admitted ‘The Gulf War illness is tied directly to the use of chemicals including pesticides’.

And now for the scariest truth about pesticides – they generate obscene profits which in turn buy enormous political influence which then protects the industry from scrutiny.

Political power for the wealthy is nothing new nor is it solely a problem in the world of chemical pesticides. However, we are dealing with the general public health which in the minds of many elevates the responsibility of government agencies to act wisely. To assume that government regulation means something is safe is incredibly naïve. Big chemical companies have enormous clout as well as extremely deep pockets to absorb any fines or fees associated with minor misdeeds like falsified data. Examples are numerous and the trend continues.

So should we be concerned about pesticides? ABSOLUTELY! And what is a Regular Joe to do about these pervasive poisons?

Get educated and demand answers. When and what do they spray at your child’s school? Is this organic or conventional produce? What are the ingredients in this product I am buying? And most of all – spread the word. An educated consumer is a powerful force to reckon with – and your future and that of your children depends on it!

Pursuing A Degree In Political Science

Political science involves studying how the existing systems of government and other regulatory bodies operate and interact with the country, citizens and other organizations. Students who major in this subject can pursue a number of different careers that cover a broad range of industries. This can also be a major that is part of a larger career path leading to a position in business, management or media studies.

Academic Qualities Needed For a Political Science Career

Political scientists must have a love of learning and a strong educational background. The ability to communicate both verbally and through written documents is vital. A well-rounded education that involves a second language and high grades in history and social studies can also go a very long way in college.

Community Involvement

Most colleges and scholarship programs will want to see a strong involvement in the community or a great interest in public affairs. This can mean keeping up with current news stories, understanding local issues or actually participating in the civic systems of a city or state. It can be beneficial for dedicated students to join some of the junior branches of political organizations that are related to personal interests.

Finding A Scholarship

Political science scholarships are available through governmental bodies, activist organizations and some educational institutions. There are several programs that give scholarships for high school students that give awards to those who are living in a certain area or who can help to diversify a particular workforce. Most scholarships will want the student to explain exactly why political science is of interest and what is providing inspiration for a potential career in public service. Many of the programs are seeking to support students who want to become a civil servant or work in the non-profit sector. Some larger institutions provide scholarships to students who want to use their education in order to perform research.

Political Science Jobs

Most of the individuals who graduate with a degree in political science work for the federal government in one capacity or another. This can be as a politician, a campaign aide or as an administrator for a specific office. A large number of graduates find work in scientific institutions performing research and polling. These same scientific institutions often act as a consulting service for politicians, businesses and other industries that need to understand social trends. Some graduates are also able to find work in the education sector. These jobs range from teachers to college administrators.