Panel 123 - International Research Collaboration in a Polarized World

Conference Day: 
Day 1 - November 13th 2019
Takeaways and recommendations: 

International Research Collaboration in a Polarized World

Organizer: The University of Toronto, Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation

Speakers: Kimberly Skead, Doctoral Student, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto; Chad Gaffield, President, The Royal Society of Canada; Lissa Matyas, Vice-President of International Partnerships, Mitacs; Adam Segal, Ira A. Lipman chair in emerging technologies and national security and director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations

Moderator: Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, University of Toronto; Professor in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health.


  1. The highly globalized, collaborative, and cooperative culture dedicated to research that grew up in the 20th century has become an arena for competition that is both more promising and more contentious in the 21st century.

  2. Foreign policy has become wrapped up in research policy to an extent that would previously have been distasteful to those who regarded science as a homogenous, globally harmonious undertaking. At the same time, we now recognize that research policy reflects as well as influences societal priorities and values, and that we cannot ignore this fundamental relationship.

  3. Research and development activities have become polarized around the prospect that public investments in science may or may not be transformed into commercial or military products that do or do not benefit the public that paid for these investments.

  4. In recent years, much of this polarization has been driven by the development of China, which has adopted a distinctly different model for supporting science and technology — one that aggressively co-opts research from anywhere in the world rather than pursuing more equitable and transparent international partnerships.

  5. In recognition of the deep complexity of the world’s most important issues, the most promising research is now also seen to be the most complex in its extent and organization. Such research often calls for multidisciplinary expertise and extensive research infrastructure that require increased investments in science, making calls for a clear return on that investment all the louder.

Suggested Actions:

  1. Canada stands to benefit economically and socially from research efforts that could solve any number of complex challenges that stand in the way of improving our quality of life.

  2. A polarized research environment makes it incumbent for Canada to adopt policies that create an internationally competitive research and innovation workforce in Canada. That means providing resources to keep workers on the cutting edge of their respective fields, and providing them with the political and legal support to ensure their work will benefit Canadian. 

  3. Given that many students choose careers outside their academic fields, Canada could position itself as a place that cultivate careers in research that can compete with other options available to graduates.