Surging research in Asia is an opportunity for us

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Consider: The research publications output of Chinese scientists will surpass what their U.S.-based counterparts put out by 2013, according to a recent article in the journal Science.

A Royal Society report cites that astounding statistic, and is noted in the article by University of British Columbia President Stephen J. Toope, National University of Singapore President Chorh Chuan Tan and the American Association for the Advance of Science Board Chair Nina V. Fedoroff.

It's a sea change, to say the least. U.S.-based research publications output has been prolific for years and arguably dominant within many academic journals. But the trend is moving irrevocably toward research based in China and Asia. The article also notes that Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, for example, are among the countries and regions making "major investments in (life sciences) discovery and innovation."

But rather than feel competitive, the authors cite the numbers as an opportunity through which researchers can improve scientific collaboration in the Asia-Pacific region. They say that groups such as the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, the International Alliance of Research Universities and the International Association of Universities have helped in some ways, but "none has had substantial impact in promoting enhanced research collaboration."

Instead, the article points to other outlets such as the Global Knowledge Initiative, which has focused on scientific and innovation programs in emerging markets and the developing world. They also want to see a greater priority placed on international research collaboration among universities, so they can share "complementary expertise" and pursue "higher-impact scientific research." Another key: More flexible visa arrangements so graduate and post-doctoral students can travel from country-to-country more easily to facilitate the international collaboration.

If the biggest developments in science are increasingly coming from the Asia-Pacific region, shouldn't we form as many collaborations and partnerships as possible to maximize the number of people who benefit from that trend? -- Mark Hollmer (Twitter | email)