Impacts of International Cooperation on Research


Impacts of International Cooperation on Research

FAUBAI 2018 Conference in Rio de Janeiro is dedicated to the theme Internationalization and Research: Challenges and Strategies. I was invited to speak about the Impact of International Cooperation on Research, which is of a crucial interest.

The Power Point of my presentation is available here. Below are my notes.


The conference theme is of crucial interest too, and I would like to position my contribution vis-à-vis the general topic of the conference because one could not speak about Impacts and Internationalization of Research without addressing the strategy and the challenges this subject poses for SIO and the University leadership.

Actually, we need first of all to know what we really mean by Impact, International Cooperation, and Research in this specific context of Internationalization. Are we talking about “international research”? Internationalization of Research?, What about “Impacts” and what are we referring to?

To make things easier, I assume that we are addressing the “evaluation of the support we (SIO’s, university administrators), offer to researchers and research projects being conducted in cooperation with international research partners”. We are not going to address the evaluation of the research results themselves, which is the responsibility of the vice president research, or their equivalent.


In order to be really comprehensive, any Internationalization Strategy should cover the three dimension of the University mission, namely:

  • Research: New knowledge development and application, discovery, innovation, etc.,
  • Education: knowledge dissemination, teaching, learning, etc.
  • Community services: from the campus to the planet;

Such a strategy cannot be implemented without clear and shared responsibility that networks and connects all the actors in the institution. Like any network, Internationalization is an approach that needs Rules of Governance and Administration. Hence the two additional legs to the Framework:

  • Administration and
  • Governance of Internationalization.

At the 2016 CBIE conference in Ottawa, I insisted on the Grammar of Internationalization. The word Internationalization is a transitive action that commands an object. Internationalization alone is incomplete. We should talk about Internationalization of Research, Internationalization of Education (International Education is the result), and Internationalization of Community services. The two other legs are Administration of Internationalization and Governance of Internationalization.

Internationalization of Research commands:

  • a vision: That is the WHY
  • a set of objectives: That is the WHAT we will achieve
  • a plan of action: That is HOW we will achieve the objectives (WHAT we will do)
  • a set of means: That is WHAT we need to have in order to be able to take the actions that will permit us to achieve the objectives


In this framework, International cooperation is one of the means we have at our disposal (a means we can develop, implement) in order to take research actions and achieve objectives. International cooperation, as a means, is an approach, a way to conduct research or any other Internationalization effort, entirely or partially. It can be materialized in the shape of “a partnership” and supported by an “agreement”, a “contract”, or any other document.

International cooperation includes:

  • Mobility of faculty and researchers (including graduate and post graduate students);
  • Scholarly publishing: joint, international publications;
  • Joint research projects and programs, joint applications for fund;
  • Research networks: joint teams, joint labs, etc.
  • Joint programs, joint PhDs, co-supervision, co-tutelle;
  • International conferences, workshops and seminars;
  • International development projects and initiatives;
  • Research on international and global issues


Is research international by nature? Do we need to internationalize research? And if yes, Why and How?

The Danish minister of Higher Education and Science, Ulla Tørnæs, stated in 2016 that “Internationalisation of research is important, not a goal in itself, but as a means to increase the impact and quality of Danish research.”[1]

But, It is very common to hear researchers and University administrators saying: Research is international by nature, so there is no need to internationalize it. I would argue it is not. Some research programs and projects are International. Some research programs and projects cannot be developed and sustained without International cooperation and collaboration, like for example the Space Science and Space exploration programs, or the Global Health programs. Some research areas and programs are international and global by nature of their research objects, while some research projects could be inter-national because they spread over several nations or are of interest to those nations.

But, all research is not international by nature. Even research on global issues such as climate change, renewable energy, clean technologies, global health, may be conducted locally without any international cooperation. Hence the imperative for universities who are willing to become international and global players to internationalize the research component of their University mission.


Here are few examples of benefits a University Internationalization Strategy might look to have by developing International Cooperation for Research.

  • To boost the research profile at the University
  • To increase international visibility
  • To increase resources
  • To attract talent
  • To reduce time to results
  • To enhance research capacity and research quality
  • To enhance research results and impacts
  • To contribute to solving complex global (or local) issues
  • Increase or develop economical outputs or outcomes of research

How to internationalize research

  • Scholarly collaboration
  • Research on global issues: examples
  • Research for development
  • Research and innovation: industrial and social innovation
  • Research and policy development


The evaluation of the Internationalization efforts is, as conceived in the framework, the responsibility of the administration of Internationalization. It is a very serious task, often time overlooked because of the lack of clarity in the responsibility, and because of the lack of an adapted evaluation framework. Measuring the impacts has to be explicitly planned for, and done in an agreed upon framework. One should not improvise when it comes to the evaluation step of any project, more seriously wen it involves partnership and partners. However, it is important to clarify that evaluating the impact of international cooperation on research is not evaluating the Research itself neither the impact of research. Evaluation of Research and its Impacts is the responsibility of the vice president for Research, or their Research office, or the Research councils and agencies, on an administrative side, and the responsibility of the community of peer scientists and researchers, on the other side. When we internationalize research, we aim at achieving specific objectives, one of them could be enhancing the quality of research, or developing research capacity, etc.


The identification and definition of the evaluation object is of crucial importance, otherwise we iterate confusion and create troubles. In the Intentional Comprehensive Internationalization Framework, I proposed to borrow the Outcome mapping theory and adapt it for the Internationalization of Higher Education. Evaluation of Internationalization Efforts is the responsibility of the Administration of Internationalization. A framework should be established and agreed upon in the Internationalization Strategy and it should cover all three dimension of the University Mission. It has three components:

  • Outputs: concrete results of activities (actions, programs, projects) designed purposely to achieve an internationalization objective. Number of Publications; Number of students; Number of conferences, etc.
  • Outcomes: changes in behaviour, attitudes, relationships, or actions of the students and teachers participating in a program or a project. Two types: Expected outcomes and Unexpected outcomes;
  • Impacts: ultimate goals toward which a program (project) works. Internationalization efforts contribute to the achievement of the impact. Attribution of impacts to Internationalization efforts contradicts the intrinsic nature of research and education at an HEI (confluence of initiatives and conditions). Hence the difference between “attribution” and “contribution”.

Example of evaluation of International Research Cooperation:

Action/means Outputs Outcomes

(Expected or unexpected)

Research cooperation Number of reviewed papers and conferences

Fund obtained

Number of students trained

Equipment and facilities

Trips and meetings

New knowledge developed

New solutions developed or improved

New patents (expected)

New awards (unexpected)

New or more funds

New researchers hired

Problem solved thanks to the research: totally (attribution) or partially (contribution)

New policy developed based on the research results

New enterprise created

Government change


Example: Evaluation of Internationalization of Teaching and learning. Study abroad.

Action/means Outputs Outcomes

(Expected or unexpected)

Internationalization of Teaching and learning Number of students abroad

Number and amount of scholarships

Number of programs

Enhanced teaching and learning experience

New experience: international

More visibility for the institution

More research partnership (unexpected)

Increased number of students (unexpected)

Global citizens

Better chance of employment

Better institutional reputation

Example of a University strategy. We anonymized the text:


Achieving and maintaining research excellence is a primary goal and a matter of pride at [our university].

OUTPUT: We monitor the quality of our research yearly through international rankings. Our target is to be among the top 50 universities in the world.

OUTPUT: Our researchers publish in the best journals. We aim for a 15% increase in the number of top quality international scientific publications by 2020.

OUTCOME: [our university] will be a pioneer in open knowledge

OUTPUT: and aims to increase its number of Open Access publications by 40%.

We provide support for our researchers as they make even

OUTCOME: stronger research applications for international research funding.

OUTPUT: Our target is to increase international research funding up to 50 million euro annually.

IMPACT: We produce world class high-impact knowledge that contributes to solving global problems. Together with our partners we are building a better, more sustainable world.

NOTA BENE: However, it does not say in which areas of research or which global issues. How to measure it? Story telling? Theory of change? Other methods? Etc.

How to collect the outputs, outcomes and impacts

  • Outputs: numbers and lists
  • Outcomes: changes, innovations and inventions
  • Impacts: success stories, case studies, Theory of change, etc.

When to collect the outputs, outcomes and impacts

  • Monitoring the Progress markers and developing Journals
  • Harvest post-project results


  • Internationalization AND Research or Internationalization OF Research
  • Evaluate the impact of the Internationalization of Research vs the impact of the Research
  • Impact is to measure on the longer term, not in quantitative terms.
  • Theory of change to harvest the outputs, outcomes and the impacts
  • Dedicated resources: to monitor, evaluate, assess, measure, report, etc. [Administration in the ICI Framework]
  • Should be part of the Internationalization Strategy Framework [Administration in the ICI Framework]
  • International cooperation is an imperative to solve complex problems and issues the humanity faces: working together is a powerful way to solve complex issues.



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