Research partnerships essential to solve global problems

By Professor Stuart Taberner

 Professor Stuart Taberner
Professor Stuart Taberner

The biggest problems facing the world today will not be solved by researchers from a single discipline, a single university, or even a single continent.

The key is collaboration, where researchers can come together and share ideas about how to resolve those intractable issues that shorten lives, hold back economic development and impact on wellbeing:  climate change, food security, disease and rebuilding communities ravaged by conflict.

If we as academics want to make a real change, we need to forge links with colleagues outside of our own disciplines and across borders.

That’s why I will be in Ghana in just under two weeks’ time – to meet academics from the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) to discuss future research partnerships.

The UK Government is making money available through its Global Challenges Research Fund to build joint research projects between members of ARUA and UK universities. 

The Global Challenges Research Fund is part of the UK’s development assistance budget with the aim of equipping top researchers from around the world with the necessary funding to make significant progress tackling global problems.

The University of Leeds, where I am the Dean of Interdisciplinary Research, has a long and successful record of building research partnerships with colleagues in Africa. Currently, we have one team working on ways to improve the forecasting of extreme weather events – difficult to do but of vital importance to reduce the lethal impact of severe storms and droughts.

Another project is looking at ways to reduce alarmingly high maternal death rates in parts of East Africa. And I am involved in a collaboration investigating how to promote reconciliation in societies ravaged by conflict.

Solutions to these issues will be found not by a single academic working in isolation but through the coming together of minds, across continents, in a partnership of equals.

The University of Leeds is involved in more than 70 projects financed through the Global Challenges Research Fund. We have developed expertise in building these partnerships.

My university, along with the other British universities travelling to Ghana, is keen to look at developing more of these partnerships around the themes of ARUA’s centres of excellence.

It is where we can align and build on our respective research strengths. And if both sides think a collaboration is possible, we can make a joint application to the Global Challenges Research Fund to finance the research.

At the meeting in Ghana, I and my colleagues want to hear about your research, and your expertise. There will be sessions where people from ARUA and N8 universities will be able to pitch ideas.

Over the next couple of days, the University of Leeds will be sharing research stories with the ARUA community to show the type of work we have successfully partnered on. They will appear on the ARUA website.

Hopefully, the meeting in Ghana will be the start of a strong bond between the best of African and British research universities.

And I’ll be around to hear your ideas and answer any questions you might have about what we can offer here at Leeds.

For more information, please contact David Lewis from the University of Leeds on d.lewis@leeds.ac.uk