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The importance of global research collaboration during the health crisis and beyond

Francisco Sanz
July 26, 2020, 10:59 p.m.

Written by Valeria Andreolli

The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is for research institutions around the globe to cooperate in order to achieve the same goal. Indeed, cooperation has turned out to be crucial in order to develop diagnostics, vaccines and treatments to tackle health emergencies such as COVID-19. It is therefore essential to ensure not only the cross-border flows of essential medicines and goods, but also the cross-border flow of knowledge, information and research collaboration. In this framework, an important role is played by open access databases, which are fundamental to this exchange between research organizations on an ongoing basis, and not only during emergency situations.

Another positive aspect regarding global collaboration among researchers is that it brings together people from all over the world, sometimes from countries that are in conflict. These people work peacefully together towards a common goal, animated by the same passion for knowledge. For this reason, it is proven that fundamental research has the potential to bridge the gap between cultures, break down barriers and nurture the younger generation in a respectful and tolerant environment that values diversity and inclusiveness. At the same time, international research is grappling with the challenges of their data avalanches, so there has never been a better time to seek citizen volunteer contributions to participate directly in scientific discovery.

These are also the premises on which REINFORCE is built. This European- funded project aims to engage citizens in the discoveries made by Large Research Infrastructures in the domain of frontier physics. Indeed, this is a research area where international collaborations derive from a need inherent to the very nature of the experiments performed: besides the high sophistication of the experimental equipment required to increase the discovery potential, the size of the experiment is of paramount importance. For example, in the field of Gravitational Wave physics setting up an international enterprise is a necessity since different gravitational-wave antennas are needed to localise the GW sources and properly characterise them, while detections are followed up and observed by a large network of electromagnetic observatories situated across the world. As the scale and sophistication of an experiment increases, the need for collaboration becomes of utmost importance for the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the potential of cross-border scientific collaborations and the effective and timely response that global exchange of scientific information, samples and materials can provide. This is therefore essential to keep on supporting and strengthening international networks of research collaborations within the global research community.

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