Coordinator at the Berlin Center for Global Engagement for the Cross-Cutting Theme: Internationalization
Jul 22, 2020
The Berlin University Alliance has set itself the goal of developing and implementing new measures within the field of internationalization. One of their projects is the construction of the Berlin Center for Global Engagement (BCGE). This workspace will be a platform for new and existing projects in the fields of research collaboration with the so-called Global South, science diplomacy and academic freedom. Romain Faure has been the BCGE coordinator since April. He was previously involved in the development of the Berlin University Alliance as a program manager in the International Network University (PINU) and FU-BUA units at Freie Universität Berlin.
Romain, what are your responsibilities as a coordinator for the newly founded BCGE?
The center must be built entirely from scratch. This is an incredibly exciting task because everything is still in the planning and development stage. In this set-up phase, I, along with my colleagues Florian Kohstall and Sarah Wessel, will be responsible for bringing together the voices of the various researchers and entities of the Alliance partner institutions dealing with issues related to BCGE. The combination of these diverse expertise and interests will create a unique profile for the BCGE.
Our first call for proposals has already been issued over the last few weeks – it has received a very positive response. With this call for proposals, we were wanting to gain an overview of research in our field at the four Alliance partner institutions and stimulate initial project ideas. We were extremely pleased with the large amount of interest and the variety of the submitted project proposals. A total of 45 applications have been received. We are now in the process of organizing the evaluation so that we can ultimately identify a shortlist of projects that will receive a funding amount of between 10,000 and 40,000 euros.
What is the aim of the BCGE?
The center pursues a threefold goal. First, it intends to strengthen the research collaboration between the Berlin University Alliance and the countries of the so-called Global South. In this context, we are not defining the Global South primarily in geographical terms but rather as a term that questions existing hierarchies in the production of knowledge. To this end, we will identify thematic and regional focuses through which the Berlin University Alliance institutions can supplement each other and establish and develop important partnerships with the Global South.
Secondly, the BCGE aims to bundle the nationally unique regional and global expertise offered by the Berlin universities and to act as a platform for networking among politics and society at large. The center will therefore develop activities in the field of science diplomacy. Thirdly, we want to look at the present challenges in international research collaboration and support projects on topics such as academic freedom.
Through our program, we intend to create political and public awareness of the idea that global challenges can only be solved on a global level. For this reason, research collaboration is particularly important in politically and economically challenging contexts.
Why is the Global South an important issue?
We still too often reduce the global science landscape to the “Global North”. Science is a universal language – when translated into particular discourses, models, technologies, it has an impact on the whole world. For this reason, the development of scientific research results must be based more strongly than it is on an exchange with researchers from the Global South, who today find themselves marginalized in the world of research solely due to where they work. New ideas and pioneering insights are arising everywhere, but the issue is that these are not equally visible in all places across the world. Scientific discourses are effectively challenged when they are widely debated – and not only among the leading industrial nations.
What do you think is the Berlin University Alliance’s most exciting feature?
The Berlin University Alliance is an ambitious, audacious, and forward-thinking project. It focuses on collaboration as opposed to competition and strives to use the complementary strengths of the four partner institutions in order to develop new research questions and promote robust, innovative, and up-to-date research results. Competition between neighboring institutions can be productive but it must not lead to wasted energy and navel-gazing. The Berlin University Alliance can help to strike the balance between competition and collaboration. Personally, I am really looking forward to meeting inspiring people and bright minds, both from within the Alliance and from all over the world.