For Immediate Release: October 16, 2020
By Capt. James Borghardt, commanding officer, Office of Naval Research Global
LONDON, UK—I recently heard a lecture claiming that 90 percent of the scientists our planet has ever hosted are still working in science today. That is a remarkable number.
The lecture went on to prove that figure was reasonable through compelling mathematical modeling. For example, the 2017 Research & Development (R&D) Magazine Global Funding Forecast illustrated that while U.S. total research-and-development (R&D) spending increased since 2010, the number of scientists per capita decreased significantly.
The same report also articulated that 80 percent of the world’s researchers are outside of the U.S. Additionally, according to the Congressional Research Service’s Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet, the United States’ percentage share of global R&D funding has shifted significantly from 69 percent in 1960 to 28 percent in 2018.
According to the Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2021, 25 of the top 50 universities, and 63 of the top 100, are outside of the United States. Of the $2.1 trillion in global research funding, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) basic research funding accounts for just 0.1 percent. It is absolutely clear that the United States, and specifically the DoD, is no longer driving global basic research through its direct funding.
While many would find this significant shift in global research resources and influence disheartening, by changing its focus from basic research investments for specific capabilities to research investments to establish trusted partnerships and collaborations, ONR Global and its co-investors and collaborators have instead created the opportunity for accelerated discovery with a network of research networks.
By focusing on these networks of trusted partnerships, the funding imbalance has less influence than our ability to connect researchers to other motivated and influential researchers who can accelerate discovery through collaboration. Like any significant human endeavor, these trusted partnerships are neither accidental nor easy to establish.
Creating a network of connections is certainly a part of the journey, but it is a very small part. The secret sauce to establishing, maintaining and expanding these trusted partnerships is an enduring presence.
Presence, in every sense of the word, is what can turn a contact into a trusted partner. Presence includes being physically available in their country or in their time zone. Presence is a familiar rapport supported by common interests. Presence is sharing a meal, an idea or even a connection.
Anthropological research indicates Homo sapiens tend to trust what they know and what they experience.
Many of us are driven or motivated by funding. However, we do not trust someone simply because they have money. The 0.3 percent of the DoD basic research funding that ONR Global invests is used as a means to intentionally connect with leading international researchers.
Once connected, our globally disbursed team of 50 scientists and engineers use our enduring presence in two offices and 25 deployment sites to transition our network of connections into a network of trusted partners.
As retired Adm. James Stavridis said in the August 2020 Proceedings article, “You can’t ‘Zoom’ Trust”—“You can surge forces, but you must build trust one interaction at a time.”
By spending time in their labs, with their students and at conferences, ONR Global scientists create and strengthen the bonds of trust with our partners. These bonds persist when, after their three-year deployments overseas, our scientists return to the Naval Research and Development Labs, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, and University Affiliated Research Centers that are their home commands.
These bonds persist as our trusted partners are recognized as Nobel Laureates or are promoted to senior positions within their government. These bonds persist and allow us to leverage an ever-expanding network of intellectual capital to accelerate discoveries and make the world a better and safer place through maritime security.
The age of the U.S. government dominating the global R&D resources is over.
By focusing it’s 0.3 percent of the 0.1 percent DoD share of global R&D funding—as well as its 50 deployed science directors and science advisors—on creating, maintaining and expanding our network of trusted partners, ONR Global is leading the Navy and Marine Corps’ efforts to leverage international research resources into future U.S. naval power and maritime security.