International Laboratories as Part of the Development Strategy
In late 2010 – early 2011 international research laboratories which are jointly headed by prominent international researchers and leading experts of the university started their work at the Higher School of Economics. Maria Yudkevich, HSE Vice Rector, told us about the specifics of the research and educational work of the HSE international laboratories.
— Ms. Yudkevich, what is the mission of the HSE international laboratories?
— International laboratories are part of the university’s development strategy on the creation and development of academic, teaching and staff potential. International laboratories, like any other laboratories working within the university, solve primarily research tasks, but, according to our experience, their solution is inseparable from the solution of educational and staff problems. We are planning to create teams which will be integrated with the international academic community and within three years will become serious research centers. To enable this, we have attracted leading international researchers to head the research laboratories jointly with our academics. The teams which started the work in the end of the last and the beginning of this year include both research fellows and lecturers and undergraduate and master’s students who are focused on academic activity.
— What is the status of foreign colleagues who participate in the laboratories’ activities?
— Our international colleagues are not only formally heads of laboratories and HSE staff members, they are incorporated in the HSE environment: each of them spends at least two months a year in Russia. And it is this daily work which promotes experience exchange, creation of the academic culture, research skills and practices. In our view, the opportunity to work under the supervision of experts of the very highest calibre, including a Nobel laureate (Since May 20th 2011 Eric Maskin, Nobel laureate, Professor at the Princeton University, has been working as a Chief Research Fellow at the International Laboratory of Decision Choice and Analysis – editor’s note), should stimulate our students and staff in their research activity. The obvious motivation and interest from our colleagues are seen not only in the preparation of specific papers with specific researchers, but primarily in their willingness to give maximum feedback on what they hear and see at the university.
— How many international laboratories are there within the HSE today?
— As of today, eight international laboratories have been created as part of the HSE programme of fundamental research, and two more laboratories have started to work using the grant from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science: the Laboratory of Socio-Cultural Research was founded in Moscow, and the Laboratory of Comparative Social Studies was created as part of the HSE branch in Saint Petersburg. In addition to that, the International Laboratory of Financial Economics has been working for almost a year as part of the HSE International College for Economics and Finance. So, in total there are eleven international laboratories. All of them were formed not from scratch, but rather on the basis of existing cooperation and various joint projects, and we see this as a guarantee of their successful development. We have helped to created research teams and to consolidate the existing ties but mutual interest in joint activity has been present from the very beginning.
— Almost every one of the HSE research departments has academic contacts with international researchers. Are you planning to increase the number of international laboratories?
— We would like to have more such laboratories, but this initiative is very costly and risky. And since this is an experiment, we shall first analyze the results of the work of the international laboratories which have already been created. We should wait and probably adjust our policies based on the results they achieve. At the moment we can only talk rather about the process rather than about the results. But we understand that international-level research does not appear instantly. The laboratories have only just started working, they have created the teams and launched some studies, particularly their empirical part. But we trust our researchers and look forward to the success of this initiative.
— The work of the laboratories involves primarily projects, but will there will also be various master classes and seminars?
— The international laboratories have several areas of activity. The main one is research, but, as I have already said, teaching is equally important. We are now trying to work out the optimal way of incorporating the laboratories’ work in the educational process. On June 7th a one-day seminar took place at the HSE, where the results of the first year of the academic aspirantura were discussed. Those heads of laboratories who were in Moscow also participated in that seminar. Some of the international laboratory heads are members of our consultation committees, HSE International Advisory Committee and the Committee in Economics. In this way, we are trying to use the various competencies of those people, both as researchers, teachers and experts, who at their home universities also participate in institutional development.
In addition to this, each laboratory head usually brings his colleagues here, who then also participate in the laboratory work and promote the creation of a quality academic environment at the university. So, the value of such collaboration cannot be overestimated. International laboratories are not isolated particles, they are structures deeply integrated in university life in all its dimensions – educational, academic, consultative and administrative. We hope that their life cycle will not end in three years, and they will develop as full-scale international-level research centers.
I would like to particularly mention that the laboratories are open for new people, and if anybody is interested in participating in this work, now’s the time!
Liudmila Mezentseva, HSE News Service
Eric S. Maskin
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