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Responsible internationalization is the way forward

As globalisation has increased, so the world has got smaller. It has also grown more complex, as have the societal challenges we are all facing. As a university, of course we want to embrace openness and internationalization in research and education. But we want to do this with responsibility.

International collaborations in research and education, and exchanging knowledge across national and disciplinary boundaries, are not only incredibly stimulating and exciting – they are necessary.

Even so, it is important not to be naive in the face of tyrannical rule by authoritarian regimes, or to close our eyes to the geopolitical tensions that exist around the world. Knowledge and research can end up in the wrong hands or be used for unintended purposes, such as military purposes. The remedy for this is knowledge of the country or region in question, careful control of any risks, and good judgement to facilitate analysis and consideration of different international collaborations.

It is not an easy balance to achieve, and as a university, it is important that we have the aspects of what we call responsible internationalisation in mind on every level within the organisation.

Should we have a collaboration or exchange with the country or regime in question? Sometimes it is reasonable to stop a collaboration, but openness could also strengthen democracy in the long run in countries where it is otherwise hard to come by. Or at any rate provide inroads for democracy on an individual level – where we have a lot to learn from each other, with our different points of reference or even our disparate world views. And it is important here to distinguish between nation and individual. If a researcher comes here to study, we cannot put the blame on them for the regime they grew up in. So responsible internationalization is also about supporting researchers in countries where it is hard to practise free and independent research and education.

Ultimately though, it is important that KTH nurtures and protects all its students, researchers and staff, whatever their nationality or background.