Penn State, Australian university announce collaborative projects

University Park, Pa. -- In a joint announcement, Penn State and Australia's University of New England unveiled an agreement to pursue collaborative research projects and research funding in the areas of water and environmental law, biofuels law and policy, and natural resource governance and to explore the potential for shared courses and exchanges of staff and students.

"As a leading American university, Penn State shares many research and teaching interests with UNE," said Theodore Alter, Penn State professor of agricultural, environmental and regional economics. "In part, this is because of our shared histories of working with rural communities. Our collaborative relationship has been developing for several years, and after my recent visit, we are developing a detailed plan for realizing the aspirations in a Letter of Intent that has been signed by both institutions."

The seeds of the collaboration were planted during a sabbatical visit to Australia by John Becker, Penn State professor of agricultural economics and law, and nurtured by James Shortle, distinguished professor of agricultural and environmental economics and director of Penn State's Environment and Natural Resources Institute.

Working with Paul Martin, director of UNE's Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, and research director for the UNE Faculty of the Professions, Alter further fostered the collaborative relationship over several months and gained an understanding of the environmental, industrial and social issues affecting communities in Australia. Alter said that the similarities and differences between the two universities and their respective communities offer many opportunities for collaboration.

"There are many complementarities between our two universities, and some exceptional, mutually beneficial opportunities for collaborative research initiatives on important disciplinary and public issues salient in Australia, the United States and globally," he said. "We're already jointly involved in research on international biofuels law and policy, development of new distance-education technologies, improved approaches to natural-resource management and improvements to the cost-effectiveness of environmental law."

Martin, who has led UNE's participation, said he saw building close, personal links between committed researchers at both institutions as the essence of the partnership.

"With Ted's visit, we have cemented a number of relationships that span many areas of interest to both universities," he said. "We are now developing a plan that will convert these into scholarship with the potential for even greater impact in the New England region of Australia and various portions of Pennsylvania."

"An important area of collaboration that spans the work of both institutions is the growing interest in 'engaged scholarship' -- an emerging field of research and practice that aims to bring together the community service, research and teaching roles of academics to support the communities in which they work," Martin said. "Professor Alter suggested that a joint research center concerned with innovation, adoption and engagement would be one way to give this shared interest a strong focus."

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Last Updated April 29, 2013