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Identifying Research Opportunities with the Turkish

and Worldwide Geotechnical Community:

A Workshop Associated with the XVth International Conference for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering , Istanbul, Turkey , 2001

 

Sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation

Organized by the Louisiana State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and

the Geo-Institute of ASCE

Award No. INT-0118956

 

Introduction

 

On June 14, 2001, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a grant to the Louisiana State University for support of a workshop associated with the 15th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ICSMGE). The conference was held in Istanbul, Turkey, from August 28 to 31, 2001, and was sponsored by the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE).

 

The intent of the workshop was to identify geo-engineering research areas of mutual interest between U.S. and foreign investigators.  This was accomplished by having U.S. geo-researchers, mostly junior, meet their counterparts from Turkey and other parts of the world to establish professional relationships.  Ideally, this workshop should lead to close collaboration in research and education between individuals or groups in different countries. 

 

The group of U.S. participants consisted of 2 workshop leaders (Mehmet Tumay, NSF Principal Investigator/Project Director, Louisiana State University, and Tuncer Edil, University of Wisconsin – Madison), 6 senior members, and 14 junior members.  The workshop leaders provided international expertise and experience, in addition to familiarity with the Turkish and international Geo-Engineering community.  They also outlined, organized, and chaired the workshop.  The junior members, primarily assistant professors and associate professors, were competitively selected from applications received from a widely distributed Call for Participants (Appendix A).  The International Activities Council of the Geo-Institute of ASCE assisted in selecting the participants.  An invitation was extended to all ICSMGE attendees to participate in the workshop.  As a result, the workshop was well attended by more than 50 people, including participants from other countries, mainly from Turkey, but also Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Malaysia, and Taiwan.  The names and addresses of all participants are listed in Appendix B.

 

The workshop introduced the interested partners to each other and examined possible avenues for collaboration. This report summarizes the workshop and the subsequent follow up that has occurred, and will then try to reach conclusions regarding:

 

 

The Workshop

 

The workshop was held on Saturday, September 1, 2001, and consisted of two sessions.

-           Session 1

                       8:30 – 10:30 a.m.: Self-introduction of participants (1 transparency)

                        Name, University, Educational Obligations, Research Interest.


                       

                       10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Introduction of Issues

Each of the issues listed below was briefly introduced (~3 minutes) by one of the senior U.S. workshop leaders, followed by an open discussion from the floor. The purpose of having a set of predefined issues was to allow participants to think about them.


 


           12:30 – 2:00 p.m.: Lunch

 

-           Session 2


           2:00 – 4:30 p.m.: Presentation and discussion of initial ideas on issues and concepts for collaboration

 


2.1      Is There Benefit in Research Collaboration?

 

Workshop participants suggested that collaboration could occur in different ways.  Researchers can subdivide a project into parts, work individually, and then write the report chapters separately.  Conversely, researchers can perform integrated concurrent research.

 

The participants indicated that unique testing facilities are definitely of interest and may be a good “selling point,” but they emphasized that all parties need to understand the intellectual property rights and allowable use of data prior to project start-up.

 

Frequently, funding is one of the largest issues in international collaboration.  Funding may be provided by individual national agencies, although funding from overarching international agencies might be more practical (e.g., NSF will not fund non-U.S. researchers in other countries).  A good deal of discussion ensued regarding funding.  Consensus was reached that U.S. researchers need to look beyond NSF for research funds.  The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Health Organization were all mentioned as good sources for research projects involving international collaboration.  One suggestion was to consider “mega” projects that might not be strictly geotechnical in nature and can provide more societal relevance.  In terms of World Bank funds, the initiative must come from a country receiving World Bank funding (i.e., not from the U.S.).

 

The participants also highlighted the difficulties in obtaining funds for overseas students to work on a joint project in the U.S. and for U.S. students to do the same overseas.  One issue in international collaboration is the uncertainty of whether funding will be granted from both countries and whether it will be timely.  Two examples were cited, however, of collaborative projects that were successfully funded in France and Norway.  U.S. participants suggested that if a proposal is presented to NSF that includes potential international collaboration, that NSF should have a mechanism in place that can take the collaborative component into account.

 

One of the senior researchers also suggested that younger researchers interested in obtaining funding for collaborative efforts might have greater opportunities if they have worked together previously.  He emphasized that it takes time to establish collaborative relationships.

 

Impediments to collaborative research were also discussed and include discrepancies from country to country in terms of funding mechanisms, research facilities and the research climate.  For example, in Turkey, when a researcher’s project is funded they are ineligible for further funding until that project is complete. 

 

Researchers need to determine the mutual national research priorities in order for international collaboration to be truly successful.  Additionally, they need to establish ways to leverage research funding and agencies need to encourage leveraging.  Project funding may need to commence with one agency and then come from another agency for project completion.  The Federal Highway Administration has been successful with this strategy.

 

Other funding sources are frequently available, as well.  Private and/or commercial funding may also be available, particularly if researchers are developing a product.  State government funding may be available, but projects need to be innovative and must be in the interest of the state.

 

Finally, much research can be completed even without additional funding.  If researchers are insightful, they can find great benefit in international collaboration; e.g., cultivating potential students and other human resources advantages.

 

2.2      Exchange of Students/Faculty Members/Researchers

 

The workshop participants also discussed the exchange of students (enrolled or as visiting scholars) and faculty members/researchers (as postdocs, on sabbaticals, or as visiting professors) with respect to international research collaboration.  One method of encouraging exchange is through workshops such as this one, which allows students, faculty, and researchers to meet and share research interests.  Additionally, opportunities are available through international coalitions and alliances, such as the NSF Engineering Education Coalition, the Alliance for Global Sustainability, and the NSF Collaboration in Basic Science and Engineering (COBASE) program, which offers young faculty/researchers special consideration.  On occasion, some graduate fellowships are available, as well.  Participants pointed out that the U.S. typically prefers Ph.D. students with excellent English, who were top students and are interested in working on projects of mutual benefit.

 

2.3      Ways to Stimulate International Collaboration

 

The question was raised as to what the group could suggest to NSF for ways to increase international research collaboration.  The participants all seemed to agree that attending international conferences provides an excellent opportunity to learn about research in other countries, in addition to the opportunity to meet their foreign counterparts.  The same was said of short courses that are of international interest (versus offering only local appeal).  They also suggested that the Internet is now an excellent means of communicating on collaborative opportunities, via individual e-mail, e-mail list-serves, and research web sites.  Finally, the U.S. National Geotechnical Experimentation Sites (NGES) were discussed as an ideal opportunity for researchers to collaborate on many different projects.

 

One particular NSF project was highlighted as an example, which involved a miniature cone that was sent from the U.S. to be tested in Norway.  The U.S. sent the equipment, while Norway provided their equivalent of the NGES (National Geotechnical Experimentation Site), as well as housing.  Following the testing, the U.S. and Norway shared the data, and produced joint publications.

 

The potential benefit of this type of collaboration is enormous.  However, it requires a lot of initiative and the “devil is in the details.”  The key is not to wait for funding to begin collaboration; senior participants recommended trying a sabbatical as a start.  They also suggested that the research should be of international/national interest (to both countries).  Very often young researchers need to prove themselves in the eyes of the particular funding group(s) before they will be funded.

 

Participants reiterated that a common problem or area of common research interest is key to international collaboration.  They suggested that it is desirable to get a number of people interacting on a project in order to provide a number of different perspectives.  In addition, more can be accomplished and a larger project may be attempted.  In other words, the project may not need to be strictly geotechnical in nature; perhaps it should be a much larger multi-disciplinary project with a geotechnical-engineering component.

 

2.4      Collaborative Research Climate in Turkey

 

Potential opportunities in Turkey were discussed.  Turkish participants stated that construction is booming in Turkey at this time and a significant amount of data is available.  Research and development is typically included as a part of Turkish construction projects.  However, Turkey does not have an equivalent to the U.S.’ NSF.  Other participants suggested that it would be helpful to know specifics about the ongoing projects and that including project information on a web site would be extremely useful.  One suggestion for potential collaboration was to request funding for instrumentation on one of the large Turkish construction projects

 

Other areas of potential collaboration include the soil stability problems in Istanbul, geotechnical earthquake engineering, residual soils and dealing with their unique properties, and dam engineering.

 

One of the big challenges Turkey is dealing with is loss of a large number of their best students.  They have difficulty keeping them, yet they really need them to accomplish research.

 

2.5      Recommendations to Enhance International Research Collaboration

 

Proposing projects that are of international interest is critical. Participants developed the following list of topics of international interest:

 

Other recommendations from the participants included:

 

2.6      Selected Comments from Workshop Participants

 

 “I really enjoyed the workshop and found it as an excellent platform to know other young and senior US researchers and international colleagues.  I was able to establish collaboration with Turkish Universities and I am following with many of those professors to exchange graduate students and to initiate a mechanism for a joint Ph.D. program to give graduate students the flexibility to conduct part of their research at Louisiana State University and for me to have extended summer visits in Turkey to teach summer courses and to conduct research.”  (Khalid A. Alshibli, Louisiana State University)

 

“The workshop also provided some valuable information about the possibilities of collaborative research with Turkish investigators.  One of the researchers proposed to go on a field-scale geosynthetic filtration study to be conducted in Turkey, which I was not able to implement here in the U.S.  This field study will be verification of our laboratory tests, which are currently being conducted in the U.S.  Cost of the implementation of the field study (including labor) is significantly lower in Turkey than it is here, which provides a golden opportunity for both of us.” (Ahmet H. Aydilek, University of Maryland)

“In the workshop, which was held in Istanbul, I had an opportunity to meet several researchers who are dealing with expansive soils. I discussed several research topics with these people. One of my colleagues from Arlington, TX, proposed an idea to have a collaborative work about pavements on expansive soils. Now, we are working on about the research project.”  (Mustafa Aytekin, Karadeniz Technical University, Turkey)

After the workshop, I started to receive some mails getting me in contact with workshop participants. This very strong communication network is a result of very well organized workshop. The workshop was a starting point for good communication. I believe that knowing areas of the interest of the researchers will help us to create large-scale projects.”  (Ayse Edincliler, Bogazici University, Turkey)

“Even with just a few hours at the workshop, I had a chance to present our research interests and to express our willingness to work with researchers from other parts of the world.  As I explained in the presentation, the National Science Council of Taiwan has programs to financially support foreign researchers to participate in our research activities.  Initial contacts have been made with researchers from Turkish Universities, Drexel University, Lehigh University and Brigham Young University.  Issues related to geo-environmental engineering, soil improvement, lateral loads on piles in liquefied sand and fiber optic sensors have been explored.”  (An-Bin Huang, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan)

“It was a great opportunity to meet with various researchers all over the world.  We had the chance to discuss about recent research topics and get information about their research interests.  It was my first time participating in such kind of a workshop and it was very fruitful. With a researcher from US who has investigations and studies related with my topic, we established a collaboration on the topic in principle.  I would like to thank everybody who put effort to organize this workshop.”  (Orhan Esat Inanir, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey)

“Attendance of the workshop and International Conference of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering provided an exciting opportunity for international collaboration, as follows:

The workshop also served to strengthen ties among the attending American participants.  I am grateful to the National Science Foundation and the workshop organizers for their support.”  (Magued Iskander, Polytechnic University)

“The workshop organized by the Geo-Institute provided useful opportunities for me and other researchers. The time and the period of workshop were chosen very well.  Although, I could not find too much opportunity to meet young and dynamic researchers during the ICSMGE conference, I found this chance during the workshop. Probably, we will start a new research on lime stabilization with researchers from the USA.”  (Aydın Kavak, Kocaeli Üniversitesi, Turkey)

 

“The workshop provided me with the opportunity to interact with other researchers and share information regarding the development of fiber optic sensors for subsurface measurements and the use of granulated tire rubber as a resource material. I was also able to talk to potential graduate students and research engineers who were interested to pursue their studies in USA. I participated in discussions of other opportunities and joint endeavors, such as summer teaching as part of possible exchange programs between institutions in Turkey and USA. I found the workshop to provide a conducive environment for exchange of information and ideas and for reevaluation of possible research collaboration between colleagues.”  (Sibel Pamukcu, Lehigh University)

 

“The workshop and associated attendance at the international conference provided me with the opportunity for interaction with both US and international researchers. During the workshop itself, relationships were developed with several researchers.  One is planning to perform lateral load tests on pile foundations in Adapazari, a city where liquefaction was a major cause of damage to structures. We are working together to develop a proposal to use our blast-induced liquefaction technique at their site so that post-liquefaction behavior can also be studied.

 

During the series of earthquakes in Turkey a significant lateral spread developed adjacent to Lake Sepanca which destroyed a resort hotel. The soil conditions are well documented at this site and this location would make an excellent lateral spread test site.  We have been working with two Turkish researchers to develop a joint proposal to carry out this work in Turkey.  The local Turkish engineers would be invaluable in getting the necessary authorizations and in assisting the logistical and technical arrangements for performing the test.  This collaboration would never have developed without the workshop.  Overall, I felt that the workshop provided an excellent opportunity for interaction with Turkish and US researchers and was even more fruitful that I expected.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly these opportunities have been developing.”  (Kyle M. Rollins, Brigham Young University)

 

“I enjoyed the opportunity the workshop gave me to meet research colleagues and to see the variety of geotechnical research in America and in Europe. It gave a possibility to increase contact surface with presented research institutions to start discussions about collaboration. As such, the workshop gave us this opportunity that we would not have otherwise had.”  (Seppo M I Saarelainen, Technical Research Centre of Finland)

 

“The workshop was very well organized. It gave a golden opportunity for researchers and investigator form all over the world to interact and discuss the possible opportunities for research collaboration. In future workshops with the same nature, I hope that workshop participants would start collectively to discuss general ideas as we did and then divert to smaller groups with similar research interests. Each group would discuss means of cooperation in a pre-announced research topic.”  (Marawan M. Shahien, University of Tanta, Egypt)

 

“The meeting brilliantly organized by two person which I have great respect for, i.e. Professors Tumay and Edil. They were able gathered many geotechnical and geoenvironmental academicians around the world in such a lively and informal meeting. Our presentations and discussions were much tailored towards letting participants know of our current work, offer joint collaborations, and seek advice/latest information on the subjects. The workshop provided much satisfaction on top of the ICSMFE conference and it is hoped that such meetings should be organized periodically. The target group should be young faculty members and participation of established/active professors must also be encourage to provide support and advice.” (Mohd Raihan Taha, Universiti Kebangsaan, Malaysia)

 

“Having previously attempted to initiate international collaborative research by electronic mail, I appreciated the advantages of meeting other researchers in an open-discussion, face-to-face forum.  I met with several researchers with whom I share similar research interests, and since returning, have made arrangements to develop a collaborative proposal with at least one other researcher in Turkey.  This effort is being supported by Drexel University, who provided me with a travel stipend for a return visit to Turkey Universities in the spring or summer of 2002.  Overall, I felt that the workshop was well organized and productive.”  (Joseph Wartman, Drexel University)

 

“I thought this workshop was excellent.  There was a lot of interaction among the Turkish and U.S. participants, especially the younger faculty members for whom the workshop was primarily intended.  Workshops of this nature are extremely worthwhile.  The successes may be difficult to quantify, since collaborative projects may take years to materialize.  However, the contacts developed are extremely valuable, especially to younger faculty, and no doubt greatly assist their professional careers.  All the participants I spoke to were very pleased with the workshop, and agreed it was an opportunity not to be missed, a sentiment endorsed 100% by me.”  (Thomas F. Zimmie, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

 

For a complete list of commentaries, please see Appendix C (This requires Adobe Acrobat to view).

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DISCLAIMER STATEMENT:

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF and LSU, University of Wisconsin and Geo-Institute.