If you’re interested in the future of how science is done, both in America and worldwide, then you must read this article from the September 28 issue of Science (subscription required): “Satellite Labs Extend Science.”

I’ll give you a short version of the story: big name scientists at American universities want more funding for their ideas and more manpower than their current positions can provide. Institutions in “emerging nations” want talent and direction to improve their research programs. The result is a satellite lab, which operates under advisement from the long-distance faculty member, while the host country supplies the funding. The PI sets the research agenda and visits occasionally. There is usually a native surrogate on the ground in the satellite lab to run things from day to day.

The idea of global scientific cooperation is certainly not new. Research groups often collaborate across national boundaries, and universities partner with institutions around the globe to share faculty and students. However, this new model is neither a collaboration nor a partnership. If research groups were countries, we would call it colonialization. If they were restaurants, it would be like opening a new franchise.