Yale enters joint venture in Shanghai

Yale moved globalization efforts last week, announcing a joint venture with leading Chinese research institution Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU).

University President Peter Salovey and SJTU President Zhang Jie signed the centerinto existence during Salovey’s trip to Shanghai last week. Salovey and other administrators said they hope the center, which will focus on biostatistics, will lead to richer research opportunities than either institution could create on its own.

“An ultimate goal is to identify and facilitate research collaborations not just with biostatisticians at Yale, but colleagues at Yale School of Medicine interested in clinical issues that are a priority at SJTU, such as lung cancer and diabetes,” said School of Public Health Dean Paul Cleary, one of the leading administrators in the push to create the center.

Salovey said the center will promote what he referred to as a “bench-to-bedside approach.” SJTU is stronger in biostatistical modeling of research on clinical medicine, Salovey said, whereas Yale’s biostatistics department is stronger on modeling more basic biomedical research.

Although the exact number is yet to be determined, between six and 10 Yale professors will eventually make their way to Shanghai to do research at the center, which will be housed in a new building at SJTU. Several SJTU faculty will also come to New Haven, and Cleary added that there will also likely be an exchange of students at some point in the future.

“The new agreement calls for the exchange of faculty and students,” Cleary said. “Students from China will have the opportunity to learn about substantive and methodological issues from faculty at Yale, and Yale students will have an opportunity to learn about such issues from our Chinese colleagues.”

However, Salovey said there will be no exchange of funds in the collaboration, adding that this stipulation is typical for joint centers established by Yale and other universities.

SJTU School of Medicine Chancellor Chen Guoqiang said he believes the center will be beneficial in developing medicine and health care for China.

The idea for the center originated in 2012 from conversations between Cleary and Zhi-Jie Zheng, the Dean of Public Health at SJTU, who visited each other at their respective campuses.

Yale biostatistics professor Hongyu Zhao, who is spearheading the center, said former University President Richard Levin had long wanted to strengthen collaboration between Yale and SJTU. During his tenure, Levin dramatically expanded Yale’s presence in China.

Although not all of Yale’s biostatistics faculty members are involved in the center, many said they see the collaboration as a positive development.

“Collaboration with other professionals, other cultures, other minds is always good for science, and in general,” said biostatistics professor Marilyn Stolar.

The Shanghai biostatistics center is only the latest of several international collaborations Yale has established in recent years.

Salovey pointed to the China Law Center and a joint plant genetics and biology laboratory at Peking University in Beijing as further examples of Yale’s international cooperation, describing the joint centers as a way to “make it easier to grease the skids when it comes to creating joint training or joint research programs.”

In addition to establishing the joint center, Salovey delivered SJTU’s commencement address while in Shanghai, during which he discussed his research on emotional intelligence. SJTU also awarded Salovey an honorary doctorate.

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