Vitae: Global citizenship in research

Vitae Researcher Development Framework
descriptor D3.6

What is it?

The concept of citizenship contains several key ideas including the ideas of rights or entitlements for individuals; belonging to/membership of a community; and of corresponding responsibilities, obligations and/or duties. Within higher education (HE), citizenship refers to the contribution an individual makes to, or on behalf of, their institution. This might include such activities as sitting on committees, mentoring colleagues, or organising public engagement events. These activities may not be directly related to one’s research or teaching but they are of benefit to others.

Global citizenship builds on ‘citizenship’ by extending the notion of responsibility and benefit to the wider global community. In HE, the impact of the rapidly changing global environment is easily observed; our students, peers and ideas come from all over the world, whilst research careers, funding and outputs, all have a greater global reach than they did 20 years ago. Within the education environment, researchers are well placed to make unique and powerful contributions as global citizens and to inspire others as members of the global research community. Utilising their knowledge to change the world for the better, researchers should recognise themselves as global citizens and strive to contribute to the wider international community.

Why is it important?

D3.6 Global citizenship imageOur lives are increasingly shaped by what happens elsewhere in the world, so that we have all become global citizens. At a minimum we can all choose to exercise personal lifestyle responsibilities in the way, for instance, we consume resources. Although we live in a fast changing world, which is complex and highly interconnected, many communities are in danger of being left behind or excluded. Poverty, disease, diminishing resource, inequalities, ignorance and injustice are all global grand challenges that researchers are familiar with.  However, responding to these challenges with research is not the same as responding to them as researchers, which is what Global Citizenship invites us to do.

Global citizenship centres on research in practice and the researcher as a practitioner.  Where research underpins knowledge, all researchers have the potential to use their knowledge to make a difference beyond their usual frame of academic reference, i.e. researchers can find ways to turn knowledge into some form of ‘action’. These actions might be quite small from the thoughtful and sustainable use of resources, to larger actions such as being ethically minded when procuring equipment or using research to influence policy. It is not necessary to leave one’s desk or laboratory to enjoy a global experience and engage in global citizenship; the people around any individual researcher are likely to come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Where there is choice, global citizens can make a difference in a wide ranging number of ways, such as in the decisions they take, the examples they set, the purchases they make, the relationships they build, how they behave and what they speak out about. Global citizenship is more than a skill it is an attitude or disposition and ethos towards the wider world and others in it, as exemplified by the slogan ‘think globally, act locally.’ We can all ensure our work practices are sustainable and responsible in social, cultural, environmental and economic terms, and be mindful of the impact we have and could have on others.

How can you improve?

Increase your knowledge and understanding of global issues

  • Stay current in world affairs and markets, especially those related to education matters.
  • Identify emerging issues and trends and reflect on how they might affect your research or how your research might be able to influence or impact on them.
  • Familiarise yourself with global policy initiatives, i.e. the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, the European Commissions’ Horizon 2020, UN Agenda 21.
  • Look for areas with a global dimension and where your research might have a connection, impact or be able to influence the policy agenda.
  • Use your knowledge to contribute to the internationalisation of the curriculum in your discipline/institution and to increase the knowledge and understanding of others.

Enhance your skills and behaviours

  • Recognise your responsibilities as a researcher and identify ways to extend your range of skill and influence.
  • Review your level of ‘global competence’ i.e. are you able to respond positively to diversity, can you adapt to unfamiliar cultures/ways of working, are you aware of your impact on others and your ability to respond constructively to challenges?
  • Attend ‘cultural awareness’ and diversity training and/or familiarise yourself with cultural awareness/diversity issues.
  • Acquire another spoken language if you do not already have one (you could do this part-time in an evening class, for example).
  • Actively seek out and/or form global connections: for example, maintain an accessible and useful web presence; blog about your work (being mindful of IP issues); exchange emails with colleagues in other institutions internationally; act as a mentor to schools in other countries via Skype; form collaborative partnerships with communities to help solve an aspect of the global grand challenges; explore working abroad.

Cultivate a global outlook and disposition

  • Respect others and learn from them. Create a space where researchers can share information, for example, organise a ‘culture club’ or ‘global café’ or an informal meeting where people take turns to talk about their home life, their interests, and their culture.
  • Challenge discrimination, inequality, intolerance, injustice and ignorance among your peers, in your department, subject area and in the wider community.
  • Actively seek to satisfy your research users no matter where they are, and to integrate and maximise resources on a global basis i.e. are you making the most of international students and staff in your area?
  • Actively inform and engage others; this could be via local charity work, online mentoring, pro-bono consultancy or advocacy work. You could hold a debate or discussion in your department on global citizenship, global impact and the global implications for research.
  • Become an advocate and role model. Move from thought to action: get involved, contribute, discuss, solve, influence, speak up, speak out, blog, tweet or simply listen.


Key documents addressing national and European expectations around the management and recruitment of researchers.

Equality and diversity resources in researcher careers in higher education institutions.