This year, the research activities of academia have been profoundly disrupted, as have the lives of researchers. Yesterday, we published a landscape review focusing on the disruptions caused by the pandemic itself. In addition, there is another source of growing disruption, caused less by a sudden event but rather by the geopolitical tensions that are causing a growing split between China and a group of liberal and democratic countries. In an issue brief published today, I review the evidence of how this has already affected academic science, as well as some of the impacts for which further planning may be advised. 

The geopolitical elements of a split with China are becoming clear even to the amateur observer of foreign affairs, and the implications for the academy and academic science are popping up everywhere. Beyond existing compliance and law enforcement developments, in the issue brief I examine potential policy impacts on scientific openness and for scientific talent development, among others. 

While it may be unlikely that the academy can substantially redirect broader geopolitical developments, there may also be opportunities for scientific policy makers and academic leaders to defend and advance scientific openness and elements of international collaboration. For those, like me, who would hope for this split not to grow further, engaging with its actual dynamics and potential risks is vital, and I hope this issue brief helps a growing set of higher education leaders and policy makers do so.