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Global Research Alliance in Language

Language science is an inherently international field. Language is central to all human activity, and changes in language technology and policy impact thousands of speakers and language communities across the globe.  Addressing the world’s biggest language-related challenges requires connecting and engaging top international experts. 

LSC is a global leader in language science and is co-founder and administrative home to a new, first-of-its-kind international network of language scientists called the Global Research Alliance in Language (GRAIL).  GRAIL is a signature initiative of Universitas 21, a network that comprises a 25 of the world’s foremost research-intensive universities and aims to “foster global citizenship and institutional innovation through research-inspired teaching and learning, student mobility, connecting our students and staff, and wider advocacy for internationalisation."

Universitas21 member institutionsBy adopting GRAIL as a signature initiative, leaders at Universitas 21 institutions recognize the increasing importance of language science in an age of ever greater global interconnectedness.  Changes in technology and global mobility have made it essential that humans and machines be able to quickly and flexibly acquire expertise in new languages.  Technologies such as Google Translate, which rely on statistical generalizations from Big Data, are too inflexible to deal with the roughly 99% of world languages for which only limited data resources are available.  At any moment, events like epidemics, wars, and natural disasters can transform a small minority language into a major international priority.  

Flexible language learning is just one of the high impact issues that GRAIL will focus on.  GRAIL activities will focus on four broad areas: development of research that integrates diverse languages, approaches and applications; integration of student mobility with research; development of global labs and classrooms; support for public facing science (e.g., through engaging the public, the broader scientific community and policy makers). Advances in basic and applied language science research stand to benefit education, public health, national security, and economics.

Beyond addressing some of the 21st century’s most pressing problems, GRAIL is an experiment in globalization, and aspires to develop a replicable model for building global research capacity that closely aligns the efforts and motivations of researchers, students and administration across institutions.

A summary of the GRAIL initiative can be found here.

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