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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings MANAGEMENT AND UTILIZATION OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings The Role of International Scientific and Technical Cooperation in National Economic Development NORMAN NEUREITER American Association for the Advancement of Science Several assumptions underlie this presentation. First is that economic development means increasing the application of technology to raise a nation’s standard of living, to free its population from a life of subsistence agriculture, to improve health and health care, and to effectively join a world commercial community that is basically driven by technology. If a nation or a people define development in some other way or with different national objectives, then the following assertions may not be valid. If a nation is to advance by increased application of technology, it must invest in building a technological infrastructure. This has to start with capacity building, meaning the development and training of people who can adopt, adapt, and use technology obtained from abroad. This demands the construction of an educational infrastructure. At the simplest level, it can mean simply training people to use machinery and equipment that is imported from elsewhere. One example would be automobiles, which are available essentially everywhere in the world. With them has come enough technical training and experience so that they can be maintained and serviced as required. At the most sophisticated level, a complete education infrastructure will involve primary and secondary schools that teach science and mathematics; colleges and universities where faculties in science and engineering are doing research to contribute to the world’s store of basic knowledge and can train students in leading-edge science and technology; and finally a technology-based industrial community that can provide employment for graduate scientists and engineers. Partnerships and cooperative projects with faculty from other countries can accelerate the development of such infrastructure, but this requires a major, long-term policy and financial commitment by the host country.
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings At the university level, there are many different mechanisms for scientific and technical cooperation. One, of course, is the training of students at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels abroad. This training builds a cohort of scientists and engineers in both countries that know each other and find it easy to cooperate in areas of common interest after their education is finished. Another form is the undertaking of joint projects between two university laboratories, with exchanges of personnel and ideas and joint publication of results. Cooperation in “big science” projects whereby scientists from many countries share a unique facility is important. An example is a particle accelerator to study high-energy physics or a synchrotron applied to materials and biological research; it can be either a national facility or an international facility such as the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Still another form of cooperation is between laboratories of the ministries in two countries—such as Ministries of Health, Agriculture, or Environment. In the corporate world, one form of cooperation is foreign direct investment (FDI) by multinational companies or companies based in other countries. Historically, such investment has often been seen by the receiving country as exploitive in that it may be focused on extraction of natural resources such as oil or minerals, with revenues benefiting only a small number of people. However, good bargaining as well as proper incentives by the receiving country can make such arrangements truly cooperative and mutually beneficial, although it is also true that for countries that have joined the World Trade Organization, the ability to require technology transfer as part of an FDI arrangement has been constrained. Another variation in FDI is the establishment of joint-venture partnerships, with a company in the host country and the investing company each contributing significantly to the joint program. Today, all such efforts must be seen against the background of a rapidly globalizing world economy, accelerated by the instant communications provided by the Internet, but also with individual country economies vulnerable to the realities of global financial trends. Many countries have been involved in space science projects on National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) missions that have benefited their national space programs. In Europe, the high cost of space research led to the formation of a collective organization of European countries that has been a good partner of NASA on many missions. It is estimated that 15 nations have already invested $60 billion thus far in the International Space Station (ISS). Despite the cost overruns, reduced plans for science, and a serious delay in ISS construction due to the tragic loss of a space shuttle in 2003, NASA has committed to finish this project along with its international partners. A very interesting project is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) —a project to generate energy from nuclear fusion. While work has been going on for more than 20 years on this project, the recently reconstituted international consortium of the United States, Japan, the European Union,
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings China, Russia, South Korea, and India is on the verge of beginning to build the reactor in France. This is a very complex program, both technically and organizationally. If it succeeds, fusion could be a long-term source of energy for an energy-hungry world, a world that is presently hostage to the caprice of global oil markets, the polluting effects of coal, and growing fears of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Intellectual property is an increasingly important element in international science and technology cooperation. It is essential that the cooperating parties understand and agree how the benefits from commercialization of successful results will be divided. Particularly for a developing country entering into cooperation with a wealthier developed country or a multinational corporation, it is important to clarify the plans for ownership of intellectual property developed in the cooperative project. Intellectual property rights are also important with regard to unique native plants or other biological materials that are collected by international firms or cooperating institutions, since these natural products may contain chemical compounds with great potential value in the pharmaceutical industry. There are a large number of problems in the world common to many countries—for instance, dealing with natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, securing enough clean water, understanding and mitigating the effects of global warming, dealing with HIV/AIDS, treating drug abuse, achieving protection against possible pandemics such as avian flu, and so forth. It only makes sense to cooperate in these areas. To benefit from such cooperation, however, a country should have enough domestic capability to be a useful partner. These large challenges lend themselves to multilateral cooperation, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, other UN agencies, and international scientific societies have been very useful in tackling such problems. Often a UN framework has made possible cooperation where political tensions limit bilateral cooperation. A country with an effective national development strategy will find ways to benefit from significant developments in science and technology wherever they may occur. A nation that fails to have an appropriate international science and technology strategy will find its scientific and engineering community limited in scope and its economic development hampered. For countries of different sizes, different levels of development, and different historical traditions, international science and technology strategies will necessarily be different but nevertheless essential. It is useful to examine the role that science and technology cooperation has played in several countries. Taiwan is an interesting example. The government focused first on agriculture, seeking to ensure that the new nation could feed itself. The government also continued the traditional Chinese emphasis on education, particularly science and engineering education. Many graduates traveled to the United States for advanced study. Many stayed to work in the United States, while others returned to Taiwan.
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings Next, Taiwan encouraged FDI, but rather slowly at first and with considerable effort to control what was being done by the foreign companies that invested. The government invited senior industrial managers and academicians from the United States to study the situation and make recommendations for future development. Taiwan was particularly attractive for electronics companies, which had assembly operations for semiconductors and for finished electrical and electronic equipment that required high labor input. Components and parts were shipped in from abroad, and finished products were exported largely to Western markets. The availability of large numbers of female workers from country villages and farms who were skilled at exacting assembly activities and worked for a fraction of the costs of labor in the United States and Europe made Taiwan an attractive site for Western corporate investment. Over time, these plants became training grounds for local residents at all skill levels—in manufacturing, management, plant operation, business, finance, application of computers, international trade, and so forth. Furthermore, with government pressure, the technology level of these foreign-owned operations steadily increased in sophistication. Many young Taiwanese left the foreign factories and started their own businesses. Some began as suppliers to these plants, since a local technological infrastructure was needed in the neighborhood of these plants. Today, some 30–40 years later, Taiwan has developed its own electronics industry, fully competitive in global markets and driving U.S. and Japanese companies to higher technological levels to meet the competition. It is also very interesting that Taiwanese investment in mainland China has played an important role in China’s high-tech development, despite the hostile official relationship between the two governments and the periodic threats of armed conflict. Japan took a slightly different approach to development in its recovery from World War II. Despite the almost complete destruction of Japan’s industrial base in the war, they still had a skilled workforce. Furthermore, the United States was interested in helping Japan recover from the war as a bulwark against the aggressive communist regimes in the Soviet Union and China—particularly after the Korean War in the early 1950s—and encouraged U.S. companies to enter into technology licensing arrangements with Japanese companies. Japan was reluctant to accept FDI and the establishment of foreign-owned businesses in Japan. Japan focused on rebuilding local industries by licensing foreign technology, sometimes entering into joint ventures, adopting a strict quality regimen, and stressing engineering (rather than basic science) in universities. Japan also created a special system of state-led capitalism that could finance technical and industrial development, protect domestic markets from foreign competition, and emphasize exports of manufactured products at prices often lower than those in Japan. Cooperation of the United States in permitting trade imbalances to grow and in providing a guarantee of Japan’s security under the U.S. nuclear umbrella also contributed to Japan’s tremendous industrial success. However, as Japanese exports began to dominate some segments of global markets, serious trade fric-
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings tions with both the United States and Europe developed in the 1980s. They lasted until increased competition from Asian countries and rising costs in Japan resulted in a recession in the mid-1990s that lasted for more than a decade. To reduce costs of manufacturing, throughout this period the Japanese continued to invest heavily abroad—in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and particularly China. Also, for graduate and postdoctoral work in the sciences and in medicine, many Japanese went to the United States. However, most returned home after completion of their studies, even though reentry into social and professional life in Japan was not always easy for the returnees. Korea pursued a combination of the Taiwanese and Japanese models, with an emphasis on protected markets and joint ventures. Their approach was technology licensing from abroad rather than massive foreign investments alone. Success in rebuilding Korea after the devastation of the Korean War is well known. Again, an emphasis on scientific and technical education, heavy government investment in research and development facilities, concessionary funding for promising industries, and the return of many young engineers and engineering managers from the United States contributed to this success. In electronics, efforts to surpass Japan resulted in remarkable performance by Korean industry. India’s recent successes in information technology began more than 45 years ago with the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology through direct cooperation with leading research universities of the United States and Europe. The graduates of these excellent institutions often went to the United States or Europe to find suitable employment and today populate many U.S. companies and universities. However, a large number have returned to India and are contributing to the information technology boom. Some are working at research and software design centers that many U.S. companies have established in India in recent years. Companies do not just blindly invest in another country. Conditions must be right to attract foreign investment. I spent nearly 25 years with Texas Instruments (TI), a semiconductor company, with operations at that time in many countries. TI had a form containing some 200 questions that had to be answered in evaluating a possible site for investment abroad. If a particular country seemed potentially attractive, the first question was always political stability. During my tenure, TI closed operations in Curaçao (labor trouble), El Salvador (after the TI plant had endured civil war for 10 years), and Argentina (uncontrolled inflation). FDI in a high-technology enterprise abroad can be a major contributor to development. However, without a responsible government ensuring political stability, reasonable economic operating conditions, and freedom from corruption, investment will seldom be made. As mentioned earlier, the host country also needs sufficient capability at the government level to understand the objectives of the investing company and to negotiate with it effectively. The host country’s development interests should also be served—for example, in training people, advancing its technological capabilities, and protecting local intellectual property.
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Science and Technology and the Future Development of Societies: International Workshop Proceedings In addition to semiconductors, TI also had a national defense business. Prior to the 1979 revolution in Iran, the defense systems group was preparing for major contracts involving several different defense electronics products. However, after TI’s senior vice president made a trip to Iran, he immediately ordered that all business with Iran be stopped and all TI personnel be pulled out of the country. He had found the financial situation in Iran to be so corrupt that TI simply should not do business there. Scientists easily find a common language, even when there are serious political differences between two countries. During the darkest days of the Cold War, there were forums such as the Pugwash Conferences where U.S. and Soviet scientists, especially physicists, were able to meet. They began to talk about the massive nuclear arsenals. Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons had been built on each side and thousands were deployed and targeted at each other—in submarines, ICBM silos, and intercontinental bombers. The largest single weapon ever tested had an explosive force equivalent to 50 million tons of TNT. It was recognized by scientists from both countries that a nuclear exchange could destroy both countries and kill hundreds of millions of people. From these shared perceptions there arose a certain atmosphere of trust between the two scientific communities that was communicated to the political leaderships and eventually resulted in a series of arduous negotiations and agreements that over many years led to a remarkable degree of stability in the bipolar world of that era. There have been other examples of how scientists have been able to find a basis for agreement, even when politicians and diplomats have found it difficult. That is why I believe that international scientific and technical cooperation can be a positive and constructive instrument of foreign policy, contributing on the one hand to national economic development when that is the agreed objective, but also serving as a mutually beneficial element of substantive engagement between two countries even in the face of political conditions that make normal diplomatic or economic intercourse impossible. Scientists around the world do indeed speak a common language. It is often useful to let them talk.