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Interacademy Cooperation: An Approach to Understanding

ABULHASSAN VAFAI

Sharif University of Technology


While the basic needs of science have not altered in the last century, social demands have changed dramatically. Science must address complex issues that are global in scale, and it must deal with difficult problems that can only be solved through international collaborative efforts. In its essence, science is a collective enterprise—advances owe more to the pain-staking dedication of teams rather than the efforts of individuals. Cooperation is at the heart of scientific endeavor and dialogue, and they in turn are vital mechanisms for collaboration and building reciprocal interests as well as mutual understanding among people of different nations.

It has been my privilege to host and participate in a number of gatherings regarding scientific cooperation. I remember with satisfaction the first steps taken toward international scientific exchange between members of the American and Iranian Academies of Science. Having paid visits to our respective countries and having participated in discussions with various representatives of the relevant institutions, a number of promising proposals were made and put into action with unprecedented success.

The results of our first endeavors were particularly encouraging and established the precedence for almost a dozen activities



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5 Interacademy Cooperation: An Approach to Understanding ABULHASSAN VAFAI Sharif University of Technology W hile the basic needs of science have not altered in the last century, social demands have changed dramatically. Sci- ence must address complex issues that are global in scale, and it must deal with difficult problems that can only be solved through international collaborative efforts. In its essence, science is a collective enterprise—advances owe more to the pain-staking dedication of teams rather than the efforts of individuals. Coopera- tion is at the heart of scientific endeavor and dialogue, and they in turn are vital mechanisms for collaboration and building reciprocal interests as well as mutual understanding among people of differ- ent nations. It has been my privilege to host and participate in a number of gatherings regarding scientific cooperation. I remember with satisfaction the first steps taken toward international scientific ex- change between members of the American and Iranian Academies of Science. Having paid visits to our respective countries and hav- ing participated in discussions with various representatives of the relevant institutions, a number of promising proposals were made and put into action with unprecedented success. The results of our first endeavors were particularly encour- aging and established the precedence for almost a dozen activities 33

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34 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING such as workshops and panels in various areas of engineering, sci- ence, and technology. These topics incorporated research into fields of great significance to the people of our country, such as water, earthquake science, nutrition, health, and environment. I would like to briefly summarize the major cooperative ac- tivities that have taken place during the period of 1999-2007: WORKSHOPS • Experiences and Challenges of Science and Ethics, 2002, Bellagio, Italy • Ecology of the Caspian Sea, 2002, Tehran, Iran • Higher Education, 2002, Tehran, Iran • Water Conservation, Reuse, and Recycling, 2002, Tunis, Tunisia • Food Safety and Food-Borne Disease Surveillance Systems 2004, Tehran, Iran • Drought Forecasting and Management, 2005, Te- hran, Iran • Science and Society, 2006, Toutour, France OTHER EVENTS The 2007 visit of a delegation from the U.S. National Academies included a workshop at Sharif University of Technol- ogy (SUT) at which scientists discussed bilateral scientific rela- tionships in fields of interest to both parties. One of the highlights of that workshop was a lecture given by 1993 Nobel Laureate Jo- seph Taylor, attended by more than 1,000 young scientists from all over the nation. It was a motivating force and a source of inspira- tion for all young students in the field of astrophysics. After seri- ous deliberation and discussion, several items were accepted for establishing the following projects:

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35 INTERACADEMY COOPERATION: AN APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING • a workshop on earthquake engineering to discuss unreinforced masonry structures (early 2008) • an exchange of students and professors in the fields of information technology and physics, with institutions of higher learning to be finalized later • a visit by Professor Thomas Schelling, a Nobel Lau- reate in economics at the University of Maryland, in late December 2007 to SUT to give a lecture and to discuss possible bilateral sci- entific relationship • a visit by Professor Burton Richter, 1976 Nobel Laureate in Physics, in May of 2008 to SUT All of these activities are the result of the collaboration of scientific minds in the pursuit of cooperation and understanding amongst nations. These original meetings paved the way toward the fulfillment of an ambition to gather together the best minds from around the world without political impediment and to incor- porate their humanitarian ideals and scientific knowledge into ac- tion for the betterment of humankind. Bilateral scientific cooperation between SUT and the Uni- versity of California, Davis has also developed. Five Iranian stu- dents from the Graduate School of Management and Economics at SUT are now in the United States. These are just a few of many projects in recent years. It is through the dedication of people within scientific institutions that such models of bilateral scientific cooperation can be imple- mented. Although there has been a most fruitful beginning, even more can be attained by positive allegiance to the spirit of interna- tional scientific dialogue and a confirmation of our commitment of the promotion of peace and open scientific exchange. Our meeting here today is a reiteration of our belief in the building of a prosperous and equitable world through the expres- sion of international scientific cooperation and collaborative ac- tion. I am optimistic that with interacademy cooperation and the support of the leaders and members of our two establishments, the

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36 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING future holds further steps forward from the original milestone laid by this pioneering agenda, and the essence of mutually beneficial scientific cooperation can engender an even better future. I trust that this workshop will be the beginning of a very successful endeavor toward achieving our goals of understanding through science. Of one Essence is the Human Race Thusly has Creation put the Base, One Limb impacted is sufficient, For all Others to feel the Mace.1 1 This poem by Saadi Shirazi calls for breaking all barriers between peoples and graces the entrance to the Hall of Nations of the United Nations building in New York.