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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran 8 Successes in Building International Bridges through Science NORMAN NEUREITER American Association for the Advancement of Science Today I want to present several examples of how science has helped build new bridges of understanding and cooperation between the United States and other countries for many decades. My first example involves Japan and goes back to 1961. Japan was still rebuilding from the devastation of World War II, and the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union was intensifying. At that time, a Harvard professor and famous Japan specialist, Edwin Reischauer, referred to the “broken dialogue” in U.S.-Japan relations. He was concerned over the breakdown in communication and lack of understanding between the intellectual communities in the United States and Japan. Japanese universities seemed increasingly sympathetic to the idealistic appeals of the Communists rather than the path on which Japan was rebuilding. Reischauer was appointed as Ambassador to Japan, the first Japanese language speaker to have that position. Ambassador Reischauer wanted to fix the broken dialogue. In 1961, at his urging, Japanese Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda and U.S. President John Kennedy announced the creation of three U.S-Japan joint committees: a cabinet-level committee was to discuss
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran economic issues, a cultural committee was to bring university scholars together, and the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee on Scientific Cooperation was established, the first of its kind in American history. The implementing agency for this committee in the United States was the National Science Foundation (NSF), which established an office in Japan to facilitate communication; and the Japanese responded by naming appropriate agencies to manage the program on their side. The program moved very slowly at first; funds had to be appropriated in both countries, members of the joint committee appointed, implementing offices established, and acceptable scientific projects identified for cooperation. In early 1963, the program was just starting when I joined the NSF in Washington, and I became the first permanent U.S. director of the program. There were a number of problems. It was not easy to find projects that could be truly cooperative because the level of science in Japan in terms of laboratories and equipment was well below the level in the United States. Secondly and unexpectedly, President Kennedy’s science advisor, Jerome Wiesner, was concerned that science funded to achieve a “political” purpose was not subject to the same rigorous peer review process as other research projects, and hence might involve second-rate science. On the Japanese side, some professors initially seemed reluctant to become involved. Finally, too few American and Japanese scientists knew each other well enough to even think about cooperating. To bring scientists in the same field together from the two countries, we funded many joint workshops in the belief that common interests and personal acquaintanceships would lead to joint projects. We financed a number of projects in common areas of competence, such as earthquake prediction, whale studies, and cancer epidemiology. Ultimately, the program was recognized as a success in both the United States and Japan. Remarkably, it still exists today, although in a different form and without long-term funding for collaborative research. It has also served as a precedent and model for more specialized U.S.-Japan cooperative science activities that de-
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran veloped later, for instance, in medical sciences, in natural resources, and in deep-ocean drilling. A second example in 1972 involved China. The Cold War was at its peak. The United States and the Soviet Union constantly threatened each other with large nuclear arsenals on both sides, although there was an ongoing U.S.-Soviet bilateral scientific dialogue that had encouraged restraint in both countries. Furthermore, the once close alliance between the Soviet Union and China had soured, changing the Asian geopolitical environment. U.S. contacts with China were essentially nonexistent. Except for some very sporadic and limited meetings of low-level officials that took place in Warsaw, Poland, there were effectively no contacts. In early 1972, President Nixon decided to try to change the U.S. relationship with China. The diplomatic history of his visit to China that eventually led to normalization of relations is well known. But what is not known is the role that science may have played. At that time, I was working as the assistant for international affairs to President Nixon’s science advisor. The U.S. government decided that in addition to the political change that we planned to raise with the Chinese, we would offer something of direct tangible benefit, specifically cooperation in science and technology. I was given the task of developing proposals that could be offered as part of a total diplomatic package. Interestingly, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) had established several years earlier a Committee on Scholarly Interchange with China. The committee had had little contact with Chinese scientists; nonetheless, it was a forum for people to consider what might be done if the political situation changed. Working with the staff of that committee, we produced about 40 initiatives for science cooperation in areas such as water and environment. These proposals became part of the package that eventually went to Beijing. Later, when diplomacy was finished and opportunities for cooperation began, the Academy, as a non-governmental body, was asked to take the first modest steps toward cooperation. After the United States and China established diplomatic relations in 1979, cooperation began in earnest. Representatives of
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran 19 U.S. technical agencies established the agreements that eventually led to America’s largest international cooperative science program. Since 1987, up to 50,000 Chinese students per year have traveled to the United States, with about two-thirds of them interested in science and technology. At the beginning, almost 90 percent of them did not return to China and stayed in the United States to become university professors, work for U.S. companies, or start on their own as entrepreneurs. Today, Chinese students who finish their degrees as well as some scientists who have been in the United States for many years are increasingly returning home, as research conditions and financial rewards improve in China. A new term has been coined to replace the concept of brain drain: brain circulation. This is now happening with Indian scientists who have studied and remained in the United States, following a pattern that began with Taiwanese and Korean scientists. This development has raised new policy questions as to the desirability of these foreign student and postdoctoral programs. As foreign specialists trained in the United States return to their countries and conduct research, the result is increased international competition in various fields of high technology. Concerns have been raised about America’s long-term global competitiveness under these circumstances. The answer is to attract more young Americans to study science and technology, not to keep out international students and researchers. Having close scientific colleagues in other countries is an advantage. It is the perfect basis for cooperation. Scientists with common educational backgrounds and personal knowledge of each other can readily cooperate in seeking solutions to many of the problems that confront the globalized economy—ensuring drinking water for growing populations, limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, developing alternative energy sources, and controlling emerging infectious diseases, for example. Unfortunately, our new U.S. visa policies and procedures since 9/11 are creating difficulties for international students and scientists to travel to the United States
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran Turning to a third example of international science cooperation, in 1967 I was the science attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. My role was to contact members of the Polish scientific community and explore ways to cooperate, despite all the political problems between the countries. We had an unusual advantage in Poland. After 1956, there had been a political change that permitted Poland to have closer ties with the United States. This included the purchase of large quantities of U.S. grain with Polish currency, which at that time was not convertible to dollars, but was available for joint U.S.-Polish activities in Poland. As a result, Polish zlotys could be used to fund cooperative scientific projects between Polish and American researchers. Many projects were developed, particularly in the agricultural and health sciences. Eventually, new projects expanded into other fields such as coal research and environmental protection. The volume of these projects eventually reached such a high level that the zlotys were exhausted in about a decade. However, since both governments recognized the value of these cooperative programs, they established the Maria Sklodowska Curie Fund. The Polish government contributed zlotys and the U.S. government provided dollars. That program continued for many more years. Currently, a generic science cooperation framework agreement exists between the countries. Unfortunately, the present agreement has no dedicated funding, meaning that each cooperating institution must find its own funds for participation in any cooperative project, which limits the extent of cooperation. A fourth example of how science cooperation can build international bridges is much more recent and involves India. U.S.-India relations had been up and down for many years. An early idea was to have a formal agreement of scientific and technical cooperation, but it was recognized that such an agreement was not possible. Instead, a private organization, the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, was established to carry out scientific and technical cooperation. The two governments provided a modest endowment with rupees owned by the U.S. government. The endowment generates interest and the Indian government annually
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran matches that interest, giving the organization about $1.5 million-2.0 million per year to catalyze cooperation. In late 2000, I was appointed the cochair of the Forum. We have a secretariat in New Delhi that manages the funds and a small center in the United States to conduct peer review of proposals coming from both the Indian and U.S. scientific communities. There are about 50 events each year, including a large number of workshops across all fields of science, travel grants, and professor and researcher exchanges. We try to fund those proposals that show the greatest promise for creating real working collaboration. Since 2005, U.S. science relationships with India have deepened, a formal bilateral science agreement has been signed, and other proposals for cooperation have been considered. Let me conclude with one final example, which could provide an opportunity for Iran today: the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). It is housed in a former Hapsburg Palace in Laxenburg, Austria, a suburb of Vienna. The principal initial partners were the United States and the Soviet Union. Some 18 countries also joined and the research was focused on applying systems analysis techniques to big global issues. The early analysis of energy problems was considered to be very good, the research on population problems was of international interest, and the work on global climate change contributed to present global thinking on that issue. Support for IIASA has waxed and waned over the years, and with the end of the Cold War, its nature changed. At present, it is no longer focused on building bridges between East and West but has taken on a North-South orientation, with more emphasis on developing countries as it continues to tackle major global issues. China, India, Pakistan, and South Africa have joined or are in the process of joining. A top IIASA priority now is a Global Energy Assessment, an examination of the global energy situation from many perspectives over several years. Iran was approached through one of its diplomatic missions about joining this energy project. To date, the Iranians have not responded. But participation in the energy project would be possible even if Iran chose not
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Science as a Gateway to Understanding: International Workshop Proceedings Tehran, Iran to become a full member of the organization. IIASA is another clear demonstration of how science can be a successful builder of international bridges between countries. Science is indeed a gateway to understanding. International cooperation in science and technology, which brings researchers together in the search for solutions to global problems in the natural world, can also be a powerful catalyst for improving relations in the social and political worlds. In any case, it is well worth supporting.
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