emies. The NRC has been more constrained in the selection of appropriate topics than the counterpart academies because of the special interests of the funding organizations in the United States. For example, energy and environmental protection were popular topics with U.S. foundations that provided financial support. Also, in several instances NSF was interested in basic science topics that introduced U.S. scientists to counterparts who might subsequently serve as partners on research projects.
In the early days, there was always concern whether or not the Eastern European workshop participants would be selected on the basis of their expertise, rather than as a result of political connections. Of course, participation by government officials was important. Overall, the participants were well informed, often criticized domestic policies, and engaged in lively discussions about both scientific and policy issues.
The organizational aspects of the bilateral workshops were somewhat standardized, with eight to ten specialists from each country participating. Most participants usually made presentations. In several cases, workshop proceedings were published by the National Academies Press. The participants from abroad almost always had an opportunity to meet in the country where the workshop took place with local officials and visit facilities engaged in research activities relevant to the topic of the workshop. In many instances the participants considered such meetings and visits more important than the workshops themselves in providing insights of scientific and technological interest. But without the workshops, many of the meetings and visits would not have been possible.
In general, the U.S. participants traveling to Eastern Europe gave positive reports of their professional and cultural experiences. Similarly, reports of Eastern European participants that were available to the NRC were generous in their praise of the workshops, from both the scientific and hospitality viewpoints. Unfortunately, the NRC did not have the resources to systematically keep abreast of follow-on activities, which at least in some cases continued to bring together specialists working in the same fields.
The GDR was one of the most scientifically isolated countries of Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War. As discussed in Chapter 2, there were limited contacts between GDR and U.S. institutions in the 1970s, and several additional collaborations evolved from the individual exchange program of the NRC in the 1980s. However, when representatives of the NRC traveled to scientific institutions in the GDR during the late 1980s, meeting East German scientists who had contacts in the United States was a rare event.