BOX 3-1

U.S.-GDR Heterogeneous Catalysis Workshop (1990)

Environmental Minister Karl-Hermann Steinberg and GDR academy president Siegfried Nowak led the GDR delegation. In general, the East German scientists had focused their research so it directly addressed applied problems, while the American emphasis had been on concepts and more fundamental aspects of catalysis. The GDR scientists visited four California universities after the workshop.

SOURCE: NRC Office of Soviet and East European Affairs. 1990. Newsletter (Fall 1990), p. 21.

Two interacademy workshops were held involving GDR and U.S. scientists. The first was on the topic of biosciences in East Berlin in 1989. At the time, the U.S. government had an office in East Berlin, and that office embraced the workshop as a major political event. The scientific discussions provided insights into GDR research, which was far from the frontier of world science; and the visits to research institutions also confirmed that the researchers were lagging behind their counterparts in Europe as well as in the United States. However, the American participants did find limited achievements in molecular biology, plant genetics, and plant biochemistry that were at a competitive level with U.S. science. At the same time, the GDR participants had followed the international literature. They were generally aware of achievements in the United States, and they were familiar with the research of some of the American participants.

A second workshop in California on the topic of heterogeneous catalysis took place in 1990. At the time, the GDR was approaching the doorstep of absorption by the Federal Republic of Germany. Again the weaknesses in the research base of the GDR were apparent (see Box 3-1). Given the subsequent political turmoil within the GDR, few if any, follow-on activities resulted from this workshop.


Of all the academies of sciences in the region, in the 1980s the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences was the most interested in moving forward quickly with bilateral workshops. This enthusiasm was attributable in part to Bulgarian recognition of the political importance of workshops involving U.S. scientists and to the interest of the scientific leadership in having the Bulgarian academy be known as an important player on the international scientific scene. On two occasions, the American participants

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