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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape 4 Special Activities In addition to individual exchanges and workshops, the National Research Council (NRC) has sponsored a variety of other activities in Eastern Europe since the late 1960s, usually in cooperation with counterpart academies of sciences. Most of the activities have been linked to the individual exchange and workshop programs, which provided important contacts to help design and implement these additional activities. Some of the activities that were of particular interest are summarized in this chapter. YOUNG INVESTIGATOR POLICY-ORIENTED PROGRAMS In the late 1980s the U.S. Congress enacted legislation (Title VIII of the Soviet-Eastern European Research and Training Act of 1983 [22 U.S.C. 4501-4508, as amended]) that provided the basis for a Department of State initiative to enhance understanding by U.S. scholars and specialists of policy developments in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The new program encouraged visits to little-known facilities and to areas of social or economic importance within the region and provided support for investigations leading to joint publications with colleagues from the region. The NRC participated in the program for a decade, concentrating primarily on encouraging young investigators (usually recent postdoctoral scientists) to become engaged in policy-relevant activities involving science, technology, and health issues. The activities described below were carried out in collaboration with appropriate counterpart organizations in Eastern Europe.
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape In 1989 and 1990 the Department of State provided funding totaling $90,000 for exploratory activities on the following developments in the region: Yugoslavia (industrial management), German Democratic Republic (biosciences), Bulgaria (science education), Romania (natural resources), Czechoslovakia (agriculture), Poland (energy conservation), and Hungary (sustainable agriculture). Some of the workshops on these topics that were discussed in Chapter 3 provided the venues for these explorations. Department of State funds were combined with other available funds to support the workshops. At the outset, these activities did not focus on young investigators. In 1991 the Department of State provided significantly greater financial resources ($225,000), which enabled the NRC to launch its Young Investigator Program. Funding continued for several years in support of cooperative activities with colleagues in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Eastern European component of this new program is described below. Romania In 1991, 10 American and 14 Romanian ecologists spent 3 weeks exploring the Danube Delta. The Romanians represented the key environmental research institutions of the country. The American and Romanian investigators spent most of the program aboard a 70-foot barge equipped with sleeping quarters and a galley. A tugboat towed the barge through the Delta. This flotilla also included a research vessel that provided a laboratory base for sampling and observing representative portions of all three branches of the Danube River. The Romanian scientists, with participation by the Americans, collected water and soil samples for nutrient analysis, zooplankton measurements, and benthic invertebrate enumeration. A workshop on observations and findings completed the visit. The following year, young Romanian specialists visited the Mississippi Delta. There the scientists from the two countries addressed environmental research activities and policies to preserve the ecology of deltas in both countries. They considered, for example, wetland protection, hydro-engineering, biodiversity, and sustainable development. Drawing on these experiences, several of the American participants subsequently became consultants on delta issues to the World Bank, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The Romanian scientists became very active promoting environmental policies through many venues in their home country.
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape Poland In 1992, 10 young U.S. investigators spent 3 weeks in Poland examining issues associated with Poland’s energy sector. Of special interest were energy-efficient technologies, emission standards, development of energy policies, and related public awareness programs. In general, the environmental situation in many areas of Poland was quite poor, particularly in regions heavily dependent on low-grade coal. The second phase of the program involved visits by Polish counterparts to industrial and research centers in California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. The young investigators from the two countries then compared U.S. energy problems and policies with challenges faced in Poland and developed future collaborative projects. Most of the U.S. participants published papers on developments in Poland or developed follow-on research activities, or both. Several of the Polish participants soon assumed important positions within their government and research institutions. Czech Republic and Slovakia Ten American young investigators traveled to the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 to discuss environmental health issues and to visit relevant facilities. In the Czech Republic the visits focused on health impacts of coal mining, heavy manufacturing industries, lead smelting, and related ground water pollution that entered the food chain. In Slovakia the group visited a cellulose plant and paper mill that discharged heavily contaminated effluents, and the Americans toured a controversial hydropower station that raised issues about the effectiveness of water management schemes. The reciprocal visit for the counterparts from the two Eastern European countries took place the following year with visits to North Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. An important emphasis was on exposure of children to organic chemicals and heavy metals. At the conclusion of the visits, the Americans and their counterparts jointly examined activities in the two countries concerning risk assessment models, environmental health problems and possible solutions, and opportunities for future collaboration. Croatia Six American specialists on coastal ecology spent 2 weeks in Zagreb and on the Adriatic coast of Croatia in 1996. They met with a number of government officials and researchers to discuss environmental issues, including discharge standards, measures for protecting ecosystems, and the international dimensions of environmental protection. In Istria, the
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape young investigators gave considerable attention to the environmental impacts of tourism. Three of the investigators returned to Croatia under other auspices to continue their research while one wrote a book on international coastal protection law, which drew on his experience in Croatia. Bosnia Five American young investigators traveled to Bosnia in 2000 to consult with local officials and medical specialists on trauma and reconciliation in the war-torn country. The findings were both informative and depressing. The number of local experts in the field was limited, but a few international specialists were seized with the problem and provided important insights. There was no opportunity to arrange a reciprocal visit due to funding constraints. SCIENTIFIC TRAINING PROGRAMS FOR YOUNG INVESTIGATORS During the late 1990s, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) began drawing on the capabilities of the NRC to support training programs for young scientists (both Ph.D. candidates and postdoctoral scientists) from Latin America to become acquainted with advanced laboratory research techniques. Building on this experience in Latin America, the NRC organized two such programs in Eastern Europe. A 2-week training program on determination of high-resolution structures was held in Poland in 2001. The first week took place in Poznan at the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry and the second in Warsaw at the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics. The average age of the 24 participants was 27. They came from 12 countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The program was intense, and indeed some participants considered it a little too intense. Lectures and laboratory sessions were scheduled for each day. The course focused on two disparate methods of structure determination, namely, nuclear magnetic resonance and x-ray crystallography techniques. Specialists who were familiar with methods using one of the techniques had the opportunity to learn about complementary uses of other methods. Several of the participants subsequently continued collaborating with fellow students or instructors whom they met during the course. Drawing on lessons learned in Poland, the NRC organized a second 2-week training course in 2002 at the Institute of Microbiology in
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape Prague. The topic was genome-wide approaches to understanding bacterial pathogenesis. The 20 students came from 11 countries and had an average age of 33. Sixteen senior researchers from Europe and the United States presented lectures on the fundamentals of DNA microarray analysis and proteomics. They also discussed applications of the methods that they used in their own research with various pathogens. Students then had an opportunity to gain hands-on experience putting the techniques into practice in both wet-lab and computer-based sessions. In addition, an equipment vendor came to the sessions to talk about gene chips, equipment requirements, and analytical capabilities. These training programs were considered quite successful by all concerned. The host institutions were particularly pleased to receive analytical equipment for the courses, either from their own governments or from HHMI, which they retained following the courses. A third program in Lithuania in 2003 also attracted enthusiastic Eastern European participants. But then the funding priorities of HHMI changed, and the NRC program was terminated. BREAKUP OF YUGOSLAVIA Since the 1990s, the political situation in the territory that was once a united Yugoslavia has been unstable. The reconfiguration of the political entities within the territory has had a major impact on scientific cooperation between the NRC and the academies of sciences of the region. Chapters 2 and 3 recounted some of the interacademy activities involving the old and new countries of the region. Of special concern was the crisis in Bosnia. When full-scale war erupted in Bosnia in the early 1990s, the Bosnian Academy of Sciences put out a plea for international support of its activities and the response to Serbian aggression. The initial emphasis was on protecting the human rights of citizens. Subsequently the emphasis expanded to preserving the minimal level of scientific capability within the country, particularly within the universities. In 1996, the NRC participated in an international symposium entitled “Bosnia and Herzegovina—Democracy, Reconstruction, and Integrity” that had been organized by the Bosnian Academy of Sciences and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in an attempt to address human rights and the building of democracy. A secondary issue was rebuilding the science infrastructure of the country. The NRC urged the establishment of Internet linkages among the universities in the country as a step in bringing together the new generation of scientists dispersed in ethnic
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape groupings throughout the country.1 After a delay of several years, this approach was finally embraced by Western development agencies. Another request to NRC made during the visit was to consult with demining experts in order to provide inputs for NRC studies of the role of advanced technologies in detecting and removing land mines. The on-the-ground consultations indicated that remote sensing techniques sounded interesting but that their application might be possible only in the distant future. The immediate need was for (1) chemicals that could quickly soften frozen dirt so it could be probed with bayonets and (2) defoliants that could expose mines covered with moss and other vegetation.2 REGIONAL MEETINGS IN EASTERN EUROPE Dozens of international scientific meetings are held each year in the region. The European Union, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the European Academy of Sciences, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are among the organizations that regularly support regionally oriented meetings on a variety of policy-oriented and research-oriented topics. Although the NRC frequently receives invitations to participate in such gatherings, attendance is often not possible due to funding issues or other commitments of key staff members. However, NRC participation in three meetings has been particularly useful. In 1995 the Romanian Academy organized a meeting in Sinaia to discuss the future roles of academies of sciences. The meeting attracted 13 academy presidents from the region. Although the emphasis was on European integration, the academy presidents continuously reminded the participants that cooperation with the United States was of the utmost importance. The significance of the discussions was underscored by the presence at the meeting of the president and prime minister of Romania. They informed the participants that in the restructuring of the government, the president of the Romanian academy ranked third in the government hierarchy behind the president and the governor of the National Bank. Another meeting of considerable significance was held in Zagreb in 2000 on the topic of technology transfer with participation by a number of United Nations agencies. All countries of the region were struggling to overcome the gap between research and commercialization of technologies. The United States was held up as the model to be emulated 1 See Croatian Pugwash Society. 2008. Sarajevo 1996. Pp. 196-207 in Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation, and the Responsibility of Individuals: Ivan Supek and Croatian Scientists in the Pugwash Movement. Zagreb: Croatian Association of the Club of Rome. 2 NRC Office for Central Europe and Eurasia. 1996. Newsletter, p. 21.
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape in bridging this gap. But the economic and industrial landscapes in the countries of the region were far different from the situation in the United States. Even very small steps that might be taken to promote applications of research products were of considerable interest.3 Finally, in 2009, a region-wide workshop on the international cooperation strategies of academies of sciences was held in Smolenice, Slovakia, under the auspices of the European Academy of Sciences. The emphasis was on science as an important dimension of European integration. At the same time, the interests of the participants were also oriented to restoring scientific cooperation with U.S. institutions that appeared to have lost interest in the region. 3 Čavlek, M., J. Šrarc, and D. Hübner, editors. 2001. Technology Transfer for Economic Development: Experience for Countries in Transition: Conference Proceedings, Zagreb, June 19-20, 2000. Zagreb: Croatian Ministry of Science and Technology and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
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