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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape 5 The Way Forward Set forth below are the author’s conclusions and recommendations that are based in large measure on discussions in the previous chapters. The discussions have been broadened, however, to take into account the factors that must be considered in deploying limited financial resources, whether they be public or private-sector funds. CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES Many collaborative activities supported by the National Academies have had a positive effect on international science, on the transformation of centrally planned economies to market-oriented approaches, and on new scientific relations between East and West during and following the Cold War. While the activities have been but a small part of the overall scientific outreach of the United States to Eastern Europe, they have had direct and catalytic impacts at crucial times during the political history of the region. Many testimonials from American and Eastern European political and scientific leaders attest to the significance of these small efforts in the struggle of Eastern Europe to become unshackled politically and begin the process of building viable knowledge-based economies. However, the political, organizational, and financial landscapes for cooperative activities that could be supported by academies in the region and by the National Academies have changed significantly in recent years. The current international outreach of the academies of the region focuses to a considerable extent on projects that are supported by a variety
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape of European funding organizations, particularly the European Union’s Framework Program. In the United States, traditional financial supporters of scientific cooperation—both government agencies and private foundations—are increasingly looking to other areas of the world where security and international development concerns are viewed as more immediate, including the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Also, some funders are more interested in supporting ambitious global programs, such as programs that address broad-ranging energy and biotechnology challenges, rather than more limited regional or country-specific activities that may be better suited for implementation by academies. The academies need to convince governments that “going global” should enrich rather than displace successful regional and bilateral activities. Eastern Europe is a unique cluster of middle-income countries with strong scientific capabilities in a number of important areas and with a long history of scientific interchange with the United States that unfortunately was disrupted for nearly one-half century. The legacy of scientific and educational excellence throughout the region is strong, and the desire to strengthen partnership with U.S. colleagues is omnipresent. Considerable funding for research from Brussels has oriented much of the scientific enterprise toward cooperation with partners on the same side of the ocean. The challenge for the U.S. government and other American funding organizations is to capitalize on the capabilities and enthusiasm for cooperation of Eastern European colleagues at a time when Washington’s attention is focused elsewhere. While the future of U.S. scientific relations with the region must fit into the broad general framework of international academic relations, the special attributes of the region should be fully recognized. No other geographic cluster of middle-income countries can boast the likes of a Charles University in Prague, a Warsaw University, a Szeged Biological Center in Hungary, and a Bucharest Polytechnical University, for example. Also, the strategic importance of the region is obvious. And the American reputation is clearly on the line in the struggling areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Kosovo. The era for science diplomacy in the region has not ended. It is continuing. Of special concern is the growing role of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in leading U.S. efforts to promote bilateral scientific cooperation. For example, the opening of new air bases in Romania and Bulgaria and other future strategic initiatives by DOD in the region will probably be accompanied by new interactions between American and local
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape specialists in a variety of technical areas.1 DOD already supports many research projects in the region—particularly in the Czech Republic and Poland. These projects raise concerns over the imbalance of the American approach. Indeed, senior officials from the region have commented that too many cooperative research activities are devoted to security issues, particularly dual-use topics. Given the reduced presence of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the region, with the exception of a significant presence in some states of the former Yugoslavia, there are few stable U.S. civilian programs available to support scientific exchanges. The Fulbright Program and the Open Society Foundation offices are important, although they provide relatively little support in the natural sciences. In a significant exception to the clamor to “go global,” the National Science Foundation has entered into a program with the Czech Ministry of Education to support researchers in the two countries engaged in joint research projects. RECOMMENDATIONS Set forth below are several approaches whereby the academies can assist in promoting scientific cooperation that should benefit the participating countries. Multilateral Approaches The InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), headquartered in Trieste, is a consortium of about 100 academies of science. Almost all academies in Eastern Europe as well as the National Academy of Sciences are members. Its core function is to build the capacities of science academies in all countries and to enhance their capabilities to provide high-quality scientific advice to governments. The IAP carries out consultations and issues statements on topics of global concern (for example, science education, water management, biosecurity, and access to digitized knowledge). The topics are selected by the members, and each member determines how active it will be in carrying out IAP projects. This well-established forum offers many opportunities for interactions among U.S. and Eastern European scientists (see www.interacademies.net/iap). The InterAcademy Council, located in Amsterdam, prepares in-depth reports on topics of interest to the member academies. In 2009 the 1 Representatives of the research offices of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force based in London were not able to provide information concerning the extent of their support of research institutions in Eastern Europe. However, based on conversations with the U.S. embassies in the region, the support in some countries is in the millions of dollars each year.
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape presidents of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences were among the 21 members of the governing board, but other academies also have the opportunity to participate in the studies. Past studies have addressed building worldwide capacities in science and technology to enhance African agriculture, the role of women in science, and affordable and sustainable energy supplies. If interested in such topics, the academies of Eastern Europe have an opportunity to participate more actively in the programs (see www.interacademycouncil.net). The InterAcademy Medical Panel (IAMP), a global network of academies of science and medicine, is committed to improving health worldwide. The activities focus on strengthening the role of academies to alleviate health burdens of the world’s poorest populations, build scientific capacity for health, and provide independent advice to governments and international organizations on health issues. A topic that has received special attention is controlling infectious diseases and setting priorities among diseases. The Eastern European countries have not been strongly represented at IAMP meetings, and there are clear opportunities for increased interactions through this mechanism (see www.iamp-online.org). The International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS) has had strong ties with counterpart organizations in several Eastern European countries, particularly Hungary and Poland. The goals of CAETS activities include providing advice to governments and international organizations on technical and policy issues, strengthening engineering and technological activities to promote sustainable economic growth and social development, improving public understanding of applications of engineering and technology, providing a forum for international discussions of engineering and technical issues, helping develop engineering and technical programs of bilateral and multilateral interest, encouraging improvement of engineering education, and encouraging creation of engineering academies in countries where none exist. Given the broad Eastern European interest in all of these topics, CAETS offers an attractive venue for greater engagement with counterpart organizations from the countries (see www.CAETS.org). Special international science events are frequently organized in Eastern Europe, sometimes by governments and sometimes by academies of sciences. The National Academies often participate in these events. As
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape noted in Chapter 4, occasionally the National Academies are cosponsors. But more often, the local academies take the lead in ensuring adequate nongovernmental representation from abroad. Particularly important events are the biannual World Science Forums organized by the Hungarian government, which bring to Budapest hundreds of scientific leaders from all continents. Strong representation by the NAS is very useful in strengthening contacts with academy leaders and other colleagues from Eastern Europe. A forum is scheduled for November 2009 (see www.sciforum.hu). Bilateral Approaches Presidents of the academies of Eastern Europe often visit Washington. They sometimes take time to meet with the presidents of the institutions of the National Academies. Too often these visits are scheduled simply as protocol visits. Nevertheless, they can be useful in raising issues of broad concern. Greater preparation to help focus the meetings on interesting substantive issues is recommended. Although the presidents of the NAS, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine are less frequent visitors to Eastern Europe, the foreign secretaries of the three institutions often travel to the region. They are usually requested to make presentations that include issues of scientific cooperation. These visits are well received and should continue. As another approach, American scientists frequently turn to NATO to provide support for scientific workshops involving East European colleagues. In some cases, this mechanism can provide useful venues. However, despite political efforts to broaden NATO’s charter, the military dimension cannot be ignored. Still, since most countries of the region are NATO members, this mechanism deserves particular attention. The agenda of the National Academies for studies that are requested by the U.S. government or by other organizations is much broader than the agenda of any counterpart academy throughout the world. More than 200 studies are initiated each year. Increasingly, international experts are invited to participate in the studies. There should be opportunities for Eastern European specialists to be on some invitation lists. Such participation would help strengthen the ties of the NAS with colleagues in an important area of the world. Finally, the National Academies should consider sponsorship of annual regional meetings in Eastern Europe, rotating from capital to capital. Such forums organized in cooperation with interested academies in the region and co-funded by these academies could provide opportunities to exchange up-to-date information on scientific advances in selected fields,
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Interacademy Programs Between the United States and Eastern Europe 1967-2009: The Changing Landscape trends in efforts to promote sustainable knowledge-based economies, and mechanisms to expand scientist-to-scientist cooperation of mutual interest. Such an initiative should be targeted on topics wherein U.S. specialists are uniquely positioned to complement East European interaction with European colleagues. The costs need not be high, with travel costs being the primary expense. The scientific and political payoff from such high-visibility U.S. interest in the region should be substantial. THE INDISPENSABLE APPROACH While the efforts of the NAS and other organizations to stimulate collaboration are important, the cornerstones of effective cooperation will continue to be direct contacts between individual scientists who are interested in working with their international colleagues. If the interest is strong and the ideas are sound, they need only limited help in working across the ocean. They are ready to design the programs; and as they have done in the past, they will play leading roles in finding the means to carry out their programs.