agreed to in 2000 when different cooperative activities were considered. Further complicating the character of the program was an early decision by the National Academies to engage with a number of organizations in Iran in addition to the academies, since the academies were still relatively young organizations.
The National Academies decided to promote activities on an ad hoc basis as opportunities appeared, without relying on a well developed implementation plan. Was an appropriate Iranian organization interested in moving forward with an activity? Was an appropriate American scientist prepared to co-chair the activity? Would there be a licensing issue? Were related activities scheduled in the Middle East that would reduce international travel for specialists interested in participating in such activities as well as traveling to Iran?
Of course, the National Academies maintained the position that the topic of any activity would have to be of interest to U.S. scientists if they were to participate with enthusiasm. The policy of science first and political bridge-building benefits second was the mantra. As discussed in Chapter 5, this approach seemed to pay off.
All the while, there were frequent adjustments of plans up to the very dates of scheduled events. Welcome news came in small parcels such as: The last visa approval notification has just arrived, and we can leave on schedule. The visitors have finally cleared customs in New York, and they will make their connecting flight. Permission has been given in Washington for the visitors to meet with U.S. government scientists.
Thus, flexibility was essential to guide the program throughout the decade.
The National Academies originally planned for individual exchanges to become a major component of the program. But most American scientists were not eager to travel to Iran alone. Usually, travelers would go to Iran in groups of two or more. Also, they realized that there were few, if any, funding sources for travel to Iran or follow-on activities, thereby dampening enthusiasm for developing unsustainable partnerships.
Many travelers preferred to participate in workshops organized by the National Academies and then add side visits to the proposed workshop itineraries. This approach was followed in most cases. Individual visits by Americans not linked to workshops became the exception rather than the rule.