Sciences to do a study on the relationship between science and technology and foreign policy. The result of that 18-month study, which was privately funded by a wonderful man from New York named William Golden, was this little green book, as I call it. For years, while I was at the State Department, people kept saying, “This is like Norman’s bible—he carries it around like an itinerant preacher.” But if you are interested in the subject of the relationship of science and technology to foreign policy, this is probably one of the best pieces ever written, despite its rather cumbersome title—The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in Foreign Policy: Imperatives for the Department of State. The key point is that sixteen of the stated goals of US foreign policy—and at least in the Clinton administration those goals were actually written down—involve significant considerations of science, technology, and health. There are many examples in the book, and it goes through and develops them very effectively.
After receiving the report, Secretary Albright set up a study team to examine its recommendations. Eventually, she decided to proceed with specific actions to strengthen the capacity of the State Department to deal with the technical dimensions of foreign policy issues. The report had concluded that the Department was at the time not adequately equipped do so. A key decision was to appoint a science and technology advisor to the secretary of state to drive this process. I was lucky enough to get that job. I always recommend to aspiring young people to be the first one to have a new job, because there is no one to compare you with. If you are first, you set the bar for your successor.
It was a fascinating time. I loved the job. It was a 3-year appointment. I would have happily stayed on, but that was the agreement. I met with someone later from State and I told him what we had done and that I thought we had been successful and mentioned some accomplishments. He said, “No, Norman. The success was that you had a successor,” because that experiment could so easily have been a one-off experience in the State Department. Not only did I have a successor, but my successor now has a successor.
Interestingly, I visited the AAAS website last night while I was making a few notes for this talk, and came across an item about Nina Fedoroff, who is the present science and technology advisor—she is actually quite a famous scientist, who recently got the National Medal of Science for her work in plant genomics. There was a summary of a big speech that she had given just two days ago on the role of science and technology in foreign policy, and particularly science diplomacy, to which I will come back later.
Jack Gibbons, a former Science Advisor to President Clinton, once called the State Department the most technophobic culture he had ever experienced. What he was saying is that conveying the importance of these issues to a foreign policy culture and to a Foreign Service culture is not so simple. And my office consisted of only three people. So, one thing I decided early on was that we had to get more scientific smarts into the building—more people with scientific backgrounds.