Skeptical officials and scientific leaders of the two countries, who initially questioned the feasibility and acceptability of a broadly based engagement approach, have developed respect for skills of counterparts in dealing with sensitive technologies. In a brief period of time, responsible development, handling, and use of potentially dangerous technologies have become cornerstones of these efforts. Of particular importance, the increased transparency of programs in sensitive areas, directly related to broad access to facilities and specialists in the two countries, has set the stage for still more important cooperative ventures that could contribute to science and security interests throughout the world.
A good indicator of the immediate importance of bioengagement is the role that biological activities play within the framework of the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by the two governments in 2009. With six working groups addressing various aspects of the life sciences, the list of recent activities is long despite the limited budgets available to carry out such activities. (See Appendix E.1.) During the 8-year period from 2001 to 2009, when there was no Bilateral Presidential Commission but budgetary resources were more plentiful—at least on the U.S. side—the importance of such activities never wavered. In 2012, the situation is dramatically different with availability of funding a major constraint, and gradually bioengagement is falling off the screen of viable activities.
THE ROLE OF METRICS
Chapter 1 concludes that bioengagement is undervalued and notes that subsequent chapters document many of the successes to date. But good metrics for assessing success are lacking. Therefore, greater attention to developing and using metrics in designing and evaluating program results, with particular attention to long-term results and the characteristics of programs that contribute to continued viability of research teams, can be helpful in determining the importance of bioengagement activities.
In short, more deliberate efforts to build into future bioengagement programs methodologies for evaluating the results of these programs for scientific advancements, applications of science to economic development, and progress in achieving common security and foreign policy goals could (a) help focus implementation activities more sharply on key bioengagement objectives and (b) highlight the payoffs from even modest investments in bioengagement.
Efforts in Washington to develop metrics for assessments of bioengagement activities have given little attention to metrics that will indicate the extent to which projects lead to long-term success in building effective research teams. Rather, too often metrics have focused only on near-term security concerns. Important results of future cooperation help build capacities in the two countries, and indeed globally, in order to promote responsible science. Adoption of responsible approaches to research and applications should be a key factor in determining success of activities.