Since 1959 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has operated an exchange program with the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, providing for visits of from 1 to 12 months in duration for scientists and engineers in all fields. The Soviet participants have generally been older and more experienced than the American participants—visits to the United States are eagerly sought by Soviet scientists—but the quality of Soviet visitors has varied considerably. NAS has placed increased emphasis on assuring the professional competence of the Soviet visitors, but the Academy has had only limited success in obtaining specified visitors from the U.S.S.R. In recent years the size of the program has been reduced; the 1982 program level is 50 person-months of visits in each direction. In addition, periodic U.S.-Soviet symposia have taken place in various fields, such as radioastronomy, mathematics, and biochemistry. Although the quality of the meetings has been high, this type of meeting was suspended by NAS in 1980 in response to the Soviet treatment of Andrei Sakharov, who is a foreign member of NAS.
The International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) administers a U.S.-Soviet exchange program under the sponsorship of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council. Up to 50 Soviet graduate students and young faculty members participate each year, with visits lasting 9 months to a year. This program is conducted in cooperation with the U.S.S.R. Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education. Eighty to 90 percent of the U.S. participants have worked in the social sciences or humanities, while 90 percent of the Soviet participants have been involved in science or engineering. Despite this lack of symmetry, the program has served an important role in strengthening Soviet studies in the United States.