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the natural sciences or the humanities—but also interdisciplinary collaboration between the natural and the social sciences.


Science is international in its self-image and generally international in practice. Scientific results should be capable of validation anywhere. This goal has proven illusive for the social sciences, which remain, for better or for worse, embedded in their own social and political environments. But even the natural sciences show surprising national variations, reflecting broader values that become part of the training of scientists and influence the kinds of questions they are liable to pose and the strategies they will pursue to find answers. It cannot be fortuitous that modern organic chemistry has its roots in Germany, that modern physics represents the outcome of an international dialogue within a small group of Europeans, that modern biology is rooted in the United States, or that France has played a special role in certain fields of human health research. Science policy is even more clearly a product of national circumstances, the result of subtle differences in the research community of each country and their cause. Countries have organized their research endeavors in strikingly different ways and have created different structures to determine the levels of funding available for science and technology and how it is to be spent. Comparing these structures is interesting. Why is it important? A number of reasons underpin the effort to compare science and technology goals for environmental policy and research.

  • Environmental policy is international by its very nature. What one country does or does not do to protect its environment can affect the environment of other countries.

  • Most environmental policy areas by now require some form of international coordination of measures. To develop equitable approaches it is important to be able to compare national measures.

  • Countries must draw on all available scientific information when they undertake science assessments. Knowledge of research strategies and parallel assessments is important in avoiding mistakes and misunderstanding.

  • Most countries do not have the resources to undertake research in all areas of environmental concern; some countries cannot undertake any such research. These countries must rely on information available elsewhere to base their policies.

  • The existence of an active research community directly impacts the ability of a country to address an issue and in some cases limits the ability to even recognize its importance. Lack of independent domestic research on stratospheric ozone depletion was one of the reasons why European countries were particularly slow in responding to the emerging threats and resisting the self-serving information being circulated by affected industrial interests.

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