In this report, the topics of nonproliferation (Chapter 2), advancement of science (Chapter 3), and applications of science in the private and public sectors (Chapter 4) have encompassed a number of bilateral projects with impacts beyond the borders of the United States and Russia. Set forth below are a few additional examples of bilateral efforts with particularly pronounced regional or global reaches. The activities that are described have been generally successful in terms of achieving scientific objectives, thereby eliciting significant regional and, at times, global attention. While some programs are likely to continue for the next several years, the longer-term financial outlook for bilateral cooperation that contributes directly to international science is uncertain.
As underscored in the Introduction of this report, both governments have made substantial financial contributions to joint efforts. These activities have often intersected with programs of international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. At times, bilateral efforts have added momentum to more broadly based international programs with similar goals (e.g., HIV/AIDS programs). Also, bilateral initiatives can be important in jump-starting programs that had been developed within international or regional organizations (e.g., interest of the Arctic Council in black carbon effects on global warming). At other times, international organizations may be well positioned to encourage continuation of efforts rooted in joint U.S.-Russian initiatives.
While individual projects that are cited have been implemented bilaterally, the coordination of these bilateral projects with multilateral activities that address global or regional issues with closely related objectives has generally been quite
good. Indeed, frequently the same national officials have responsibilities for both bilateral and multilateral activities with similar objectives. Also, at times, the U.S. and Russian governments have decided to highlight their bilateral activities at international meetings. Then they usually take steps to ensure that other interested parties are aware of their activities before they publicly announce success stories. Set forth below are seven examples of bilateral activities with regional or global impacts.
1. Leading the world in space biology. The global leadership of the U.S. and Soviet-Russian manned-space programs is unquestionable. The two countries have been pioneers in developing space biology for the past 50 years. Lessons learned from U.S.-Russian efforts are gradually spreading to other countries interested in exploration of space.
During the past decade, considerable attention has been focused on a future manned mission to Mars. At the same time, the immediate challenges of operating the international space station have required the constant attention of Russian and American doctors, researchers, and other medical professionals. Several joint activities being planned for the near future are set forth in Box 5-1.
2. Addressing HIV/AIDS. Formal U.S.-Russian cooperation in addressing HIV/AIDS began in 1989 with a bilateral agreement between the U.S. Institute of Medicine and the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. Shortly thereafter, the program was taken over by the National Institutes of Health and the Soviet
Planned Joint Space Research Programs
• Isolation and confinement studies as analogs for long-duration crewed missions. Research topics include crew behavior, group interactions, crew performance, microbiological and immunological investigations, and clinical-psychological studies.
• Space radiation health studies, including risks of cancer, chronic tissue effects, acute radiation sickness, and changes in central nervous system functions.
• Analyses of robotic precursor missions to address toxicity issues that could affect human health.
• Russian free-flyer mission to address partial gravity and long-duration effects of microgravity on living systems.
SOURCE: NASA Headquarters, 2011.
Reducing HIV/AIDS Problems in Russia
For more than 15 years, USAID provided financing and expertise for selected aspects of the large Russian-led effort to help control the level of HIV-infected patients. During the 1990s, the emphasis was on raising awareness of the problem, particularly among the Russian youth, and on training medical professionals to provide advisory services to vulnerable populations. More recently, emphasis continued to be on counseling services targeted on the most vulnerable populations, with special attention to infected prisoners and injection drug users.
SOURCE: USAID Moscow, February 2012.
Ministry of Health (now the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Services). The two governments have worked together in this field ever since.
In the 1990s, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) initiated an important component of the overall HIV/AIDS effort focused on raising public awareness of the problems and advocating measures for combating the disease. (See Box 5-2.) This activity is now a component of the global effort of USAID to address HIV/AIDS issues in selected countries worldwide.
The investment by USAID in this effort has been several million dollars per year for more than a decade. However, this level of investment has been small in comparison with the Russian investments in the overall effort. Also, international programs such as UNAIDS and programs of other governments have long supported significant efforts in Russia, and coordination with activities of others has been an essential dimension of the joint efforts of Russia and the United States.
At the request of the Russian government, USAID is terminating its overall program based in Russia. Thus, continuation of a significant U.S.-Russia bilateral effort to address HIV/AIDS in Russia is uncertain. Perhaps some aspects of USAID’s global efforts will continue in Russia under the leadership of Russian counterparts.
3. Responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases across international borders and containing their spread. For many years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has teamed with a number of Russian institutions in responding to outbreaks of diseases in Russia and other areas that have had the potential for spreading across international borders. Particularly important training programs for Russian epidemiologists have been held, usually in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2012, CDC and the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer
Rights Protection and Human Well-being signed a Protocol of Intent of indefinite duration, which will continue joint efforts to address key concerns of the two governments to the extent that funding is available. (See Appendix C.6 for additional information on CDC collaboration with Russian partner organizations.)
An important example of collaborative efforts was the response to the outbreak of avian influenza in 2007, which is described in Box 5-3.
4. Preserving biodiversity. Both Russia and the United States have long histories of investigating the status of biodiversity resources throughout vast geographical areas, including areas outside their borders, such as tropical regions of South America and South Asia. Much of the interest of the two countries focuses on medicinal and food uses of plants that have been neglected in the past. An area of cooperation that has often been emphasized is inventorying species of concern and implementing practical steps to help prevent the near-term loss of important species. Activities of two key institutions in preserving biodiversity of global interest are set forth in Boxes 5-4 and 5-5.
5. Addressing the scientific aspects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This area is often plagued by arguments over health and environmental safety issues when formulating public policy. In 2010, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences appointed a leading specialist from each of the two academies to prepare a joint assessment of the scientific basis for decision making concerning the ecological and food safety aspects of the introduction of GMOs in agriculture. A summary of that assessment is included
Response to Outbreak of Avian Influenza, 2007
Russia is crossed by two major migratory flyways. Influenza A/H5N1 and other variants of avian influenza not previously found in Russia were isolated. There were two important tasks. Measures were taken to contain the spread of influenza A/H5N1, particularly through control of poultry. Research was initiated that quickly determined that one variant, influenza A/H4N6, had expanded its host range and that aquatic mammals, mainly muskrats, were involved in maintenance of the virus in nature. Russian specialists coordinated their efforts closely with related activities of U.S. specialists, particularly colleagues at CDC.
SOURCE: NRC, Biological Research in Russia, 2007, cited in Appendix A.2.
Preservation of Botanical Resources
The herbarium and library of the V.L. Komarov Botanical Institute in St. Petersburg are among the world’s most significant global botanical facilities, containing key specimens of plants not only from throughout the territory of the former Soviet Union but also from many areas of China and other Asian countries. The herbarium and library were repaired extensively with help from American colleagues in the early 1990s. As a result, they have maintained their status as world centers for botanical investigations, and their research materials are widely used. During the past decade, an extensive program of preparing digital images of critical specimens in the herbarium has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York. The institute will undoubtedly continue to provide an important site for facilitating cooperative botanical investigations.
SOURCE: V.L. Komarov Botanical Institute, September 2011.
Maintaining a Repository for Agricultural Seeds
The N.I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry in St. Petersburg is a large repository for seeds of agricultural and scientific interest throughout the world. It preserves extensive samples of crop plants and their wild and weedy relatives while mounting expeditions in the former Soviet Union and beyond. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which maintains a similar facility in Fort Collins, Colorado, has cooperated in many activities. For example, 60 Russian scientists from the Vavilov Institute, St. Petersburg State University, All-Russia Institute of Plant Protection, and USDA prepared an AgroAtlas that documents the distribution of 100 species of crop plants, 560 species of their relatives, and 640 species of crop pests, weeds, and diseases in Russia and neighboring states.
SOURCE: N.I. Vavilov Institute, 2011.
in Appendix F.4. The assessment can help officials and scientists worldwide to separate the scientific issues from the many other factors that influence decisions of governments concerning whether and under what circumstances to permit the use of this rapidly advancing technology. The academies have sent the scientific assessment to the International Research Council for consideration.
6. Addressing polar interests. Even during the darkest days of the cold war, U.S. and Soviet specialists worked together to investigate conditions in Antarctica and occasionally coordinated investigations in the Arctic region. Both the United States and Russia now support research programs in these polar areas, even in times of tight budgets. The Arctic Council provides an intergovernmental framework for addressing issues, such as search-and-rescue operations, responding to oil spills, and licensing of exploration activities that target natural resources. A variety of governmental and nongovernmental research centers in the United States, Russia, and elsewhere help coordinate biological research activities of various countries in the Arctic and in Antarctica.
7. Carrying out joint efforts in third countries. Both Russia and the United States have outreach programs to engage other countries in selected aspects of the biological sciences. Set forth in Boxes 5-8, 5-9, and 5-10 are examples of opportunities for the two countries to work together in supporting the development of biology-related activities in third countries.
Organizations that provide financial support for U.S. and Russian scientific efforts are increasingly aware of the rapid growth of global interests in biological research and biotechnology that have the potential for increasing the standard
Circumpolar Scientific Observations in the Arctic
Building on a number of international projects carried out during the International Polar Year (2007–2009), the Arctic countries are now operating the Circumpolar Coastal Observatory Network with established reporting requirements. This network of institutions from all of the Arctic countries provides a framework for up-to-date observations of changes in the region due to climate shifts and more direct effects.
SOURCE: National Science Foundation, 2011.
Assessing Effects of Black Carbon in the Arctic
Understanding and reducing the impacts of black carbon emissions that affect climate change and also the health of people in Arctic regions is a growing international concern. In response to the interest of the Arctic Council, the U.S. government has taken the initiative to engage Russian institutions in joint assessments of the emissions, circulation, and effects of black carbon. Inventories of sources, assessments of atmospheric transport and changes in the chemical composition of black carbon, and engineering approaches to mitigate emissions are among the many topics of interest. Current interest focuses on near-term assessments of the role of black carbon, with plans for long-term joint efforts in this field still evolving.
SOURCE: Department of State, March 2012.
Eradicating Polio in Uzbekistan
Russian and American scientists played leading roles in the extensive efforts of the international community two decades ago to rid the world of polio. Unfortunately, polio still remains in small pockets of the world. The United States and Russia have committed to work together toward eradication of polio in Uzbekistan, although to date on-the-ground activities have been limited.
SOURCE: U.S.-Russia Protocol of Intent, 2011, and discussions with senior scientists in Russia, May 2012.
of living. Thus, in the years ahead, interest in bilateral cooperation on projects of global or regional significance should increase. Indeed, financial resources to support joint U.S.-Russian efforts may be more accessible if bilateral approaches to high-visibility topics are cast within a global framework, while retaining an emphasis on investigations of localized problems that are important components of overall international concerns.
Enhancing Public Health Cooperation in Central Asia
The U.S. and Russian governments are interested in strengthening biological research capabilities of the countries of Central Asia, and most of these countries are currently expanding their research activities. With support from the international community, the countries are giving concomitant attention to biosafety procedures that are consistent with international standards that are evolving rapidly. U.S. and Russian biological scientists are beginning to work together in engaging counterparts in these countries. This is a useful step in establishing regional approaches that are carried out in a manner consistent with related efforts throughout the world.
SOURCE: Russian senior scientist participating in government-sponsored cooperation, May 2012.
Global Fight against Malaria
In June 2012, the United States and Russia signed a Protocol of Intent to work together to help end preventable child deaths from malaria in Africa. Cooperation will entail training, capacity building, and operations research. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Russian Martsinovsky Institute of Medical Parasitology and Tropical Medicine will lead the effort.
SOURCE: U.S. Embassy, Moscow, June 2012, http://moscow.usembassy.gov/pr_062712.html.
Russian and U.S. institutions have worked well together in recent years in combating outbreaks of human and animal diseases, addressing the spread of health-threatening pollution that crosses international borders, and beginning the development of programs to adapt to climate change. Joint efforts to further strengthen the research, surveillance, institutional, and regulatory infrastructures in the two countries that can respond to these and other cross-border problems are important. Three conclusions in this regard follow:
1. Coordination of research and development efforts to improve the diagnostic capabilities of regional and global disease surveillance systems can be significantly improved with only modest financial investments by both sides. Of particular interest is reducing delays and uncertainties in the international reporting of outbreaks within the framework of the International Health Regulations.
The Russian government proposed a major initiative in express diagnostics in 2008 during preparations for the G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, other governments, including the U.S. government, were preoccupied with addressing issues concerning HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and they did not give the attention to the Russian proposal that it deserved. Nor have they given sufficient attention to the broadly based declaration concerning cooperation in disease surveillance that was adopted at the summit. Nevertheless, as both countries focus on upgrading their own diagnostics capabilities, progress in infectious disease surveillance that is relevant outside their borders is being recorded. Of particular importance is the need to reduce the times required to (a) recognize outbreaks that may cross international borders, (b) ascertain the causes of the outbreaks, (c) increase the number of disease agents that can be simultaneously detected and characterized, and (d) link detection and characterization determinations to global surveillance systems. These steps in turn contribute to efforts to constantly update assessments of global health conditions, relying on electronic networks that produce various types of up-to-date health maps of the world.
As an important example, growing interest in improved surveillance is reflected in the increasing investments in improving influenza test systems and diagnostic tools in both the United States and Russia. These efforts focus on many topics, including the following:
• Rapid influenza diagnostic tests, and particularly point-of-care diagnostics.
• Methods and materials for respiratory specimen collection.
• Respiratory pathogen tests on existing platforms.
• Advanced sequence detection methods for novel influenza strains.
• Identification of influenza strains that resist to antiviral drugs.
• Identification of influenza immunological response.
2. The two governments are well positioned to assume broader regional leadership roles in their areas of special competence—independently and jointly—in addressing scientific challenges in the biological sciences. Central Asia and the Arctic are regions where joint efforts can pay off in the near term.
The two governments have demonstrated that they can effectively work together, in cooperation with local authorities, in addressing broad public health and related biosafety issues throughout Central Asia. Both countries have extensive contacts in the region. Specialists from both countries are respected for their competence in the biological arena. Joint efforts can forge relationships between
Russian and American specialists while also developing coherence of approaches within the region.
As to the Arctic, many common concerns provide a strong basis for cooperation in the area near the Bering Straits. Also, as climate change increasingly is recorded across the Arctic, the opportunities for expanding cooperation along the northern coastline of Russia are particularly important. Of special interest are technologies for effectively and economically converting biomass to new sources of energy, thereby reducing reliance on coal and other heavy polluting energy sources in snow-covered regions.
3. The two governments have made a good start in joint efforts to limit the spread of tuberculosis and other devastating diseases in Russia and neighboring areas.
An important framework for promoting joint research and development efforts devoted to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and other difficult diseases was established in November 2011, with a forum in Moscow involving key agencies from the two countries. The U.S. private sector also played an unusually active role in promoting cooperation. The seriousness of many of the problems in Russia—and indeed throughout the world—is widely recognized. Now there is a considerable need for more aggressive collaborative research efforts. (See Appendix F.5.)