In September 2012, Robert Hormats, then Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, requested the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to prepare an assessment of the changed environment for the role of science and technology (S&T) in diplomacy. In 1999 the National Research Council (NRC), acting on behalf of the NAS, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM and now named National Academy of Medicine—NAM) had prepared a report on the general topic. This second report again prepared by the NRC on behalf of the three academies provides an update on the department’s recent activities related to science and technology (S&T) and looks to the future.
The Undersecretary identified the following examples of areas of interest to the department:
- Incentives for department officers, especially those in the foreign service, to follow career tracks that include international science engagement;
- How to reap the most benefit from scientific exchange programs;
- How to best incorporate S&T principles into programs designed to foster democracy and economic advancement; and
- How to leverage the science community to help strengthen relations between countries and to increase the role of S&T in policy decisions of foreign governments.
He noted that a broad assessment of diplomacy efforts of both governmental and non-governmental organizations that take into account the importance of partnerships to help achieve goals of the Department of State (the department) would be of particular benefit.
The NRC consulted with leading scientists and engineers; foreign policy experts; and veterans of international scientific, industrial, and health endeavors in preparing the terms of reference for the assessment. The NRC then approved the Statement of Task set forth below and established a committee that included members with relevant backgrounds and experience to carry out the assessment. Appendix B presents the membership of the committee.
An ad hoc committee will assess the adequacy of the capabilities of the Department of State to use effectively the nation's S&T assets in achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives during the next decade. It will consider whether and how enhancements of the department's S&T capabilities during the past decade should be augmented in view of the changing international political, economic, and scientific landscapes. The NRC's 1999 report titled The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in Foreign Policy: Imperatives for the Department of State will serve as a starting point and possibly as a framework for development of future strategic directions. The committee will issue an interim report on preliminary approaches the committee is considering to enhance the department’s S&T capabilities. The committee will also issue a final report at the conclusions of the project, with recommendations.
The interim report, which took the form of a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, is included in Appendix C. The report presented general observations concerning global developments that were linked with S&T capabilities of the United States and other countries and, in this regard, it offered a few preliminary recommendations concerning enhancement of the S&T capabilities of the department. This full report further develops these observations and recommendations. It also significantly expands coverage of relevant issues and recommends additional steps that should be considered by the department.
A summary of actions promptly taken by the department in response to the recommendations included in the 1999 report is set forth below. The recommendations are in italics and the actions taken by the department are in bold type.
- The Secretary should articulate and implement a policy that calls for greater attention to the science, technology, and health (STH) dimensions of foreign policy. The Secretary promptly issued a department-wide directive that highlighted the importance of STH-based issues.
- An undersecretary should be designated to ensure that consideration is given at all levels within the department to STH issues, and the title of that undersecretary should be amended to include “for scientific affairs.” The recommendations were not accepted since the department judged that in the long run, they would impede rather than further the goal of raising STH capabilities across all bureaus.
- The Secretary should select a highly qualified STH Senior Adviser to the Secretary. The recommendation was accepted, and the position of Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary was incorporated in legislation.
- The department should adopt the most appropriate organizational structure in order to meet its STH responsibilities. All bureaus were directed to designate a Deputy Assistant Secretary or an equivalent-level officer to lead S&T issues in each bureau. Also, the department established a Science Directorate in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
- The department should establish an STH Advisory Committee to the Secretary. While recognizing that this proposal might be an option for the future, the department decided to continue to rely on existing mechanisms that would be equally effective, more flexible, and less costly.
- The department should increase resources to meet essential STH requirements through steps recommended in the report. The department recognized the importance of additional resources and gave responsibility to the embassies, the bureaus, and the S&T Adviser to identify needs and make the case for additional resources.
- All FSOs and department officials should achieve a minimum level of science literacy, and the department should establish promotion and career incentives for successful service in STH positions. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) had already included Environment, Science, and Technology (EST) issues in many courses; and case studies involving EST had increased at FSI. But a comprehensive S&T curriculum review at FSI was in order. The department’s FSO personnel assignment and promotion cones were to give weight to S&T credentials and service. In the future, the Global Affairs and Arms Control bureaus could nominate candidates for overseas positions of particular interest (e. g., Science Counselors and EST officers).
- The department’s five-year information-technology modernization plan should stay on course. The department was to keep its plan on track, expand access to unclassified work stations with internet access, and establish easy e-mail connectivity for its officers.
- Twenty-five carefully selected Science Counselors should be assigned to embassies where STH-related activities were particularly important. The department began a review of this issue and announced re-establishment of a Science Counselor position in New Delhi.
- Responsibilities for STH activities should be transferred to other departments and agencies when possible. The department could not transfer congressionally mandated responsibilities or its core coordination role for international activities. However, it began a review as to whether some administrative responsibilities could be transferred.
- The Circular 175 process for interagency reviews of proposed agreements and memoranda of understanding should be streamlined. The department had already adopted a short-form process that was being used in 90 percent of cases.
- Use of specialists from other departments and agencies as rotating employees should be increased. The department recognized the value of such specialists and intended to use several personnel assignment methods to facilitate such assignments (U.S. Department of State, 2000).
An important result of the 1999 report was the creation of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary (STAS) and the appointment of advisers. The development, current activities, and future of this office are discussed throughout this report, and particularly in Chapter 5.
In 2010, the department, together with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), adopted the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), as an integrated policy and program strategy for the two organizations. Appendix D includes explicit references to science, technology, and innovation highlighted in the QDDR.
In April 2014, the department, jointly with USAID, set forth updated approaches for carrying out the nation’s foreign policy and development assistance programs in the report FY 2014-2017: Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan. This document supplements a number of the approaches set forth in the QDDR.
Just as this report of the NRC was completed in April 2015, the department published the second QDDR, which had not been not considered by the committee during its assessment and therefore could not be considered in preparation of this report. In the introduction of the second QDDR, Secretary Kerry states that it builds on the first QDDR, which was an important innovation for the department.
The first QDDR and the Strategic Plan address many aspects of foreign policy and development assistance that have S&T dimensions. Some are explicitly linked to S&T capabilities, particularly in the QDDR. Others are not identified in the documents as S&T-related activities because they are so
pervasive in the policy and program activities of the department and USAID that it is not practical to call out every relationship in such documents.
The first QDDR provides an important framework for considering all aspects of the department’s activities, including the role of S&T within the department. Since the goal set forth in this report is to diffuse S&T literacy throughout the department, a framework for S&T-related activities that differs significantly from the framework for all foreign affairs activities is not appropriate, and indeed could be counterproductive.
Against the foregoing background, this new assessment prepared by the NRC committee considers many policy and program relationships between S&T and diplomacy, beginning with the principal recommendations of the 1999 report presented earlier in this chapter and then addressing more recent issues. The outcome of this assessment is a set of long-standing and fresh recommendations for further enhancement of the capabilities of the department to address effectively the intersections of S&T and diplomacy. In short, the department is immersed in S&T, and the sun never sets on the S&T-related activities in Washington and in the embassies around the world. S&T-related issues may not always command the highest priority attention within the department and abroad, but they are omnipresent.
In order to drill deeper into the S&T interests and activities of the department in an organized manner, this report is structured in four chapters that focus on broad topics that encompass most S&T interests of the department. A few activities overlap two or more chapters, but this is the nature of S&T which play a role in many diverse policies and programs of the department.
Also of rapidly growing importance are the international activities of many other U.S. S&T-oriented organizations—government departments and agencies, foundations, universities, NGOs, professional associations and societies, and private companies, for example. Often the department enters into contracts and interagency agreements with external entities and assumes the task of responsible contract management. At other times, external organizations have well developed policy interests and financial resources and act on their own, only consulting with the department when they consider such consultation is necessary or when they believe that they can benefit from advice or support of the department. Frequently, the department establishes formal partnerships with external organizations that have objectives, which are consistent with the interests of the department,
After considering the vast array of S&T-related issues confronting the department and to a significant extent other internationally minded U.S. organizations as well, the committee focused attention on important issues within the four selected areas.
- The S&T dimensions of the existing and emerging political, economic, security, social, and demographic developments throughout the world and the rapid global spread of S&T interests and capabilities. (Chapter 2)
- The department’s partners and other U.S. organizations from both within and outside the U.S. government that are involved in international S&T-laden activities that intersect in a significant manner with the interests of the department. (Chapter 3)
- S&T-related public diplomacy and other international outreach activities of the department, with an emphasis on the role of the U.S. embassies. (Chapter 4)
- Organizational and personnel policies and approaches of the department, including training and educational opportunities related to S&T for the department’s work force. (Chapter 5)
Chapter 6 sets forth the principal findings and conclusions of the assessment and consolidates recommendations included in Chapters 2 through 5. Throughout the report, each of the recommendations is identified by the number of the chapter wherein it is discussed, followed by a number that indicates the order in which the recommendation is presented within the chapter.
Appendix E identifies a number of S&T-related activities that are carried out by the department but are not addressed in this report due to a limitation on time and resources available for the assessment. Of particular significance is the role of the department in working with USAID to meet the challenges of the new Millennium Development Goals, to be followed by the Global Post-2015 Development Agenda, which provide powerful diplomatic challenges. Also of concern is the need for an increasing capability of the department to not only participate in the expanding number of multinational activities but assume leadership positions. An internal review of the anticipated growth in U.S. commitments to multilateral diplomacy involving S&T issues would help clarify the personnel and financial requirements during the next several years. Finally, several of the many programs of other government agencies that intersect with the foreign policy interests of the department in very significant ways are identified in Appendix E. The general take-away from Appendix E is that S&T capabilities are rapidly spreading throughout the world, requiring many offices of the department and other departments and agencies to expand S&T-oriented international perspectives and activities.
The committee’s findings that led to these recommendations are based primarily on (a) the personal knowledge and experience of the committee members, (b) presentations to the committee and its working groups by officials of many of the department’s bureaus and by representatives of other interested organizations (Appendix F), (c) information concerning the international
programs and activities of these and other organizations in response to requests for such information by committee members and staff (Appendix G), (d) reviews and analyses by the staff of authoritative reports of other organizations, and (e) responses to a survey of the activities of ESTH officers at a variety of posts (Appendix M). Also, staff analyses of relevant reports of experts and of data bases of national and international organizations contributed to establishing the context for some key issues in this report.
Overall, however, the topic of this report covered a number of issues for which there are not well developed data sets or even significant reports, and the committee was well aware of the importance of rigor in considering anecdotal data in those cases wherein such data were an important resource. For this reason, a great number of sources were consulted for both official and informal views, consistent themes were extensively validated and cross-checked, and all positions taken relying on such data were expressed carefully.
Extracts from key reports prepared by others are included in several of the appendixes. Also, Appendix H identifies other publications that were important sources of information. The results of the questionnaire sent to U.S. embassies concerning S&T interests and activities of the embassies are discussed in Chapter 4.
There are many databases related to the issues discussed in this report, and important data sets are available that bolster a number of the conclusions of the committee. Several examples that underscore the variety and extent of these data sets are as follows.
- U.S. Government—National Science Foundation: Biannual Science and Engineering Indicators (nsf.gov statistics).
- U.N. Organization—World Health Organization: Periodic Updates of Data Base on Infectious Diseases (who.int/topics/infectious-diseases/factsheet/en).
- Responsible Journalism—The Economist: World Outlook for 2015, December 2014.
- Other Intergovernmental Organization—Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development: Annual Main S&T Indicators (http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx/datasetcode=msti-pub).
- Nongovernmental International Organization—World Economic Forum: Annual Global Competitiveness Report (www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalCompetitivenessReport_2013-14.pdf).
- Private Industry—British Petroleum: Annual Statistical Review of World Energy, 2014.
- Higher Education—Institute for International Education: Annual Open Doors Report on Student Exchanges, www.iie/opendoors.
These and many other well-honed data sets and other types of documentation set forth in Appendix H were consulted by the staff and provided important context for the report. However, the topic is so broad that detailed data that are needed to support some conclusions in the report are simply not available. Thus, as previously noted, the committee relied at times on anecdotal evidence, which was considered with great care.
As to the committee process, the staff reviewed many information sources. The committee then took into account the findings of the staff, and at times also examined the original sources. At the same time the committee considered personal experiences and observations of its members in addressing issues that are discussed in the report. Their impressions were augmented with extensive briefings and discussions involving other experts who also have been deeply involved in the issues under consideration for many years. Then in looking forward, the committee relied on the collective expertise of its members to develop consensus recommendations, taking into account other formal proposals and informal suggestions that were put on the table in preparation of other reports. Of course, the committee heard conflicting views on some issues and took these into account before coming to a consensus on the recommendations.
As to participation in committee meetings, the committee consulted with three undersecretaries of the department, Chiefs of Staff of the Secretary and of two additional undersecretaries, and numerous other department officials. Consultations were also held with the department’s Office of Human Resources and with the Office of Personnel Management. The committee met formally with the Administrator of USAID and his staff, many scientific leaders of the National Institutes of Health, and senior representatives of several other agencies. Staff had discussions with the Science and Technology Adviser to the President and the Director of the National Science Foundation who were not available for committee meetings. The committee also heard presentations by leaders of nongovernmental organizations, industry, and universities along with the three Presidents of the National Academies (see Appendixes F). In addition, committee members and staff consulted with U.S. ambassadors in Ankara and Astana, and with Science Counselors in Mexico City, Tokyo, and Moscow.
Department of State, 2000, May 15. Science and Foreign Policy: The Role of the Department of State: Report Prepared by the Department’s Senior Task Force on Strengthening Science at State, March 28, 2000. Online. Available at http://www.state.gov/1997-2001-NOPDFS/global/oes/science/000328_dos_science_rpt.html.