The mission of the Department of State (department) is “to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere” (Department of State, 2014). The strategy calls for the department to “become more efficient, accountable, and effective in a world in which rising powers, growing instability, and technological transformation create new threats but also opportunities” (Department of State and United States Agency for International Development [USAID], 2010).
This report recommends steps that the department should embrace in order to carry out its mission more effectively by taking full advantage of the leading science and technology (S&T) capabilities of the United States. These capabilities provide the department with many opportunities to promote a variety of the interests of the United States and its allies in a rapidly changing world wherein S&T are important drivers of economic development at home and abroad and help ensure international security. Too often they are not given the weight that they deserve by the global community, or even by the department; and at times they are misused by others in ways that are inimical to the interests of the United States and the global community.
Advancements and spread of S&T capabilities are heightening aspirations of societies throughout the world at an unprecedented pace. International connectivity and expanding transportation capabilities are revamping the way of doing business almost everywhere. The biological revolution is providing new opportunities for combatting diseases, improving agricultural productivity, and protecting essential ecological resources. Expanding geoscience capabilities are contributing to the resiliency of population centers to withstand the shocks of tsunamis, earthquakes, and floods. However, unrestrained industrialization and vehicular transportation are smothering urban environments, changing climate patterns, and redirecting ocean currents. Military technologies pose their own challenges, as rocket capabilities spread and the overhanging cloud of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remains ever-present.
International cooperation in S&T is rapidly becoming an important element of foreign policies of nations throughout the world. The department is a critical focal point for bringing to bear on an ever-growing array of global challenges technical contributions from organizations across the United States (a whole-of-society approach). Leadership by the department is essential as like-minded
governments also seek innovative approaches to promote economic growth, exercise restraint in reconfiguring the landscape created by nature, and band together in countering cyber-crime and preventing other types of hostile acts that disrupt daily life.
The following predictions underscore the broad dimensions of dramatic changes by 2030 using 2013 as a baseline.
- The global population will increase from 7.1 to 8 billion people, with urbanization growing by almost 60 percent.
- Demand for food will increase by 35 percent and for energy by 50 percent.
- Nearly one-half of the global population will live in areas of severe water stress.
- One billion workers from developing countries will be added to the global labor pool seeking meaningful employment, while “aging” countries face the prospect of economic decline.
- Asia will be set to surpass North America and Europe in global economic power, while China’s economy will be 1.4 times larger than Japan’s and India’s will be 16 times larger than Pakistan’s. China may have already passed the United States as the largest economy based on purchasing power parity. (National Intelligence Council, 2012)
Practitioners of economic development that is based on innovative applications of S&T can point to an increasing array of success stories in overcoming the hurdles in transforming research results into practical applications. At the same time, unfortunately, technological advances often create new types of problems that have touched all corners of the planet. They range from deforestation of the land, to depletion of fishery stocks in the oceans, to the dangerous cluttering of outer space. The outbreaks of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Ebola demonstrate that in a globalized age contagious diseases can have devastating effects across borders. Droughts and infestations continue to ravage many populated areas. Also, greater attention to conservation and more effective uses of water are needed desperately. Box 2-1 highlights additional concerns.
Of particular importance, the relative capacities of countries to generate innovations and to harness benefits of global S&T advances are changing. For example, China, Brazil, India, and other middle income countries have significantly increased their investments in research and technology development in many sectors to support their aspirations for economic growth, social progress, and political influence. Clearly, the United States should take
Global Challenges: Present and Future
- Air pollution leads to an estimated 3.7 million premature deaths annually.
- Deaths from non-communicable diseases continue to increase, accounting for 68 percent of all deaths globally in 2012. Communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutrition conditions collectively were responsible for 23 percent of global deaths, and injuries caused 9 percent of all deaths. In low income countries, the major causes of death are lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, and diarrheal diseases, but non-communicable diseases are becoming more prevalent.
- Almost 30 percent of the global population is overweight or obese. Fourteen percent is considered undernourished.
- World water use has increased at more than twice the rate of population growth and estimates suggest that by 2025 1.8 million people will live in countries with absolute water scarcity and more about two-thirds of the population in areas under water stress.
- Between 1990 and 2013 the urban population increased from 43 percent to 53 percent and is expected to continue to grow. Cities can provide better access to services such as improved water and sanitation, but the continued growth also strains environmental and natural resources.
- Global temperatures are expected to increase from 2 to 11.5 degrees between now and 2100 with temperatures over land increasing faster than over oceans. Average precipitation is also expected to increase as will the intensity of storms.
SOURCES: World Health Organization (2014a), World Health Organization (2014b), Dobbs et al. (2014), U.N. Water (2013), World Bank (2015), United States Environmental Protection Agency (2014).
advantage of such S&T developments around the globe while continuing to contribute to the base of science that provides the foundation for innovation efforts at home and abroad. See Appendix I concerning the rapid spread of S&T capabilities around the world.
Reflecting the importance of global awareness, many governments and private companies that are working at the leading edges of technology pay particular attention to activities in the United States. For example, foreign multinational companies invest about $40 billion annually in research centers located in the United States. This investment is about 15 percent of the total U.S. business investment in research and development. At the same time, multinational companies with headquarters in the United States also invest a comparable amount in research activities carried out abroad. In short, companies interested in international trade cannot ignore relevant technical activities carried out in other countries (National Science Board, 2014; Industrial Research Institute, 2013).
Rapidly spreading S&T capabilities underpin economic progress and social advancement in many ways. They often lead to disruptions locally and more broadly. The department requires a strong and growing capability, including unwavering political and budgetary commitments, to draw effectively on the S&T capabilities of the U.S. government and the international S&T community more broadly, to assess changes of global consequences, and to develop policies and actions accordingly.
As S&T capabilities continue to contribute significantly to the reconfiguration of the world, for better and at times for worse, American diplomacy must take into account S&T as a factor of particular relevance. The international networking of S&T researchers and practitioners is unique. Their connections cross many boundaries, and their traditions of collaboration open many doors and provide important frameworks for joint efforts to address a wide array of problems of broad interest.
Advances in information and communications technologies are having remarkable impacts on every walk of life as people almost everywhere reach in their pockets to stay informed, stay in touch, and when necessary seek available assistance. More than one-half the world’s population has access to cell phones, while our adversaries increasingly communicate with us not with diplomatic demarches but through social media. Ordinary travelers at home and abroad—and unfortunately violent extremists with hostile intentions as well—depend on GPS devices and other increasingly available electronic technologies to guide them to their destinations. Box 2-2 identifies seven technology areas of particular interest.
Beyond the electronics information revolution, discoveries in nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and earth sciences are unveiling new opportunities for improving human health, providing food and clean water, and issuing warnings of impending natural disasters. Advances in robotics, fuel cells, and plasticizers are finding new applications in manufacturing, transportation, and construction. Personalized medicine is extending lifetimes in many countries, while 3D printing and further advancements of the technology (including 4D printing) promise to bring new products to the market quicker and cheaper than before. Even reverse engineering of the human brain is on research agendas at many leading medical research centers.
At the core of the rising global interest in S&T are new opportunities for nations to advance their economies and provide better livelihoods for their populations. In industrial and middle-income countries, innovative achievements at home often lead to improved economic competitiveness abroad. In lower income countries, locally produced goods and home-grown services that incorporate modern technologies can contribute to economic and social progress.
Examples of Economically Disruptive Technologies
- Mobile Internet: Since 2007, sales of smart phones and tablets have increased sixfold.
- Cloud technology: Server performance per dollar doubles every 18 months. The cost of owning a server is 3 times higher than renting in the cloud.
- Next generation genomics: It takes 10 months for the sequencing speed per dollar to double. There was a 100-fold increase in acreage planted in GMO crops between 1996 and 2012.
- Energy storage: There has been a 40 percent decline in price for a lithium battery pack in an electric vehicle since 2009.
- 3D printing: The price of an at-home 3D printer is 90 percent lower than four years ago.
- Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery: There was a three-fold increase in efficiency of U.S. gas wells between 2007 and 2011.
- Renewable energy: The price for a solar photovoltaic cell per watt has fallen 85 percent since 2000.
SOURCES: McKinsey Global Institute (2013).
Both well established and new technologies can also increase threats to international security, disrupt travel and communications, and lead to exhaustion of natural resources. Extremely dangerous military confrontations in many regions, based on easy access to modern weaponry, are exposing the vulnerabilities of communities almost everywhere, including those in the United States and its allies. The dangers of cyber warfare are difficult to exaggerate, while the latent threats posed by nuclear weapons continue to cast dark clouds over the outlook for global stability. All the while, populations continue their reliance on fossil fuels as demands for electricity and modern transportation increase. Warnings as to the consequences of global warming are becoming realities that are changing important aspects of the way of life on all continents, with potentially severe effects on security and economic order.
The United States remains the leading nation in terms of military capabilities and economic prowess. But globalization has produced rising powers with capabilities that rival those of the United States. Europe and Asia, in particular, have centers of excellence in a number of fields that rival U.S. capabilities. In short, in many regions of the world the United States is not able to establish global or regional security, political, or economic agendas unilaterally, but must seek to collaborate with others to achieve its goals. At the same time, however, the U.S. tradition of using its S&T prowess to support peace and prosperity in other countries remains unrivalled in scale and impact.
The interests of American researchers in international sharing of some of the remarkable advances in S&T are broad. The example of international interactions at conferences on the “Frontiers of Engineering” and “Frontiers of Science” highlights international efforts that are regularly pushing the forefront of knowledge and skills. The National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences sponsor these conferences with partners in other countries as exemplified in Box 2-3.
Conferences on Frontiers of Engineering
- U.S.-Japan, 2014: Bioimaging; Power Unplugged: Energy Harvesting and Power Transmissions; Noise Control Engineering in Healthcare Environments; Field Robotics for Disaster Response.
- U.S.-China, 2013: Nanotechnology: Synthesis, Functionality, and Applications; Future of the Internet and the Internet of Things; Biomems; Solar Energy.
- U.S-E.U., 2013: Nanosensors; Big Data; Future of Transportation; Wireless Broadband.
- U.S.-Germany, 2013: Materiomics; Biomass Conversion; Additive Manufacturing; Transport in Complex Systems.
- U.S.-India, 2012: Engineering Large Infrastructures for Disasters/Hazards; Engineering at the Interface of Engineering with Science; Intelligent Transportation Systems; Technology Enablers for Advances in Aerospace Materials.
Conferences include 30 early career engineers from the United States and 30 from partner countries.
Conferences on Frontiers of Science
- U.S.-Korea, 2014: Epigenomics and Disease; Graphene: Tomorrow’s Electronics; Host-pathogen Arms Race: A view from the Molecular Battlefield; Nanomaterials That Can Save the World; Ocean Acidification: Past, Present and Future; Statistical Learning Theory and Its Applications; Stellar Alchemy: Genesis of Heavy Elements; Visualizing Neural Activities.
- U.S.-Indonesia, 2014: Artificial Intelligence; Big Data; Biomaterials / Bioenergy; Ethno-Botany / Tropical Medicine; Natural Disaster Mitigation; Omics / Genomics.
- U.S-Israel, 2013: Cellular Proteostasis; Cosmic Explosions; Cyber-Security; Global Change and the Future of Biodiversity; Neural Circuits, Synaptic Plasticity and the Brain Basis of Memory; Nanophotonics and the Art of Invisibility; Renewable Energy; Systems Immunology.
SOURCES: National Academy of Engineering: Program on Frontiers of Engineering (2014); National Academy of Sciences (2015).
Meanwhile, the number of recent scientific publications co-authored by U.S.-based and foreign-based researchers is impressive as summarized in Box 2-4.
The payoff in joint and parallel efforts of American scientists and their counterparts abroad can be profound. For example, as shown in Box 2-5, the prestigious award for game-changing engineering achievements, the Charles Stark Draper Prize, in 2012, 2013, and 2014 was shared by U.S. engineers and colleagues in other countries working on common problems.
Science and Engineering Publications by U.S.-based Authors (2012)
|With international coauthors||91,183|
|Percent of co-authors from selected countries|
|China 16.2 %||Japan 6.8 %|
|United Kingdom 14.43 %||Australia 6.0 %|
|Germany 13.3 %||South Korea 6.0 %|
|Canada 11.4 %||Spain 5.8 %|
|France 8.8 %||Netherlands 5.6 %|
|Italy 7.4 %||Switzerland 4.8 %|
SOURCE: National Science Board (2014).
Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering
The Draper Prize is the highest engineering award that is given in the United States. In each of the most recent three years, the award was given to engineers from both the United States and two foreign countries, underscoring the mutual benefits that result from parallel research efforts of colleagues who are separated geographically but who stay in touch during their careers. The awards were as follows:
- 2012: Development of the liquid crystal display that is used in billions of consumer and professional devices: Recipients of award from the United States, Germany, and Switzerland.
- 2013: Contributions to the world’s first cellular networks, systems, and standards: Recipients of award from the United States, Norway, and Japan.
- 2014: Engineering of the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that enables compact, lightweight mobile devices: Recipients of award from United States, Japan, and Morocco.
SOURCES: National Academy of Engineering (2014).
Scientists, engineers, and the general public of most countries admire the S&T capabilities of the United States. A record number of science, engineering, and medical students from throughout the world seek admission to U.S. universities (Figure 2-1). A green card has been a prized possession of many established and aspiring scientists with roots in other countries. However, with the spread of S&T capabilities reaching many countries, a growing number of talented foreign students and young researchers at U.S. universities and research centers are increasingly returning home where suitable laboratories and other facilities often await their arrival. Physicians and physician-scientists from Africa are examples of exceptions as their emigration rates remain high. At the same time, the international scientific community along with many governments, while recognizing the amazing number of U.S. technical achievements, may hesitate to accept U.S. political leadership even when the issues of concern are driven by S&T.
As to students from the United States seeking education abroad, the numbers are much smaller than those of foreign students seeking a U.S. education, but still significant as indicated in Figure 2-2.
An important development is the increased effort of a number of governments to have universities in their countries recognized as global leaders in higher education. To this end, some governments are investing heavily in their best universities in an effort to upgrade them to status in the top 100, 500, or 1,000 in the world. According to one well-recognized ranking service, in 2014, 45 of the world’s top 100 universities were located in the United States,
FIGURE 2-1 International students studying in the U.S. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
SOURCE: Adapted from data from Institute of International Education (2014a, 2014b).
FIGURE 2-2 U.S. students studying abroad. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
SOURCE: Adapted from data from Institute of International Education (2014c).
with the countries next in line being the United Kingdom (6), Netherlands (6), Australia (5), Germany (5), and Switzerland (4). At the same time, the ranking committee noted that the dominant role of the United States was slowly declining as several state universities slipped, while leading Asian universities in China and Singapore were labeled rising stars. Turkey also received recognition for its progress (Baty, 2015). In short, the birthplaces of new technologies are spreading; and the new stars are becoming tough competitors for attraction of technological leaders of the future. The California Institute of Technology, Harvard, and Stanford will not be easily replaced as leaders in the world rankings; but new names will not be far behind.
Achieving U.S. national security and diplomatic goals in an international system being shaped by the dynamism of globalization will require novel strategies and approaches that recognize the potential impact of S&T as a tool of diplomacy. Spreading the benefits of effective use of technical innovations, while reducing the dangers of inappropriate uses of technologies, requires unprecedented international cooperation. Thus the department needs strong capabilities to be alert to opportunities and challenges involving S&T advances at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, innovative activities of private sector firms, often operating on a global basis at their own initiative, at times have considerable influence on the
effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy. Frequently, their activities abroad are as important in advancing U.S. interests as initiatives of the department itself, other U.S. government agencies, or contractors carrying out tasks at the behest of the government. Of special interest are private sector investments in S&T with important economic outcomes at home and abroad that are on the rise, for example, in energy development, in pharmaceuticals, and in advanced manufacturing.
Large research-oriented companies and innovative high-tech start-ups are not only designing and commercializing inventions of immediate global interest. They also are working with government researchers and academic partners in driving the search for new discoveries. To a significant degree, private firms and entrepreneurs, often acting independently of governments, are setting the speed and direction of technological change. And foundations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and John Merck Foundation are now increasing initiatives to promote entrepreneurship abroad.1
These evolving realities call for the department to take full advantage of the expertise of many departments and agencies of the U.S. government and also the private sector in addressing critical S&T-laden issues on the immediate and long-term horizons. Only then will the department be able to address adequately a number of the nation’s foreign policy issues that are shaped by S&T. The department’s interactions with a variety of partners to this end are discussed in Chapter 3.
As the breadth and rate of technological advancements increase, related foreign policy considerations change diplomatic agendas. The department has a continuing need for access to technical expertise and to evidence-supported advice as never before. At the same time, the scientific and industrial communities need the support of the department in investing resources in more regions of the world and under more difficult conditions than in the past. The recommendations set forth in this and subsequent chapters of the report are offered to assist the department in drawing upon S&T expertise and ingenuity embedded in many institutions within and outside the government that can contribute to effective diplomacy on an expanded scale.
The Secretary should continue to provide both leadership and guidance on S&T-related policies and programs for addressing priority global issues and advancing U.S. bilateral and multilateral interests.
1 A listing of foundations and other organizations that are involved in international grant making can be found at http://staff.lib.msu.edu/harris23/grants/privint.htm.
Given the broad spread of S&T interests throughout the department, articulation of department-wide policies on priority issues can be very helpful. The S&T Adviser to the Secretary (S&T Adviser) should bring to the attention of the Secretary and other senior officials of the department opportunities for such statements while ensuring they do not inadvertently create confusion as to roles and responsibilities of other departments and agencies. The Secretary’s initiatives in underscoring the importance of climate change in 2013 and of education diplomacy in 2014 are good examples of this approach.
The department also took important steps in this direction during the preparation of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in 2010 and The FY 2014-2017 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan. These policy documents highlight the significance of S&T in many aspects of the department’s diplomatic efforts, and they provide a strong foundation for development and implementation of policies and programs that undergird diplomacy. Within this context, statements by the Secretary would be particularly important in providing a more detailed framework for action on selected issues
An example of an important topic of world-wide interest that could be effectively highlighted by the department and its partners is technological innovation and economic entrepreneurship (see Box 2-6). Many countries are now committed to having innovation-driven economies that they believe will help them develop and produce high quality goods and services at lower cost as they compete internationally, and they often look to the United States as the foremost pioneer in this area. A number of department officials, and particularly those involved in foreign trade, as well as representatives of many U.S. companies would like to see other countries strengthen their technical capabilities, which in time would lead to new marketing opportunities for U.S. high-tech exports. At the same time, however, some U.S. companies may worry that in the short run such enhanced capabilities other countries could reduce the
Global Interest in Economic Payoffs from U.S. Approach to Innovation
Nearly every country gives high priority to becoming a more innovative country through the right policies and investments that will accelerate economic growth and enable it to compete in the globalized and networked world. Science and technology capabilities are seen as essential ingredients, and the United States is viewed as the most innovative and scientifically capable country. Hence, other countries want to engage with American scientists, engineers, universities, research laboratories, and entrepreneurs who participate in regional ecosystems such as Silicon Valley. They see potential for more rapid growth, faster expansion of the middle class, and increased trade.
SOURCE: S&T Adviser to the Secretary of State, February 2013.
demand for U.S. high-tech products.
A statement by the Secretary as to the essential aspects of innovation that have led to economic success for entrepreneurs in the United States and identification of readily available sources of additional authoritative information in this regard would attract considerable attention within and beyond the department. Both the department and its partners could benefit from subsequent discussions surrounding such a statement during international meetings and other opportunities to reach out to colleagues.
Also, the hosting by the Secretary and undersecretaries of wide-ranging international conferences wherein S&T play a critical role can be significant. The conferences on higher education in 2011 and on the oceans in 2014 are examples of gatherings that attracted wide-spread attention within the department and throughout the world. Other topics of possible interest include the declining condition of the world’s forests, global pandemics, reduced access to water resources, and increased urbanization in many countries. Such conferences inevitably feature statements by the Secretary and undersecretaries concerning the importance and details of policies and programs.
The department should carry out S&T-oriented foresight assessments. The Policy Planning Staff should have responsibility for this foresight effort with leadership provided by the S&T Adviser to the Secretary who would be double-hatted as a member of the Policy Planning Staff for such assessments. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Bureau of Energy Resources, OES, and other interested bureaus should actively participate in such assessments.
The department, other U.S. government agencies, and the U.S. nongovernmental sector, as well as many United Nations agencies and relevant organizations in other countries, frequently conduct assessments of S&T-related developments that are bringing to the foreground new challenges for foreign policy. Whether carried out by the intelligence community, intra-departmental or inter-agency committees, the industrial sector, academia, think tanks, or others, these studies often have bottom lines that underscore the importance of the U.S government giving greater attention to the emergence of new S&T-driven challenges.
However, there is no established process whereby relevant observations of such studies are transformed into action-oriented recommendations for consideration by the leadership of the department. This situation is particularly significant concerning new emerging areas of growing importance. Such areas include, for example, the increasing use of drones that cross international boundaries for civilian purposes, the changing patterns of ocean currents that
alter coastal activities, ice melts in the Arctic that change maritime routes and alter whole ecosystems, drought conditions that result in internal and cross-border migration of large populations, and adequate food and water to meet the needs of a population expected to increase to 8 billion by 2030.
A decade ago several department officials, with encouragement by the then Secretary of State, launched Project Horizon to look forward. Eventually dozens of department officials became involved to a limited degree. But there was no institutional mechanism to help ensure that findings and recommendations of the effort would be seriously considered for action. After two years, the effort was abandoned due to lack of a staff capability at both the policy and the working levels to sustain the effort. The recommendation in this report calls for more focused foresight studies that address issues that are known to have interested audiences within the department.
The foresight program should synthesize, augment, and bring to the attention of appropriate policy-oriented department officials in actionable form (a) important observations of forward-looking assessments already undertaken within the government or by other organizations, and (b) conclusions of new analyses that address previously neglected issues. To the extent possible, unclassified documentation should be used to facilitate broad participation in the efforts. When necessary, tentative findings could be supplemented with classified reports.
The Policy Planning Staff, with direct and continuing access to the Secretary and other leaders of the department concerning formulation and adjustments of foreign policy, is ideally positioned to ensure that the findings and conclusions of well-defined foresight assessments receive prompt and serious consideration for supporting, transforming, or establishing important elements of the nation’s foreign policy. Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary (STAS) is well positioned to interact effectively at the working level with all units of the department interested in the S&T dimensions of foreign policy. Coupling the interests of the two offices to strengthen the department’s efforts to look beyond immediate foreign policy challenges would provide an important new capability in anticipating changes driven by S&T that deserve immediate attention.
Of course STAS will need staff resources to carry out this responsibility. At least two staff members should devote full time to this effort, while loaners with relevant expertise could also provide the needed expertise for each assessment.
Of importance is the involvement in this undertaking of (a) significant policy officials of the department who should have leadership and oversight roles, (b) officials who have responsibility within the department for addressing related issues, and (c) other department officials who could benefit from short-term training/educational assignments to the project on a part-time or full-time basis. Specialists from other departments and agencies—and nongovernmental institutions when appropriate—who are interested in the topic could participate. The success of this effort would be best measured by the receptivity of the
leadership of the department of the policy suggestions included in the foresight assessments. While this initiative would focus on S&T-related developments, it could lead to consideration of a broader policy-oriented foresight capability beyond those which highlight S&T issues.
The Secretary should establish a Science and Technology Advisory Board (STAB) of independent S&T experts of noted accomplishments and deep expertise to provide insights on S&T-laden non-defense issues that are or should be related to the department’s foreign policy agenda.
The organizational aspects of STAB should be similar to those of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST). Two distinguished independent experts with a combined breadth of expertise that covers wide areas of S&T, together with the S&T Adviser, should serve as co-chairs of STAB. The operational aspects should take into account the well-developed and effective approaches of the department’s International Security Advisory Board (ISAB). Specifically, STAB should draw on relevant resources of the entire department and should rely heavily on small working groups that include both independent experts and department officials to address issues of priority interest. STAS and OES should provide secretariat support for STAB which would serve the interests of the entire department. Fortunately, during the last several years, STAS and OES have greatly improved their working relationship in many areas after a decade of continuous friction.
Of particular importance will be establishment of agendas for meetings that take into account efforts of other advisory bodies throughout the department. For example, effective internal and external advisory bodies are in place to address climate change and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Turning to foresight assessments called for in Recommendation 2-2, coordination of activities of STAB with the selection and use of foresight studies should be a priority. At times STAB might play a role in identifying topics that should be considered in foresight assessments and in designing terms of reference for foresight efforts.
The primary activities of STAB should be to identify, in consultation with department officials, S&T issues that will soon be on the department’s agenda but are not receiving adequate attention at present. Then small working groups could be quickly established to meet with appropriate department officials, alert them to the foreign policy implications of newly developing S&T advances, and determine whether the department would benefit from more detailed discussions or reports on the topic.
Of course, the Secretary and other senior officials of the department have access to a wide range of S&T experts throughout the department and from other departments and agencies when they need technical advice in addressing urgent issues. However, these ad hoc arrangements are frequently brief. There
may not be time to provide adequate perspectives on uncertainties and unintended consequences when considering solutions to complicated issues.
Having regularly scheduled meetings enables busy experts to block times on their calendars, while committee membership provides a degree of recognition for services to the government not usually accorded to participants in ad hoc meetings when crises arise. Also, turnover of committee members (perhaps every three years on a staggered basis) will help ensure a continuing inflow of fresh ideas. Moreover, drawing on the nongovernment community in selecting experts would complement the traditional reliance on in-house experts to address short-term crises, while contributing to a whole-of-society approach to foreign affairs, which is increasingly important.
Among the topics of possible interest are (a) the future of solar energy, including breakthroughs in thin-film receptors, (b) the search for better battery and other energy storage devices, (c) robotics, with applications in manufacturing and in field activities, (d) affordable telemedicine in refugee camps, isolated communities, and remote locations, (e) advances in tropical medicine, (f) developments in synthetic biology, and (g) the international competition for high-tech talent.
In developing this recommendation, the committee considered the experience of the department in establishing, reorganizing, and abandoning S&T advisory bodies since the 1960s. At times they were effective and influenced S&T approaches of the department. At other times they were not very helpful. Too often the emphasis was on large meetings involving all committee members with little attention given to small working groups that included not only committee members but also other independent experts and government officials. The approach supported by this committee should overcome the major weaknesses of previous efforts to obtain authoritative advice.
While the most important factor in supporting S&T engagement should continue to be the advancement of science, engineering, and health capabilities in the United States and partner countries, the department, along with USAID, should give greater weight in determining allocation of funds for S&T engagement to the secondary impacts in the development and strengthening of civil society and good governance in partner countries.
Scientists and engineers constitute large portions of the intellectual capital of most countries. Both as members of professional associations or groups and as individuals, these specialists are often active in promoting public discourse on many aspects of the appropriate role of government in countries that are
attempting to broaden participation of the public in shaping the governance of the countries. They are a large and important component of civil society; and at times S&T professionals rise to political leadership positions, serving as ministers and other high-ranking officials in administrations around the world.
However, the department gives little attention to how S&T engagement not only provides opportunities for American scientists and their foreign colleagues to advance professionally but frequently also indirectly encourage other governments to adopt principles embraced by responsible scientists.
In general, S&T professionals are committed to internationally accepted principles of responsible research and evidence-based decision making. Also, many S&T leaders throughout the world spend much of their careers managing large and complicated programs that involve decisions that are relevant to good governance. Their activities are often directly linked to priority interests of the governments, thereby putting them in positions where they are informed about political challenges and they have the attention of the leaderships and broader populations of the countries. In these positions, they often become sensitive to the long-term perils of mismanagement, corruption, and other barriers to good governance.
Activists in professional societies, science journalists, and members of advisory committees to parliaments are three examples of scientists and engineers contributing directly to the evolution of political processes, at times challenging political favoritism and other flawed approaches. These and other mechanisms involving scientists and engineers can play important roles in the shaping the internal discourses on important governance-related issues. But the department has not recognized in its programming the contributions to these ends that they and other mechanisms can play.
In 2012, the Global Network of Science Academies (the InterAcademy Partnership) representing more than 100 Academies of Sciences from a broad spectrum of countries, highlighted seven fundamental values in carrying out research. These values, which have relevance to good governance, are honesty, fairness, objectivity, reliability, skepticism, accountability, and openness. The commitment to research integrity often survive even the most radical transformations of ruling governments (InterAcademy Panel, 2012). Thus, in determining funding levels of various types of S&T engagement, the department should increase its familiarization with respect to the role of this global network and give adequate consideration to the long-term as well as to the near-term payoff from support of S&T engagement.
At the same time, funds allocated to support democracy activities should not be directed to S&T exchanges. Such a move could be misinterpreted as S&T-engagement programs being used as a cover to promote political change.
The foregoing discussion does not mean that scientists are necessarily more ethical people personally than other professionals. But the ethics of research do play some role in the behavior of scientists, and the internationally accepted values of the research enterprise are often in very short supply in the governance
of countries that are still developing their governing institutions concern. That said, the recommendation is simply to give greater consideration to all of the benefits from S&T engagement, including the strengthening of important elements of civil society, when the budgets for S&T engagement are determined.
STAS, in continuing consultations with participants in various international S&T networks, should give priority to seeking opportunities for leveraging the outreach capabilities of existing and proposed global and regional networks in addressing S&T issues of interest to the department.
Participation in activities of the networks is often important not only in addressing global issues but also in improving understanding of regional issues.
Many opportunities for strengthened relationships between the department and existing R&D networks are readily apparent. The department, along with many other U.S. departments and agencies and a variety of U.S. nongovernmental S&T organizations, participates in a large number of global networks of S&T institutions that have related interests and programs. At times the department is the direct sponsor of networks of researchers from the United States and other countries. But some networks could become more important contributors to keeping the department apprised of global developments. A few examples of networks of considerable importance follow.
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, with funds administered by the World Bank, is one of the best known and most ambitious sustained networking efforts of scientists, with each annual budget totaling over $900 million dollars. This group, with member research centers in 15 countries, carries out and coordinates agriculture research in a variety of fields. It has long been given credit for significant contributions to the green revolution.
Another science-oriented networking organization of large proportions is the non-governmental International Council for Science (ICSU). ICSU has 31 international scientific unions, each addressing a particular area of science. ICSU also has 121 National Scientific Bodies covering science activities of 141 countries.
A nongovernmental network that emphasizes both coordination of national and international policies to advance science and the conduct of study efforts to this end is the InterAcademy Partnership. It has a membership of more than 100 academies of science that work together to advise citizens and public officials on the scientific aspects of critical global issues. It has carried out studies and published reports in response to requests from the United Nations as well as from the governments of the countries of the member academies.
There are more than 100 science, engineering, and medical professional societies in the United States, with many thousands of members from abroad. These societies provide important mechanisms for international engagement of scientists who can then stay abreast of global advances in their fields.
As to intergovernmental activities, several U.N. organizations, such as the World Health Organization; United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organizational; and Food and Agriculture Organization, have designated research centers in a number of countries as members of networks that address specific science, engineering, or health issues. Also, regional and bilateral agreements, particularly in the environmental field, frequently designate research centers to carry out scientific responsibilities associated with international agreements.
Still other networks of research organizations have evolved over many decades. For example, the Pasteur Institutes for biological research are located in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Several global networks of physics institutes coordinate establishment and use of expensive facilities. An astronomy-oriented network of observatories circles the globe at a common latitude. Surrounding the Arctic is a multinational network of biological research stations to monitor and analyze conditions in the far north. Botanical institutes in a number of countries are linked together through joint efforts to catalogue the features of plant species in various types of terrain.
A number of efforts are underway to strengthen international capabilities for research and information exchange in preparing for and responding to natural disasters that threaten populations in coastal regions, in urban areas, and in seismic zones. The Rockefeller Foundation, for example, has launched a $100 million program for support of resilience initiatives of mega-cities. Many of these cities are located in coastal areas. The University of Bologna has in recent years been leading an international effort to improve collection and analysis of seismic data. The Institute for Influenza in St. Petersburg has been in the forefront of global collaboration in studying the transmission of certain types of viruses from animals to human populations. All of these efforts are important, but not all are supported to the level of funding that may be required in the future. Awareness within the department of these and other types of initiatives is important, and STAS is well positioned to have appropriate contacts that can be of benefit both to the department and to key participants in the networks.
The informal networks among researchers working on common problems dwarf in number the formally established networks. The large quantity of coauthored papers in scientific journals each year (see Box 2-4) provides a basis for estimating the extent of such cooperation. A reasonable estimate is that there are more than 100,000 cross-border networks involving researchers in the United States working with foreign colleagues to address specific problems.
Five examples of the importance for U.S. foreign policy of bilateral networks engagement established at the initiative of U.S. scientific and educational institutions across boundaries are as follows:
- Iran: Since 2000, the National Academies have sponsored 30 workshops, pilot projects, and other events with Iranian academies and universities involving more than`1,000 scientists and engineers from about 100 institutions in the two countries. Among topics of interest during 2012 to 2014 have been seismic engineering, water management and conservation, mathematics education, climate change and air pollution, planning of resilient cities, orthopedic procedures, and wildlife conservation and habitat management.
- Cuba: During the past decade the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) has engaged Cuban scientists, working primarily through the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Topics have been wide ranging, often emphasizing biotechnology and ocean studies. In 2014, the AAAS and the Cuban Academy of Sciences signed a memorandum of understanding, emphasizing cooperation in infectious diseases, brain disorders, cancer, and anti-microbial drug resistance.
- Mexico: For decades, S&T cooperation with Mexico at the university and academy levels, in addition to the official level, has been extensive and important.
- Chile: California universities have long had strong relationships with Chilean universities. The exchanges of faculty members, training of students, and collaborative research programs have had a strong influence in not only advancing science and the economy but also in developing a culture of responsible governance.
- Pakistan: In the last several years, the organization Engineers without Borders has paved the way for strengthening the engineering education infrastructure, which has become an important area for USAID programming.
The S&T Advisors have encouraged nongovernmental organizations to become involved in such activities when their participation would enhance efforts to overcome political divides.
Many of the observations in this chapter can be summed up in the following statement by the leading U.S. government intelligence official:
“Technological developments hold enormous potential for dramatic improvements in individual health, employment, productivity, global communications, and investments. Technology will continue to be a catalyst for the rapid emergence of changes difficult to anticipate or prepare for; these forces can test the strength of governments and potentially jeopardize U.S. citizens and interests overseas. Technological
advances also create the potential for increased systemic fragility as foreign governments and non-state actors attempt to leverage new and evolving technologies to press their interests” (Office of Director of National Intelligence. 2014).
At the top of the list of profound technological changes currently encompassing all societies are the advances in information and communication technologies. In 2015, mobile phone subscribers will exceed five billion, with smart-phone users surging to 2.4 billion and mobile–internet use rivalling traditional cellular telephony (The World in 2015, 2014). In the longer term, unpredictable environmental changes and disease patterns will accompany the construction of the dams that are eventually to make the Congo River a huge hydroelectric complex. And in the midst of such dramatic reconfiguring of the global landscape that are increasingly recognized by the global community, the biological revolution that is only now unfolding will affect the lives of populations of all countries. The department has no alternative to embracing S&T as keys to opening new roads to prosperity and peace, while adequately recognizing the implications in changing the forces of nature.
Strengthening the capabilities of the department to meet S&T-driven challenges of both the present and the future has been an important theme of this chapter and will continue to be addressed throughout the remainder of the report.
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