The Department of State (department) represents U.S. interests abroad through 285 embassies, consulates, and other posts located in 190 countries. This structure provides important channels for conveying foreign policy messages and representations directly to host governments and international organizations and also to the general public. On-the-ground staffs assist the department in understanding security, political, economic, and social dynamics in host countries and in identifying opportunities for positive interactions with government officials and nongovernmental organizations. Twenty-seven other U.S. departments and agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and Defense (referred to collectively as agencies) are also represented abroad by11,000 employees within various embassies and related facilities (Kennedy, 2015).
For more than 50 years, the department has assigned personnel to embassies to focus on S&T issues. Initially, the officers assigned to these positions (now called Environment, Science, Technology, and Health [ESTH] positions) were primarily accomplished senior scientists recruited from research centers and universities. These external recruitment efforts had almost entirely ended by the early 2000s. Now Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) are usually assigned to handle ESTH issues (see Appendix L).
In recent years, ESTH officers have concentrated largely on the activities set forth in Box 4-1. Priorities vary from post-to-post and time-to-time. However, with the increased flow of information back to Washington through many internet, media, and other channels, the formal reporting requirements for ESTH officers have declined in importance due to the many other channels of communication and information dissemination. These include increased television time devoted to news from abroad, expanded use of oral reporting via mobile phones and e-mail, and social media (Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs [OES], 2014). The S&T focus in most
Typical Responsibilities of Environment, Science, Technology, and Health (ESTH) Officers at U.S. Embassies
- Alerting embassy and department officials to emerging problems and opportunities associated with new ESTH developments in the United States and abroad.
- Providing an informed technical perspectives during internal embassy deliberations on issues involving significant ESTH considerations.
- Assisting U.S. departments and agencies during the development and negotiation of bilateral ESTH agreements and programs and facilitating implementation.
- Obtaining and disseminating information concerning (a) changes and other developments in the ESTH policies of the host government, (b) local ESTH achievements that are noteworthy, and (c) regional and international ESTH activities supported by the host government of relevance to U.S. interests.
- Engaging with host government, non-government, and private sector to advance ESTH priorities of the U.S. government, including, for example, developments related to climate change, oceans, health, wildlife trafficking, and Arctic governance.
- Providing an informed point of contact for local officials and specialists interested in ESTH policies, organizations, and technical achievements of the United States.
SOURCES: OES, 2014.
embassies has turned in large measure to monitoring developments and expediting programs that are of interest to OES, the regional bureaus, and other government agencies. Looking forward, the FY 2014-2017 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan identifies S&T-related policies and programs that should be of interest to the embassies in general, and to ESTH officers in particular.
In assisting other departments and agencies during development of bilateral projects (see Box 4-1, third bullet), ESTH officers should be able to comment on proposed activities and not just provide administrative facilitation. They also should reach out to host government officials to help resolve barriers to specific cooperative activities as well as to provide advice to both sides on neglected fields for cooperation.
In response to a questionnaire (See Appendix M) circulated by the department in 2014 at the request of this committee, ESTH officers at more than 50 embassies provided important insights as to on-the-ground challenges they face on a daily basis. Of particular interest, they identified the following science, technology, and innovation issues that they regularly considered, with the results indicating the following priorities on a world-wide basis.
- Climate Change
- S&T Cooperation
- Water Issues
- Wildlife Trafficking
- Other Issues including Genetically Modified Organisms, Innovation, Food Security, and Forestry
Against this background and taking into account discussions with a number of current and former ESTH officers, a key finding of the committee concerning current S&T-related activities in Washington and at the embassies can be characterized as a “tale of two States.” Considerably more progress has been made during the past 15 years in Washington in building S&T capacity of the department and expanding use of S&T capabilities of the United States in promoting foreign policy interests than at the embassies where the preparedness and support of ESTH officers and the priority given to S&T issues have not advanced as much and too often have declined.
Embassies need clear mandates from Washington, well informed personnel, and ready access to financial resources to address a number of S&T-related challenges that are already important or are emerging on the near horizon as discussed in Chapter 2. Some of these challenges are on the department’s agenda, but others are not. The embassies should be able to help identify and characterize the principal issues in dealing with host countries and then contribute to the department’s efforts to address them effectively.
At the same time, ESTH officers do not stand alone at the embassies in considering S&T issues and opportunities for engagement. In particular, the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission often become involved in S&T issues and have important venues for promoting related interests with senior officials and important S&T leaders of the host countries. Economic Minister-Counselors or Economic Counselors at the embassies often have internal responsibilities for guiding S&T efforts as well as responsibility for following economic developments of interest in the host country that often involve development of technology. Indeed, Counselors who have supervisory responsibilities for ESTH officers should be familiar with a broad range of S&T issues, either through participation in training activities at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) or self-study activities. Since economic officers who achieve the rank of Minister are highly talented and motivated, obtaining an adequate level of S&T literacy should not be difficult. Also, when S&T issues command the attention of the leadership of the host country, political officers within the embassy usually have important responsibilities for assessing the impact of developments on the overall relationship between the U.S. and host country governments.
More than 50 bilateral S&T agreements are in force (see Appendix N). In recent years, bilateral commissions co-chaired by the Science and Technology Policy Adviser to the U.S. President have actively guided implementation of six
agreements (i.e., agreements with Brazil, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Russia). In those cases, the American Ambassadors in the countries of interest are directly involved when the bilateral commissions meet, thereby helping to ensure that the embassies are fully aware of programs that are underway or proposed. Similarly, when formal bilateral S&T discussions are held involving agreements with other countries which do not have commissions, the American Ambassadors usually ensure a high level of embassy participation in formal bilateral meetings, at times including the Deputy Chiefs of Mission.
The activities pursuant to some agreements that are not under the scrutiny of bilateral commissions are limited. Questions are frequently raised within and outside the department as to the need for retaining relatively inactive agreements, particularly those that have sunset provisions. Reasons for retaining these agreements are usually persuasive, including, for example, (a) providing the legal basis for an occasional activity of interest to a U.S. government agency or an agency of the partner country, (b) publicly recognizing the significance of S&T in a country that is an important political or economic partner, and (c) offering opportunities for the embassies to stay abreast of significant S&T achievements within the country. If there are political or technical reasons for retaining relatively inactive agreements, it seems appropriate for the department to retain these agreements, being aware that highly visible termination could be counterproductive. In short, the default position should be to retain and not to discontinue the agreements.
Of particular importance in addressing S&T issues are the roles and outreach of public affairs officers and public diplomacy specialists who are serving at the embassies. These staffs are led by Minister-Counselors at large embassies. At other embassies, Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) of lower rank are usually the senior public affairs/public diplomacy officials. Overall about 3,700 officials are deployed at embassies and other facilities, including about 200 Public Affairs Officers, 1,500 Public Diplomacy Officers and Specialists, and 2,000 locally hired public diplomacy staff members. Many of these local specialists have over many years developed very valuable perspectives on opportunities for public diplomacy involving S&T. (For details on the approach to public diplomacy see www.state.gov/pdcommission/reports/235008.htm.) In 2014, S&T were one of six priorities for public diplomacy programming at the embassies and in Washington. Other priorities included education and environmental issues that are interpreted at many posts as also having significant S&T dimensions. (See Boxes 4-2 and 4-3.)
Interest in most countries in S&T-engagement with U.S. institutions is strong. Unfortunately, a number of constraints on traditional in-person outreach by American diplomats to respond to such interest have become severe, due in considerable measure to limited staff capabilities and budget resources. At some posts, personal security concerns also constrain outreach activities. But most important, available time is scarce when handling portfolios bulging with a wide variety of issues.
Examples of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Oriented Exchange Programs
- Fulbright Student and Scholar Program for exchanges in both directions (25 alumni are now science Nobel Laureates).
- Fulbright-Fogarty Awards that bring foreign scientists to the National Institutes of Health.
- Fulbright Specialist Program that sends American scientists and other professionals abroad for 2-6 weeks.
- Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching.
- Humphrey Fellowship Program that brings early career and mid-level foreign research investigators to the United States for one year (non-degree program).
- International Visitors Leadership Program that receives visitors to the United States for up to three weeks and often focuses on S&T-related issues.
- International Speakers Program that arranges for participants, including scientists, to give lectures, lead seminars, and/or consult with counterparts abroad.
SOURCES: Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, 2014.
Examples of STEM Collaboration
- Australia: Collaboration in Climate Change and Renewable Energy.
- China: American Chairs at Universities.
- Bulgaria: Award for American Scholar in Pure and Applied Science.
- Norway: Arctic Chair for American at University Centre in Svalbard.
- Russia: Chair for American at National University of Science and Technology.
- Czech Republic: Chair for American at Charles University (Faculty of Mathematics and Science).
SOURCES: Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, 2014.
Thus, new approaches to engagement initiated by the embassies that can reach appropriate and frequently large audiences have been essential. Among the efforts currently underway are expanding the use of social media, carrying out interactive telecasts and webinars, and making arrangements with highly respected local institutions to host events of interest both to the institutions and to the embassies. The American Corners program involves 400 arrangements between U.S. embassies and local institutions where the story of America is set forth for local audiences in easily accessible venues. These corners provide convenient locations for electronic connections and for talks and seminars involving S&T experts on visits from the United States.
In summary, effective approaches that capitalize on the S&T strengths of the United States in pursuing foreign policy goals should become an organic part of embassy agendas and diplomatic toolboxes. These strengths should reflect both (a) up-to-date and feasible efforts in developing content of policies and programs, and (b) effective means of communicating with diverse audiences about S&T developments on the horizon as well as about today’s achievements.
In October 2014, 223 FSOs were assigned to embassies with responsibility for ESTH activities, compared to 143 in 1999. Of these officers, 96 had full-time responsibility for ESTH activities, compared to 57 in 1999; and the others had limited time available, sometimes less than 10 percent of their time (OES, 2014).
The number of Science Counselors at embassies and missions declined from 10 in 1999 to six in 2015 with FSOs serving as Science Counselors in Moscow, Brussels, New Delhi, Tokyo, Beijing, and Mexico City. Sometimes FSOs selected for Counselor positions have technical backgrounds. These positions are highly sought in the annual requests by FSOs for their next assignments.
While the number of ESTH officers has increased, staffing has not kept pace with either the current or potential importance of S&T in bilateral and regional relationships. ESTH officers are usually supported by locally hired FSNs, often with strong educational and professional backgrounds in S&T. But the number of FSNs working on S&T issues is relatively static, and some work on S&T-related issues only part-time (see Appendix L).
Current ESTH incumbents, who are almost always FSOs, usually describe their responsibilities while serving in ESTH positions at embassies as providing interesting and rewarding work. However, in past years such postings had been considered by some FSOs as being outside the mainstream FSO career-enhancement tracks. They were convinced that such assignments would be unfortunate diversions from better opportunities leading to promotions, with service as political or economic officers in particular providing greater potential for advancement.
In Washington, some FSOs with S&T experience and interests favored assignments in the regional bureaus, which are focal points for political and economic developments. Such assignments often led to favorable embassy postings with bright prospects for promotion, whereas S&T-oriented functional bureaus, such as OES, did not have comparable influence over future assignments of FSOs serving in their bureaus. However, as discussed in Chapter 5, S&T assignments in Washington have now become quite popular, with many FSOs seeking such assignments in the face of stiff competition from their colleagues. While avoidance of S&T assignments undoubtedly exists among some FSOs, negative connotations of such assignments appear to have receded considerably in recent years.
Relatively few ESTH officers have in-depth S&T educational or professional backgrounds. But the number of newly minted FSOs with graduate degrees and/or experience in important S&T areas is growing as discussed in Chapter 5.
All ESTH officers are expected to attend a two-week familiarization course on the department’s S&T interests at FSI prior to assuming responsibilities abroad. After arrival at the embassies, ESTH officers generally consider the course as a valuable but too brief an introduction to the variety and importance of S&T responsibilities in carrying out diplomatic assignments.
More than 80 percent of ESTH officers responding to the recent survey initiated at the request of the committee stated that more intensive department-provided preparatory training would have increased their effectiveness. Only one-half of the respondents considered that upon arrival at their postings, they were “well informed” or “adequately informed” about ESTH issues and how their posts might advance U.S. interests through S&T-related activities.
Only one-fifth of ESTH officers reported that their embassies had written strategic plans for advancing priority ESTH issues. Usually the Integrated Country Strategy (ICS), the major embassy planning document prepared at 3-year intervals, only addresses S&T issues in a very general sense. They seldom include specific objectives regarding S&T, even in countries where cooperation is formally considered within the framework of bilateral S&T agreements. Nearly one-third of embassy respondents indicated that important ESTH issues were not being addressed at their posts.
The survey indicated that many ambassadors, as well as the Science Counselors and ESTH officers, recognize the value of ESTH as an important tool to support diplomacy. One ambassador has described S&T strengths of the United States as the “golden road” to engagement with senior officials of the host country where he was stationed. Following in his steps would seem to be attractive to many senior embassy officials.
ESTH officers also reported successfully engaging colleagues throughout their embassies and having helpful relationships with others in Washington, particularly during interactions with OES. They underscored the importance of the interagency process to obtain strategic impacts of ESTH strengths on international policies and bilateral relations. At the same time, more than 60 percent of the ESTH officers surveyed put “more consultations with other U.S. government agencies before arriving at post and in conjunction with home leave” at the top of their lists of missing preparatory and consultative activities.
Data and metrics on embassy activities and performance are important in assessing the past and looking to the future. The department does not have a well-developed assessment process that regularly monitors embassy S&T interests and capabilities. While data on embassy staffing and perspectives were generated on a one-time basis for this report, information is not routinely collected that would permit a deeper analysis of ESTH staff interests and those
of their locally-employed staff colleagues, the professional capabilities within the embassy complex, or embassy achievements in dealing with ESTH issues.
Finally, financial reporting systems are not oriented toward analyses of the linkages between the importance of S&T issues and budget commitments of the department at the country or regional levels. The committee did not find any evidence that the increased attention to S&T in the QDDR was reflected in the staffing or funding of relevant activities of the embassies.
The department should maintain S&T Counselors (currently called Science Counselors) at embassies where S&T issues are particularly important components of the bilateral relationship. Only highly-qualified individuals should be placed in these S&T Counselor positions. In most cases these will be outstanding Foreign Service Officers with extensive experience in S&T-related issues and other qualifications such as language fluency, regional expertise, and excellent diplomatic acumen. Some S&T Counselors might be drawn from the department’s cadre of Civil Servants, or exceptionally qualified outsiders. The department should also (a) ensure that S&T Counselors and other officers responsible for S&T activities at all embassies receive adequate training and preparation before assuming their duties, and (b) provide support for important efforts to initiate scientific collaboration by ensuring ready access by the embassies to available financial resources that could initiate or strengthen collaboration.
Elaboration of each of these aspects follows:
Assignment of S&T Counselors to Embassies. The change in title to “S&T” Counselors is important in recognizing the role of engineering and technology in influencing policies of countries throughout the world. Health and environment issues are generally considered as directly related to science interests, and the short title of S&T rather than ESTH seems more appropriate in diplomatic circles in characterizing activities of very senior embassy officials. The ambassadors at the embassies that need high-level S&T competence should of course justify the requirement for Counselor-level positions through the regular personnel procedures. In most cases, there should be appropriate candidates for these assignments from within the ranks of the Foreign Service. In unusual cases when highly specialized competence in a particular area of S&T is important, the department should consider recruiting appropriate candidates from other agencies, academia, or the private sector.
As previously noted, following issuance of the 1999 report (National Research Council, 1999), the department continued to decrease rather than
significantly increase the number of Science Counselors as recommended in the report. The committee is unaware whether a decision was taken to reduce the number or whether the attrition was simply the result of a personnel system with other priorities, or more likely limited funds provided by Congress.
In 1999, 10 embassies and missions had positions designated as Science Counselors. In 2015, officials responsible for ESTH activities with the rank of counselor, not necessarily given the formal title of Science Counselor, are posted in Moscow, Brussels, Paris, Ottawa, New Delhi, Tokyo, Rome Beijing, London, and Mexico City. Most of these positions are located in the Economics section of the embassy and thus are responsible for activities beyond ESTH. Sometimes the FSOs selected for Counselor positions have technical backgrounds. These positions are highly sought in the annual requests for FSOs for their next assignment.
However, the spread and intensity of international interest in the S&T aspects of diplomacy are now very evident as documented throughout this report. While the United States is still the leader in many aspects of S&T, other nations are becoming increasingly important sources of S&T and are catching up with the United States, particularly in Europe and Asia. The United States can benefit from their achievements. Also, a significant number of middle income countries are investing more heavily in S&T as they attempt to use S&T achievements as the basis for economic progress. Finally, the dual-use (civilian and military) of advanced technologies is a more serious concern than ever before. In short, an on-the-ground presence of senior S&T officials for addressing the implications of S&T advancement in key countries is clear.
Adequate Preparation for Newly Appointed ESTH Officers. The department should strengthen the preparatory program at FSI for newly appointed ESTH officers, lengthening the program from the usual 2 weeks, if necessary, and arranging for internet-based training when scheduling difficulties prevent new ESTH officers from participating in the preparatory program. While ESTH officers should have broad appreciation for developments in many fields, health and environment are nearly always of interest to embassies. These topics deserve special attention in sessions preparing ESTH officers for assuming their responsibilities. Additional on-line courses at FSI would allow officers to catch up in areas where they need more information.
Financing Exchange Visits. The embassies frequently identify opportunities for jump-starting or invigorating scientific engagement involving individual or small groups of scientists who are resident in the host countries and/or in the United States. Often, public diplomacy or other department travel funds are available to take advantage of these opportunities, but the opportunities to obtain such funds are not always clear to ESTH officers. Among the funds available in Washington, which appear to be seldom known to ESTH officers, are the Education Diplomacy Fund, the Environmental Diplomacy Fund, and the
Entrepreneurship Fund. While established to support public diplomacy efforts, S&T has become a priority for public diplomacy, and these funds should at times be able to accommodate initiation and support of exchanges of interest to ESTH officers.
In addition, there are other types of exchange programs administered by the department. Short lists of examples of STEM-related activities supported by these programs were set forth in Boxes 4-2 and 4-3 earlier in this chapter. Most regional bureaus have access to additional funds for priority activities, and the regional bureaus should also be aware of the availability of funds through the functional bureaus, USAID (including flexible Economic Support Funds available through the Foreign Assistance budget and managed largely by the regional bureaus of the department), and other government agencies.
In short, ESTH officers, in collaboration with public diplomacy officers and other staff members at the embassies, should be well-informed of funding available through traditional channels and should be able to make persuasive appeals for support of particularly worthy undertakings. Of course requests for immediate funding are more difficult to accommodate, but OES should reach out to other bureaus and agencies when good requests from the embassies for travel funds to stimulate important contacts that simply cannot be accommodated through channels available to the embassies. With advanced planning, it seems highly likely that funds could be available, particularly if requested by the ambassador.
To stimulate S&T awareness throughout the embassies, the department should establish a prestigious annual award for leadership by an embassy official who has made the most outstanding contribution during the year in enhancing science, technology, and innovation-related impacts in areas of priority interest to the department.
As noted above, while ESTH officers have explicit responsibilities for S&T issues, other embassy officers in the course of their political, economic, or public diplomacy activities also should be alert to opportunities for enhancing policies and programs with significant S&T and also explicit innovation content. This award would be comparable in importance and symbolism to awards of the department devoted to accomplishments in the fields of (a) environment—the Frank E. Loy award—and (b) global affairs—the Warren Christopher Award. Awards in these fields can in principle include S&T accomplishments, but they are so broadly based that many other factors can dominate selection of recipients. A new award would underscore that S&T-based achievements have become part of the mainstream of U.S. diplomacy, with specific attention to the expanding role of the embassies.
The department should continue to encourage short-term assignments of government specialists from other agencies to serve at embassies that request the support of specialists from other agencies. However, the department, in consultation with the requesting embassies and the interested agencies, should give greater attention to the lengths of assignments that are appropriate.
Requests by embassies for up to 90-day assignments of S&T specialists from other agencies to undertake embassy projects requiring specialized expertise will most likely continue to exceed the capacity of funds available to the department or to the parent organizations of the specialists interested in supporting many requested assignments. Examples are listed in Box 4-4. There have been cases wherein assignments to embassies for carrying out consultations on proposed projects could have been shorter, and therefore less expensive, if the specialists had limited their activities to the projects of interest and not become involved in broader embassy activities.
Examples of STEM Collaboration
The Embassy Science Fellows Program provides U.S. embassies access to the expertise of U.S. Government officers in science and technology fields. The program is active throughout the world, and in 2013 the department received 55 technical proposals from 43 U.S. missions in 40 countries. Examples are as follows:
- Experts from EPA and DOE provided advice to the Japanese Ministry of the Environment on remediation of the areas off-site near the Fukushima reactors.
- An education program manager from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency collaborated with provincial leaders in Vietnam to develop a climate literacy program.
- A researcher from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will work with Mexican stakeholders to develop an understanding of the science-related aspects of genetically modified crops and of the economic and social benefits of introducing these crops in Mexico.
- A geologist from the U.S. Geological Survey provided expertise in hydraulic fracturing to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. During his three-month tenure as a science fellow, he consulted on resource development potential, environmental impacts, and related policies for the embassy staff and for the government of Poland.
SOURCES: Department of State (2014b).
Science Envoys, initially appointed by the Secretary in 2011 based on a Presidential initiative, have been very effective in expanding the outreach of embassies to engage S&T leaders in countries of particular interest. The Science Envoys, or more appropriately S&T Envoys, who visit selected countries for an initial period of one-to-four weeks have identified opportunities for exchanges and at times have stimulated the development of new S&T-oriented programs. Initially there were concerns about the absence of funding to provide for followup activities of interest to the envoys, but OES has been quite effective in identifying second-round activities for most interested envoys.
Over a three-year period, the science envoy program has supported visits by nine leading American S&T researchers and practitioners to various countries for one to four weeks, with four more envoys appointed in late 2014.1 The envoys add their expertise and reputations to efforts of embassies to engage local scientific leaders in dialogues and to stimulate the launch of new activities, either by the host countries or jointly between a host country institution and a U.S. institution (see Box 4-5). Prior to sending envoys to engage important local S&T communities, the department and the envoys should consider ways in which initial contacts could be sustained, including likely funding resources. Contacts with potential future funders should be on the agendas from the very outset. In particular, the department should consider setting aside additional funding for follow-up visits by the envoys to help facilitate program initiatives.
The number of Science Envoys (renamed S&T Envoys) should continue to increase.
In another initiative, a focus on early career innovators in the United States and abroad would effectively complement the S&T envoy program that emphasizes establishing linkages between scientists and engineers in the later stages of their careers. Also, a focus on technological innovations that lead to commercial success is quite consistent with the current emphasis on entrepreneurship now prevalent throughout the department. While public diplomacy activities of the department have long included international speaker visits abroad, a new program of carefully selected early career innovators with impressive achievements would raise the level of expertise and relevance to
1 Envoys appointed in 2014 were as follows: Dr. Peter Hotez, Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University and former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Dr. Arun Majumdar, Stanford University and former Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy; and Dr. Geri Richmond, University of Oregon (U.S. Department of State, 2014a).
international interests to new heights. As cited in Chapter 2, the Frontiers of Engineering programs carried out by the National Academy of Engineering together with similar Frontiers of Science programs that have been carried out by the National Academy of Sciences provide fertile grounds for recruiting outstanding representatives of the S&T strengths of the United States, who have early-career successes and look forward to multi-decade careers. In short, they
Science Envoys 2011-2014
- DR. BRUCE ALBERTS (biochemistry): Former Editor-in-Chief of Science and former President of the National Academy of Sciences. Launched a Frontiers of Science Program and USAID Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement through Research in Indonesia.
- DR. ELIAS ZERHOUNI (medicine, medical administration): Former Director of the National Institutes of Health. Promoted S&T cooperation at regional centers of excellence. Traveled to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar as well as UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
- DR. AHMED ZEWAIL (chemistry and physics): Director of the Center for Physical Biology at California Institute of Technology, 1999 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Supported plans for Science Policy Centers. Traveled to Egypt and Qatar.
- DR. RITA COLWELL (bacteriology, genetics, oceanography): Former Director of the National Science Foundation, 2006 National Medal of Science Laureate. Encouraged lab-to-lab collaborations, women and girls in science, and STEM education. Traveled to Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.
- DR. GEBISA EJETA (agronomy): Recipient of the 2002 World Food Prize. Encouraged university partnerships, and applying S&T to sustainable development and innovation. Traveled to South Africa, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
- DR. ALICE P. GAST (chemical engineering): President of Leigh University. Promoted peer-to-peer linkages, merit based peer reviews, and science education. Traveled to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
- DR. BERNARD AMADEI (civil engineering): Founder of Engineers without Borders, Professor at University of Colorado. Launched Engineers without Borders Pakistan and conducted workshops on science, technology, and engineering for sustainable development and entrepreneurship for engineers. Traveled to Pakistan and Nepal.
- DR. SUSAN HOCKFIELD (neuroscience): President Emeritus and Professor of Neuroscience, MIT. Promoted public-private partnerships for innovation. Traveled to Turkey.
- DR. BARBARA SCHAAL (evolutionary plant biology): Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Washington University. Supported embassy’s outreach efforts on the effects of climate change on commercial agriculture and biodiversity. Traveled to Turkey.
SOURCES: OES, 2014.
could highlight the merits of the approach to developing S&T capability in the United States, identify new collaboration opportunities, and alert the embassy to rising young local stars who should be considered for participating in U.S.sponsored activities.
The department should establish a program that supports short-term visits to interested countries by American scientists and engineers in their early careers who have already received national recognition for their innovative S&T achievements (the Early-Career Innovators).
The department maintains nearly 1,000 official social media accounts around the world, representing hundreds of ambassadors, embassies, consulates, Washington bureaus, and the department as a whole. The department’s flagship twitter account (@StateDept) recently broke the 1 million audience threshold, but all told the department’s combined social media audience is over 40 million people world-wide and is growing.
The department primarily uses social media to reach foreign audiences for public diplomacy purposes—directly connecting the U.S. government and American citizens to foreign citizens in order to improve their understanding about the United States, to inform audiences about U.S. policies, and to promote U.S. interest broadly. Given the extent of the endeavor and steady expansion of activities, careful evaluations of audience participation and significance are overdue.
The department, while continuing to expand the use of new dialog mechanisms to reach large foreign audiences on U.S. values, interests, and policies (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other emerging mechanisms), should increase efforts to better understand the composition, reactions, and influence of the audiences.
More than 25 years ago the department developed the concept of regional S&T-oriented Hubs located within selected embassies to address regional problems. However, these initial efforts were terminated due to changing priorities, failure to achieve regional relevance, and inability of the Hub officers to achieve the respect and support in embassies where they were not physically located.
Then during the 1990s, the department established at 12 embassies regional Hubs to address the regional challenges of trans-boundary water, biodiversity, erosion, and other regional environmental issues, with particular attention to
promoting adherence by governments to global and regional environmental agreements (see Appendix O). The challenge of adherence to agreements has largely passed. Of course environmental issues remain, but many other types of S&T issues beyond protection of the environment also have important regional dimensions (e.g., diseases, pipelines, transportation routes, mining, and land disputes).
Staffs at Hubs are spread extremely thin and in some cases can handle only one or two issues at a time, thereby limiting their regional impact. Fortunately, Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs) often play important roles in keeping the embassies informed of important developments of regional interest, although at times FSNs may stretch their areas of expertise when assessing developments in other countries. But still coverage of topics and local interests are limited. Given the changing nature of challenges in many regions of the world, the role of Hubs—and indeed the very concept of Hubs—need serious reconsideration. Should the Hubs be eliminated, some aspirants for regional S&T responsibilities may be disappointed, but organizational issues should take precedence.
OES, together with the regional bureaus, should assess whether the regional Hubs should remain in place as an important component of the department’s overseas presence or whether other approaches would be more cost-effective in addressing regional S&T issues in the years ahead.
The foregoing recommendations require both budgetary and personnel commitments. But these commitments are modest in comparison with the long-term payoff as S&T capabilities continue to spread throughout the world. Of special importance, the recommendations require recognition by the department that S&T developments increasing permeate the entire structure of both the Foreign Service and the civil service workforces. If implemented, the recommendations will have a significant effect in elevating the long-term S&T literacy of many individuals and key components of the department.
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, email message to committee, January 2014.
Department of State. 2014a. Announcement of U.S. Science Envoys. Online. Available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/12/234682.htm. Accessed March 23, 2015.
____________. 2014b. STEM: Embassy Science Fellows Program 2014. Online. Available at http://www.state.gov/e/oes/stc/stem/fellows/. Accessed March 23, 2015.
Kennedy, Patrick, Undersecretary for Management, May 2015, comments to retirees at Foreign Affairs Day, Washington, DC.
National Research Council. 1999. The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in Foreign Policy: Imperatives for the Department of State. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.