News: News Archives
Swiss Invite Former AAAS Fellows
For Visit Focused on Science Policy
A geneticist, solid state physicist, and plant pathologist were among a diverse group of former AAAS science policy Fellows to travel to Switzerland last week to visit with scientists and government officials.
The delegation included six former Fellows from the AAAS Science and Technology Fellowship program and Joanne Carney, Director for the AAAS Center for Science, Technology, and Congress. Flavia Schlegel, Counselor for Science and Technology for the U.S. and Canada at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C., also joined the group. In the course of one week, the delegation traveled throughout the country to meet with leading Swiss scientists and members of the national parliament to discuss science policy.
"This trip allowed the opportunity to meet a lot of people in such a short span of time," said former fellow, Finley Austin, Director of Public Policy for the Swiss-based Roche Co. "The diversity of former Fellows reminded me of my time on the fellowship, and the degree of interaction that I had with people from other fields. In science you tend to adjust to your own field, becoming fixed on your area of study. The trip enabled me to see much more of the country, and get a greater perspective."
Claudia Sturges, Director of the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Programs, added that this trip takes the Fellows to places that are engaged in innovative science, helping strengthen ties between the two countries, and fostering a dialogue between Swiss and U.S. scientists about how scientific information is used by government policymakers.
"When the [AAAS Congressional Fellows] Program was created in 1973, there was an express need for Congress to receive more scientific input on the issues," Sturges said. "That continues to the present day, especially as science becomes all the more complex and technical."
Among the group's stops was the Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSM), a privately-held company based in Neuchătel that commercializes research from the fields of nanotechnology, microelectronics, and information systems. After visiting the center, Joseph Michels, Director for Research Initiatives at Princeton University's Materials Institute and former American Physical Society Congressional fellow, noted that he saw the potential for a synergistic pairing of Princeton's initiatives in nanotechnology and microelectronics with CSM's work.
"The Swiss are keen to both learn from the U.S. system of federal support for research and to establish collaborations with leading American universities and national laboratories," Michels said. "International collaborations are easy in principle, but take time to develop as they depend on the establishment of personal contacts and an understanding of a perspective different than your own. It takes a real effort to look beyond the demands of one's day-to-day schedule.
"The trip provided a wonderful opportunity to meet the heads of some of [Switzerland's] major research institutes as well as their parliamentarians and resulted in the birth of many ideas…We can't help but leave with a broadened view."
A two-day workshop on science and technology policy held at the University of Lucerne included a dialogue on the controversial embryonic stem cell research. An international group of ethicists and scientists from the government and industry discussed the ethical considerations required in the research. Finley gave a historical review of the development of U.S. policy surrounding the use of stem cells for research.
Former fellow, Russell Moy, a senior staff officer for the National Academies' Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy, noted that the workshop involved a larger percentage of speakers from abroad than one would normally expect for a U.S. conference.
"This is a country with approximately 6.5 million inhabitants and the government is conscientious about assuring a broad scope of opinion," said Moy.
While Moy lived and worked in Switzerland for several years, he said the trip provided him with an added opportunity to see how active the government is in seeking, developing, and nurturing international collaborations, and noted that he found it valuable to learn more about Swiss history and get an overview of how the government works from the discussions he had with Swiss legislators.
7 November 2002