News: News Archives
Seminars for Science Attaches
Provide Insight into US Policy
As part of its efforts to strengthen AAAS's international ties, AAAS periodically holds special seminars for science diplomats from other countries.
The seminars, which the organization has hosted for more than ten years, give the diplomats "an inside look at what's going on in the science scene in Washington, D.C.," says Al Teich, director of the AAAS Directorate for Science and Policy Programs.
"That can be very useful, as these diplomats are often responsible for reporting to their governments on developments in U.S. science and science policy and for serving as guides for science officials from their countries when they visit the United States. At the seminars, the diplomats get important information. Equally important, they also make contact with AAAS members."
Flavia Schlegel, the new Swiss counselor for science and technology, agrees. "These seminars are very helpful," she says, "because we learn about an important issue, we get objective and first-hand information, and we get in touch with people who might otherwise not be available for us, particularly if we're new in town."
Popular Seminar on R&D Funding
The topics of the seminars range widely. One of the most popular, Teich says, provides a briefing on research and development allocations in the federal budget, as well as an advance look at the AAAS's own R&D Report. "This seminar draws a lot of people because they want to see what our priorities are," Teich says. "It helps the diplomats and their governments make decisions in their own countries, and it helps all of us decide where there might be opportunities for cooperation."
Other seminars have addressed the topics of sustainable development, technology transfer, energy issues, and the United States' new immigration and visa policies. "It was an interesting, open, and high-level debate that included pro and con arguments," Schlegel says of the seminar on visa policies.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy also co-sponsored a session on homeland security issues after 9-11. Still, notes Betty Kirk, director for AAAS's programs in Europe and Central Asia, "we don't try to hold the seminars in a timely way, because there's a two-month lead time between the time we think of a topic and the time we can put on the seminar. World events can change a lot in that time frame." The next seminar takes place in late March and will cover global health issues.
While most other countries can't allocate the same kind of money to science and technology that the United States does, science diplomats have been able to implement some aspects of our science programs in their own countries. Johannes Kaufman, the former Swiss attache, for instance, was so impressed with the AAAS Fellows program that he convinced his government to institute a similar program in his country.
Indeed, the seminar program has to be seen as more than just talks about science topics. "This is all part of the broader contact we have with scientists in other countries," Teich emphasizes. "It truly is a two-way process. The folks from the European Union often arrange for their science officials to give us information, too. The head of R&D for the European Commission, for instance, has talked to AAAS, as have both the German and Japanese science ministers."
"These days the role of scientists truly is international," he adds. "All of the most pressing scientific and technological problems--like terrorism, AIDS, sustainable development, and the population explosion--are international in scope. These seminars are just one piece of our attempts to bring together scientists from many other countries to come up with solutions."
12 March 2003