Making Euro-U.S. Science Collaboration Work in the Post 9/11 World
Albert H. Teich
Laws and policy enacted by the U.S. government after the 11 September terror attacks have made international scientific collaboration more difficult, but ambitious homeland security efforts have created new opportunities for European-U.S. projects, says Albert H. Teich, AAAS director of Science and Policy.
Speaking at a forum in Oslo, Norway, Teich cited a series of factors that have discouraged collaboration or made it more difficult. Tightened visa and immigration regulations have had an impact, he said. And the diminished goodwill between the United States and Europe and elsewhere had encouraged to study at home or go to countries other than the U.S.
Still, he said, the trans-Atlantic bonds remain strongand even strengthened, in some ways, by 9/11.
"Security issues are by nature international and science and technology are central to them," he said. "The nations of Europe are traditionally America's closest allies with the closest cultural and scientific ties. They share many of the security concerns9/11 hijackers lived in Hamburg, the Madrid train bombing, and so forthand there are many existing areas of collaboration which can provide the basis for future cooperation" in areas related to security and defense.
Teich delivered the keynote speech at a one-day seminar, "Euro-American Scientific Relations in the Wake of September 11," convened by the Research Council of Norway and the NIFU STEP Studies in Innovation, Research and Education. (NIFU STEP resulted from the 2004 merger of the Norwegian Institute for Studies of Research and EducationNIFUand Studies in Technology, Innovation, and Economic PolicySTEP.)
Among other speakers at the 18 May seminar were Ragnhild Sohlberg, vice president of Norsk Hydro ASA in Oslo and scientific secretary of the European Research Advisory Board.
In his presentation, Teich described how the 9/11 attacks gave the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush and Congress a focus that had been lacking during the administration's early months. The result was laws like the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. The terror attacks also precipitated wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Taken together, Teich said, those changes "have made lifeand, especially, research and educationin the U.S. more complex, difficult, and expensive…and have had negative effects on our international relations in many respects, including science and higher education."
Even for accomplished scientists and engineers, it has become more difficult to get visas to visit the United States. During 2000, some 1,000 non-immigrant visa applications were flagged for review under the Visas Mantis program; by 2002, that number had risen to 14,000. But because the government was not prepared for the new caseload, the average wait for a visa extended beyond two months.
"The countries most affected by visa delays and denials have been China and India," Teich said, "but applications from European countries have declined, too. In general, most visa denials among Chinese and Indian students are due not to security concerns but rather to the students' inability to demonstrate their intent to return home after completing their studies."
For more than a decade before 9/11, foreign student enrollment in U.S. graduate schools had grown. And though they brought vitality and innovation to their schools and to the U.S. economy, foreign student applications, admissions and enrollment now are all down.
That trend could be aggravated by new "deemed export" rules proposed by the U.S. government, Teich said. The rules would treat knowledge as an exportable commodity. While the export of sensitive or dual-use technology has long required special licensing, under the new rules such requirements would be extended to basic research laboratories and university classrooms where science and engineering are taught to foreign students.
"As some university representatives have observed, this policy could have a chilling effect on academic research and could compel discriminatory treatment of foreign researchers in U.S. labs," he explained. "In addition, the costs and the bureaucratic headaches involved in determining when licenses are needed and in getting the licenses are staggering, and so universities…are involved in a campaign to oppose these new regulations."
Indeed, a focused effort by U.S. education, science and engineering groups has helped persuade the U.S. government to ease visa restrictions, and that has led to dramatic improvements in the process. The groups are now seeking further changes to make the U.S. system more friendly to foreign researchers and students who don't pose a terrorist threat.
Sohlberg, in her talk, focused in part on the differences between research cultures in Europe and the United States. Where both have achieved broad excellence in scientific research, she said, Europe has failed to fully exploit the research for technological and economic benefits. She called this "the European Paradox."
The European Union Lisbon Agenda from 2000 stated that Europe aims by 2010 to become the "most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world," surpassing the U.S. and Japan. But, Sohlberg suggested, Europe's complex political and cultural natureits "variable geometry" has led to fragmentation and less than optimal returns to R&D.
And, she suggested, Europe as a whole has not matched the U.S. or Japanese commitment to research and development. Finland has nearly 14 research workers for every 1,000 people in its workforce, but that far surpasses the rest of Europe; in the 15 original members of the European Union, the average is less than six researchers per 1,000 workers, and in the nations admitted to the E.U. more recently, there are fewer than four researchers per 1,000. In Japan, there are nine researchers per 1,000 workers, and in the U.S., about eight.
While the U.S. has dramatically increased R&D investment in security and defense since 9/11, Sohlberg said, such investment by Europe has not kept pace, nor has industry's R&D investment. The combined research and technological development budget in E.U. member states is about one-fifth of that in the United States.
Historically, she added, the Cold War, the arms race and the exploration of space have each been "drivers" for U.S. R&D investment; the war against terrorism has the same motivating effect. But Europe, she said, has not had such a driver. The E.U. Framework Program for Research is trying to establish several such "drivers," including Technology Platforms, security-related research and a European Research Council for basic research.
Edward W. Lempinen
6 June 2005