News: AAAS 2008 Annual Meeting News Blog
Global Cooperation Makes the Most of S&T Talent, Speakers Say
From left: Mark Fishman, Shirley Ann Jackson, Janez Potočnik, and moderator David Baltimore.
BOSTON -- Although competition between countries for talented science and technology workers and S&T industry is "good, natural and healthy," international cooperation between researchers should be encouraged strongly because it helps all nations get the most out of the S&T enterprise, said panelists at a 15 February topical lecture at the AAAS Annual Meeting.
The session brought together government, university and industry leaders in a unique discussion moderated by AAAS President David Baltimore on the advantages and stumbling blocks of international S&T cooperation. The panelists came prepared with answers to some of the most pressing concerns about the globalization of science, including how talent should be nurtured and how industries seek out regions conducive to innovation.
The old model of industrial and academic research was one in which the West, particularly the United States, was a natural draw for talented individuals and investment from all over the world. But "now that people and companies are moving faster than ever...what is increasing is the real competition between places," said Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Science and Research for the European Commission.
Europe, like many regions, is working to move from a resource to a knowledge-based economy, Potočnik acknowledged. Part of the European Commission's work toward that goal is to create a "freedom of knowledge" between member countries and to make sure that the research and development enterprise is supported by all parts of government, not just science ministries.
The benefits of international cooperation to individual countries should be made clear and not taken for granted, he warned. "Many times when you hear, 'we would like to protect some national interest,' in reality this protection of national interest is exactly contrary to the national interest in science, which is openness and cooperation," he said.
In fact, many of the world's pressing problems--from climate change to the spread of disease--have no isolated solution, several of the panel speakers noted. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a past president of AAAS, said students at Rensselaer will soon be required to study abroad for a semester or work in an international institute as part of their undergraduate requirements, to prepare them for facing these global issues.
Jackson said American universities were jolted by the loss of international students in the wake of new visa requirements and "perceived unwelcomeness" after September 11, 2001. Although international enrollment in U.S. schools is on the rise again, Jackson said the U.S. needs to do more to develop its own human capital even as it attracts foreign students.
In particular, the U.S. needs "to do all that it can seek out and nurture all of the talent, including the talent among the new majority in the United States, comprising young women and ethnic groups traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," she noted.
"We cannot presume to have tapped the best talent unless we have tapped the complete talent," Jackson added.
Mark Fishman, president of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, discussed the question of how to deploy talent effectively once it has been discovered. It's a challenge that Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies face in an industry that was not known for a particularly innovative spirit in its earlier history, he noted.
Novartis operates in 140 countries, and Fishman has been asked to build a model for "discovery in a global environment." Faced with the competition versus cooperation question, Fishman chose cooperation as the guiding principle for the company's six research centers.
He has also encouraged greater sharing between industry and universities, while acknowledging wariness on both sides. "I've been struck by the passion with which my colleagues in universities want to help patients," Fishman said. "There's a true deep seated desire to do that ...and if you want to help the patient, you have to be able to work with someone who can bring it through to resolution."
The panelists spoke at the topical panel "Advancing Science and Fostering Innovation Through International Cooperation: A Trans-Atlantic Perspective."