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Vaughan Turekian and Tom Wang: Building an International Network of S&T Knowledge
Energy competition is increasing, geopolitical tensions are rising, and the financial crisis is compounding the strains. But in the newsletter of the Moscow-based International Science & Technology Center, two leaders of AAAS's science diplomacy efforts say the United States and Russia must continue and expand cooperative efforts to address a range of global problems.
In a commentary published last week in the January 2009 issue of the Center's newsletter, AAAS Chief International Officer Vaughan Turekian and Director of International Cooperation Tom Wang say that international science cooperation is especially important in difficult times, both to solve urgent problems and to enhance communication and trust among nations.
"Common issues confront us on a global scale," Turekian and Wang write. "The current financial crisis, international terrorism, the changing climate, and competition over energy supplies all show how interrelated we are.
"National leaders are ever more aware of the reality that solving these and other challenges will require the innovative power of science, engineering and technology. Russia's leaders understand that, and U.S. President Barack Obama does, too. These developments suggest that science diplomacy is entering an important new era, and that, if it is employed to help nations share knowledge and seek common solutions, it can be a powerful force of prosperity and peace."
Turekian also serves as director of the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy, which was founded last year. Wang is the Center's deputy director.
The International Science & Technology Center (ISTC)is an intergovernmental organization linking scientists from Russia, Georgia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with their peers and research organizations in Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Norway and the United States. ISTC works to promote international civilian science projects and to help the global S&T and business community to engage with Russian and CIS scientific institutes.
Its newsletter reaches a select audience of about 10,000 people, including more than 400 ISTC partners: private companies and governmental agencies ranging from Airbus to ExxonMobil and Hitachi; the U.S. Department of Defense (through the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program) and the Environmental Protection Agency; and CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), which launched the Large Hadron Collider last fall with ISTC as one of its active participants. The newsletter also is sent to Canadian, European, Japanese, South Korean, Norwegian, and U.S. government offices that help fund ISTC, and will be translated and sent to Russian leaders and the heads of most major research institutes in Russia and the CIS.
In their commentary, Turekian and Wang note that science cooperation has been a constructive element in relations between the United States, Russia and CIS states since the Cold War. Cooperation in recent decades has paid significant research and economic dividends for both nations.
Today the financial crisis and geopolitical tensions might create inclinations to pull away from such engagement. But with the world confronted by increasing energy needs, climate change, international terrorism and threats of nuclear proliferation, this is a crucial time to continue and expand science cooperation, Turekian and Wang wrote.
They urged the United States and Russia to extend their cooperative S&T relationship to nations worldwide that are making significant new investments in scientific research and education.
"We must work together to address world problems in a way that contributes to sustainable, long-term economic growth," the authors concluded. "Governments play an important role in such partnerships, but they cannot succeed without the commitment of individual researchers in Russia, the United States, and many other countries. If scientists and engineers take leadership, we can pursue new discoveries and solutions to shared problems even as we build understanding and trust between our nations."
3 February 2009