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“Science, Diplomacy and International Affairs in the 21st Century”
It is indeed a pleasure to have this opportunity to briefly discuss issues at the interface of science, international cooperation and foreign policy. These interconnected issues form the centerpiece for my own activities at AAAS — and I hope to take a few minutes to describe some of these as well.
The title of this two-day conference identifies the broad topic, collaborations and networks, and the time the frame of focus, the 21st century.
In terms of the latter, we are speaking of a century which is only a ‘tween — an 11-year-old struggling to find its direction. As the father of a 2-and-a-half year old — I remember being told recently by slightly more seasoned parents: “Oh, you think the early years are tough — wait until they become teenagers!”
And so it is, this young century is moving quickly into its teen years after an eventful and perhaps defining early childhood. The question before this group — and in fact most people working in this area of international science — is how will this maturing century will play out in terms of international policies, scientific discoveries, and international cooperation.
Before looking forward though, I would like to look back — to briefly describe some global trends and some of the matching international science observations — and then look at implications and next steps.
The past 150 years have seen changes in international policies and landscapes. The end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries were defined by nationalism, when nations focused on internal tensions, their dying empires and internal and external threats. After two world wars flamed by jealousies and competition, implemented with horrific and systematic efficiency with rapidly developing technologies, we entered the Cold War period, when polarization — tensions between East and West, communism and democracy — was felt in almost every corner of the world.
By the time East and West reunited, the world entered a period of globalization, catalyzed by such technologies as the Internet, the World Wide Web and the breaking down of walls, literal and symbolic.
And so it has been. For most of the past two decades, globalization and global challenges have defined the international policy context and foreign affairs.
One need only look at the image of then-candidate Barack Obama, addressing the throngs of well-wishers in the streets of Berlin, as he gave a speech entitled “A World that Stands as One,” to see the vision of global cooperation that could address global challenges.
However, over the past few years, driven by economic uncertainty and the rise of new economic powers, we see the emergence of a new type of nationalism around the world.
Fast forward a little over two years — to the point when the economic downturn and its related discontent contributed to historic mid-term election results. In a press conference after the election, now-President Obama stated: “In this century, the most important competition we face is between America and our economic competitors around the world. To win that competition, and to continue our economic leadership.... ” The shift from a world standing as one, to a world in competition marked an obvious but new view to the world.
And this new form of nationalism is not only seen in the United States. A cover from The Economist in 2008 reinforced the view that nationalism, and national identity, have become major forces in China. That idea was further articulated in the lead headline from the December 2010 Economist which states: “China is becoming more nationalistic and more assertive. How will other countries react?”
But a unlike the late 19th century, we are seeing nationalism in a totally globally linked world — a world of rapid information flow where there are global consequences for national or regional actions. And there are implications — many which are important to this community.
Mirroring many of the changes, international science has witnessed transformations over the past century. In the United States, the Cold War was marked by a focus on the importance of science and technology in national security — from Sputnik to Apollo, ICBMs to “star wars” [the proposed space-based missile-defense system], science had its fingerprints and objectives in broader national and international strategy. Even in the U.S. Department of State, the focal point for science activities was in the administrative line that dealt with security and nuclear issues.
By the 1990s, international science switched gears — science became central to addressing global challenges — whether it is climate change or sustainable development — protection of species or investments in the largest of international science projects that were themselves a result of and contributor to the globalization I mentioned earlier.
The internationalization of science to meet global challenges accelerated.
The international science priorities within the Department of State reflected this change and moved to the newly established Under Secretary for Global Affairs from its original perch in the arms control and threat reduction community. I had the opportunity to work in Global Affairs on science and related issues. From this position, I observed the importance of science input into addressing such global challenges as health, environment and biodiversity.
Since the 2008 global economic meltdown, and resulting deep economic stagnation — rhetorically there has been more focus than ever on the term “science for innovation and economic growth.” Though I think that most in this room have long realized that science and its discoveries have always benefited economic growth and innovation, whether that was the rhetorical goal or not.
In fact, in the United States and abroad there is an even greater coupling between science and innovation, research and competitiveness. National priorities for growth are often meeting the global flows of talent and ideas. And more and more topics that drive economic growth internationally are underpinned by science and its applications. Reinforcing this notion is the movement of science responsibilities at the State Department from Global issues to Economic Affairs — a subtle, inside-the-beltway sort of shift that will have some impact on the role of science in international relations.
So even with tighter budgets and the focus on cutting, the science budgets in the United States have seen modest increases. This is true in Europe too, where the next European Framework Program — or the new Horizon 2020 — calls for an even greater increase in science funding at a time when Europe as a whole is struggling to cut budgets and implement its own well-publicized austerity measures. And I think we all know of the double digit increases in science funding throughout most of Asia — most notably China.
These efforts to varying degrees extend around the world from both rapidly developing countries to some of the least developed countries (just look at Rwanda, one of the world’s poorest countries, which has placed science investment as a key element of development strategy).
The central role of science in meeting the dual (and I believe related) goal of addressing global challenges and catalyzing sustainable economic growth requires a well-functioning and a well-interacting science enterprise if solutions to some of the most pressing problems, including and perhaps leading with economic growth, are going to be understood, discovered and implemented.
We live in a world when most funding is through national systems, and thus becoming global can only happen if differences among these systems are reduced to increase the efficiency of research efforts to promote cooperation — even as countries compete for economic advantage globally.
Issues that need to be reconciled in order to build such a well-functioning global science community include such things as:
Codes of conduct — including ethics, integrity, and peer review systems;
Funding — especially for large-scale, big-science projects that address directly societal needs such as energy, water, environment and health, but also for researcher-to-researcher collaborations that involve domestic research agencies; and
Human resources — especially policies and mechanisms that enhance mobility and training of scientists around the world.
Just as we work to strengthen the interactions among scientific communities, we need to better bridge the scientific and international relations, or foreign policy, communities. Within the United States, the State Department has long used its science activities to reinforce broader foreign policy goals, while also responding to global trends in both science and foreign affairs. At the same time, NGOs and universities are playing a bigger role in such efforts — binding together societies especially when governments are unable or unwilling to develop their own connections.
Better understanding these efforts has been the central focus for AAAS and our Center for Science Diplomacy. In fact, during the Cold War, at a time when science was being used by U.S. and Soviet governments to maximize their competitive advantage, scientists from both countries were working together to provide the bridge to each other and our societies so that contacts and connections were maintained event as official relations were strained.
And in China, the original forays to better understanding this closed society involved academic and scientific exchanges, which have continued — and accelerated — to this day. This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Nixon-goes-to-China moment, when the original Shanghai Communiqué initiated efforts to move the U.S.-China relationship beyond the geopolitical and into broader and deeper connections.
Our Center for Science Diplomacy works today in places such as North Korea, Cuba and Burma, among others, building on such a history to demonstrate where and how science might help maintain contacts. But even as we undertake these activities, we are trying to better understand and characterize the issues at the interface of science and foreign policy.
It is with this in mind that we have launched our new quarterly publication, Science & Diplomacy. We hope those in the room today will contribute to the ideas and think-pieces that can help bridge two communities — science and diplomacy. These communities share common concerns and they can help each other with solutions, but all too often they speak different languages.