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Asia-Pacific Leaders Explore Ambitious S&T Cooperation

A group of leaders from the Asia-Pacific science community, convened by AAAS, explored a selection of possible actions that could be taken by governments, universities, funding agencies, and businesses to strengthen cooperation and innovation throughout the region.

In all, the roundtable involving more than 30 leaders from across the region yielded nearly two dozen possible steps for developing “a more coherent and compatible scientific system.” According to a summary of the event released this month, ideas ranged from identifying common challenges and developing shared ethics to making universities hubs for regional collaboration and problem-solving.

The discussion showed how increased science cooperation could play a vital role in supporting the Asia-Pacific research enterprise, said AAAS Board Chair Alice S. Huang: “Given the growth and potential contributions from scientific developments in the Pacific Rim countries, the extraordinarily candid and focused discussion during this initial meeting was an extremely promising start to productive collaboration among scientists and institutions in this part of the world.”

The roundtable, organized by Huang and the AAAS International Office, brought scientists, policy-makers, educators, and others to AAAS headquarters for a full day of discussion on 16 February, the eve of the association’s Annual Meeting. They met under Chatham House Rule, which encourages a frank exchange of ideas by assuring that participants will not be identified or quoted.

The Asia-Pacific region—which includes nations as diverse as China, India, Japan, Australia, Mexico, and Canada—accounts for more than 40% of the world’s population and over half of its economic output. It is also a growing science power. But while important networks such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have developed, the summary suggests that more support is needed from political leaders to drive science cooperation.

As a start, it says, they “could endorse informal, regular discussions by scientific leaders (e.g., science advisers) on S&T cooperation to address regional challenges, barriers, and opportunities.”

Among other potential steps outlined in the five-page summary:

Broad efforts to build partnerships among universities, including curriculum, faculty exchanges, and tenure policies to support regional science;

Collaboration by policy-makers, educators, funding agencies, and others to identify regional issues—and mechanisms for addressing them;

Initiatives led by science organizations to build compatible scientific norms and ethics that could help knit together a regional scientific culture.

(Read the full summary.)