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Remarks

Photo of Arden Bement

Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr.
Director
National Science Foundation
Biography

"International Cooperation, The Future of Science and Engineering"
National Natural Science Foundation of China,
20th Anniversary Celebration

Beijing, China
May 25, 2006

See also slide presentation.

If you're interested in reproducing any of the slides, please contact the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs: (703) 292-8070.

[Slide #1: Title Slide]
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President of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and Respected Guests. I am honored to be here today among distinguished scientists, engineers, and statesmen from the People's Republic of China and around the globe.

And I'm genuinely delighted to join you in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. On behalf of the U.S. National Science Foundation, congratulations for your many achievements in advancing science.

In many respects, the NSFC and NSF are "sister" organizations. We both aim to support fundamental research, knowing that our investments at the frontiers of knowledge will fuel scientific progress and spur technological innovation. Perhaps the most important characteristic that we share is a common goal: to seek out and support the very best research, and to work in collaboration as fully and effectively as possible.

Our commitment to excellence in research leads us to engage the scientific community in identifying the most promising directions and the best researchers through a system of merit review. Our commitment to international cooperation requires us to look always for ways to renew and deepen our partnership.

With so much common ground, it's no surprise that the cooperation between NSFC and NSF has flourished and grown. Our history has been one of ever-increasing effectiveness and longstanding friendship.

[Slide #2: International Cooperation in Science]
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All of us here have worked across national boundaries to expand the frontiers of knowledge. My remarks today emphasize a single theme: international cooperation in science is not a luxury; it is a necessity -- and the foundation for the future.

Science and technology have always been a powerful force for human progress. Today, more than ever before in history, we have the opportunity to advance global prosperity as we expand the frontiers of knowledge. Our commitment to international collaboration will determine how effective we are in realizing this great potential.

Advances in science and engineering have become central to the aspirations of all nations. Nations understand that building powerful economic momentum can come about through building a world-class science and engineering workforce and research capacity. Let me mention a few indicators of these trends.

[Slide #3: R&D Expenditures]
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Investments in research have been rising, because all nations understand the power of science and technology in transforming their economies and improving the lives of their citizens.

[Slide #4: 24-Year-Olds Holding S&E Degrees]
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In country after country, the number of 24-year-olds holding science and engineering degrees has been increasing, sometimes significantly. An example is China's more than three-fold increase between 1983 and 2002. That is an extraordinary accomplishment. Yet despite progress in this area by many nations, we all face the need to train more of our young people in science and engineering than ever before.

[Slide #5: The Conduct of Science Is Changing]
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But something else new and vital is happening. The very conduct of science and engineering is changing. Boundaries between disciplines are blurring, and increasingly novel discoveries occur in the unexplored territory where different fields of science and engineering converge.

It is not that individual scientists matter less today. Rather, individuals from different disciplines, with diverse perspectives and skills, now work together to capture the extraordinary complexity of today's science and engineering challenges.

Discovery is no longer the purview of one scientist, one institution, or one nation. It is increasingly the result of connections that criss-cross the globe. Thanks to our enhanced communications technologies, the science and engineering community is now global in scope.

New ideas can burst forth from anywhere in the world, sometimes simultaneously in different labs. Thanks to the Internet, researchers worldwide learn about these sooner, and the time span between revelations grows shorter and shorter.

[Slide #6: Scientific and Technical Articles with International Coauthorship]
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In research, we see a rising share of the world's scientific and technical publications with co-authors from different countries.

[Slide #7: R&D Performed by Affiliates of Foreign Companies in US and by Foreign Affiliates of US]
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Similarly, the flow of international investments in research and development made by industry has also risen over the last decade -- a recognition that scientific talent can be found in many nations.

The newest scientific challenges can only be met by embracing international collaboration. These new modes of working are essential to meeting the grand scientific challenges of our era -- those overarching goals that require a cooperative, large-scale effort. I'd like to explore with you just a few examples of how the modern interplay of teams, tools, and international collaboration is transforming how science takes place -- and increasing the benefits that flow from it.

Here is a recent example of world-class international discovery.

[Slide #8: Castorocauda lutrasimilis]
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I know all of you will recognize this little fellow, who appeared on the cover of Science magazine several months ago.1

Preserved with pelt intact, the fossil of this semi-aquatic mammal was unearthed at a site in Inner Mongolia. This mammal is the largest yet known to have lived in the era of dinosaurs2, and the earliest known to have lived partly in water. Dr. Qiang Ji led the international team of researchers from Nanjing University, the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, and Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the U.S.

This is a superb example of international cooperation among world-class scientists, made possible through funding from Chinese and U.S. agencies -- including the NSFC, NSF, and China's Ministry of Science and Technology [MOST] and Ministry of Land Resources.

This discovery also reminds us that science has entered a new era. We are beginning to realize the full potential of the past to provide insight into the present -- in the case of this small mammal, better understanding of the history of life on earth, and what it can teach us about ecosystems today.

Discovery now encompasses vast scales of time and space, and often requires the pooling of talent and resources from around the globe.

[Slide #9: Chinese and American Researchers Working on IODP]
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An example is research on climate variability and change. These researchers from China and the U.S. are working on core samples obtained from the ocean floor as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Project (IODP). They are studying cores that date from about fifty-five million years ago to gain insight into the record of climatic conditions across the millennia. Such data will illuminate our understanding of today's global climate dynamics -- a pressing question of global significance.

We need multiple, innovative perspectives to meet worldwide challenges such as climate, seismic hazards, and the need for sustainable energy and water supplies. In many cases, we need globally linked observatories to gather and integrate data.

[Slide #10: Global Seismographic Network]
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A case in point is the Global Seismographic Network, the primary international source of data for locating earthquakes and warning of tsunamis. NSF, together with the US Geological Survey, funds GSN which works with over 100 host organizations in 59 countries worldwide.

[Slide #11: Sumatra-centric View]
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Some of the GSN stations are depicted here in a Sumatra-centric view. Within eight minutes of this devastating quake, data flashed via satellite and the Internet to the GSN Data Center and beyond.

Geophysicists will be making discoveries based on these recordings for some time. As important, the GSN could serve as part of the foundation to expand our capability for tsunami warning in many areas of the world and help us prevent disasters.

[Slide #12: Rice Plant]
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International cooperation is also an important way to quicken the pace of research when the results are urgently needed. An example is the rice genome. Rice holds the distinction of being the first crop plant whose genome has been sequenced. Scientists around the world will use the wealth of new information in efforts to improve yields in not only rice, but also in other closely related grass crops such as barley, corn, rye, sugarcane and wheat. The Japanese-led consortium pooled the talents of sequencing groups in ten countries.

Our ability to work on global scales is, in large measure, a result of revolutionary advances in computer, information and communication technologies. These powerful technologies are the engines driving international cooperation in science and engineering.

[Slide #13: GLORIAD]
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Here you see GLORIAD -- the high performance network that literally encircles the globe. Originally connecting Beijing, Moscow, and Chicago, GLORIAD now has several branches in China and in Russia, and links to Amsterdam and Korea.

As high performance networks develop in every nation and among all continents, remaining barriers to global communication will topple. We need to encourage common ground and establish compatibility through a standard set of protocols. In time, a full complement of cyberinfrastructure will knit the international community into a seamless tapestry.

This is just the beginning of great transformation. We know how to share and gather information, but we have not yet tapped the full power of these technologies to transform discovery. The cyberinfrastructure of the future will raise research and education to an entirely new plane.

[Slide #14: International Long Term Ecological Research Network]
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Here you see the nations participating in the longstanding, International Long-term Ecological Research program. This program supports scientists and students studying processes over long periods and across broad scales. It extends to marine sites, the Antarctic, urban areas, and even to agricultural ecosystems around the globe

It wasn't always that way. The ILTER network was first conceived as a research program at isolated, pristine sites. Now we recognize that all ecosystems lie on a gradient from "near-pristine" to "highly engineered," or even "constructed." ILTER scientists are now working on creating a true network. They are beginning to probe overarching questions that draw upon a number of sites. One prime aim is to enable ecological forecasting.

NSF supports the development of model observatory systems. When these are developed and in place, they will transform the potential of ILTER and other sites to accomplish these broader objectives.

[Slide #15: Ocean Observatory Initiative]
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An example is the Ocean Observatory Initiative (OOI). The OOI will comprise a regional network of interconnected sites on the seafloor. The scientific problems driving the need for the OOI are broad in scope and encompass nearly every area of ocean science. Once established, the observatories will provide earth and ocean scientists with unique opportunities to study multiple, interrelated processes over timescales ranging from seconds to decades. They will be able to conduct comparative studies of regional processes and spatial characteristics. Eventually, ocean observatories will map whole-earth and basin scale structures.

[Slide #16: NEES]
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Another type of cooperative research is NEES -- the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, dedicated to the grand challenge of preventing earthquake disasters. NEES facilities simulate earthquakes and study how infrastructure and materials perform during seismic events.

NEES is a virtual collaboratory that links researchers at some 20 geographically distributed equipment sites through high-speed Internet connections. Researchers and students are able to operate equipment and observe experiments from anywhere on the net. They have access to a bank of earthquake engineering data and to high performance computational tools for analysis, simulation, visualization and modeling. Virtual collaboratories like NEES may soon become the norm for international research efforts.

We envision that both of these systems -- NEON and NEES -- will be models for a new age of scientific observation, experimentation and simulation. They will reach their full potential only when they are linked to similar facilities around the globe.

[Slide #17: Students on Great Wall of China]
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Educational activities are also an integral part of the planning for both NEON and the NEES. This central theme of the National Science Foundation -- integrating research and education -- has remained constant throughout the Foundation's history. We recognize the long-term value in university research laboratories serving as a training-ground for graduate and undergraduate students. As students work side-by-side with researchers, they learn the cutting-edge of discovery first hand and share in the excitement of exploring unknown territory.

These lessons are increasingly critical for international cooperation as well. Nothing we can do in the international research community could be more important than providing world class science and mathematics education for our youngsters, and opportunities for our young scientists and engineers to participate in international activities. They need these opportunities to share perspectives and build friendships that will lead to even greater international cooperation in the future.

[Slide #18: Visualization of Internet Connection]
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One more aspect of the changing conduct of science is increased public engagement and participation in science, fueled, again, by information technology -- particularly the Internet. The old model advocated the public understanding of science, which implies a one-way flow of knowledge to a seemingly passive public.

Now we think, instead, of engagement and exchange. Volunteers are helping to conduct biodiversity surveys. And at science websites, visitors can view -- and manipulate -- real-time data on atmosphere, astronomy, and a variety of other phenomena. This is another connection that can carry the excitement of frontier research to youngsters in the classroom.

[Slide #19: Planet Earth]
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Let me conclude with this final thought. Whole new territories of knowledge are on the horizon, with the promise of major advances just ahead. We can begin to envision how new knowledge and technological innovation can help us solve centuries-old problems.

As we develop new ways to work together, we will speed the application of new knowledge to these common problems. In a similar vein, we can extend international cooperation to countries large or small that are still struggling to develop a strong science and engineering enterprise. The common pursuit of new knowledge is a powerful tool for bringing people together toward the common goal of solving problems and building a world of peace and prosperity.

As scientists and engineers, we have much in common. We relish our diverse national cultures, and we also share a common culture of learning, inquiry, and discovery. As each of us aims to strengthen our nation's capabilities in research and discovery, we also aim to contribute to the cumulative knowledge that lifts the prospects of people everywhere.

Ours is increasingly a global society -- in the challenges we face and in the scale of dynamics that characterize the science we use to face them. No matter where we live, we live in a globally engaged world, driven at its best by discovery. Our great responsibility is to realize, and pass on, its promise to all.


1 Qiang JI, Zhe-Xi Luo, Chong-Xi Yuan, Alan R. Tabrum, A Swimming Mammaliaform from the Middle Jurassic and Ecomorphological Diversification of Early Mammals, Science (311) 1123-1127. The research team was led by Dr. Qiang Ji of Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences (Beijing, China) and Dr. Zhe-Xi Luo of Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh, USA). The art for the Science magazine cover was created by Mark A. Klingler, scientific illustrator at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
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2 Jurassic; the fossil is approximately 164 million years old.
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