Toward an International Materials Research Network
Status Report, January 2002

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Ongoing and Future Activities

Ongoing and Future Activities

A sixth workshop involving Middle East countries is being explored. Lance Haworth and David Nelson from NSF visited counterpart funding agencies and materials research institutions in Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey in the fall of 2000, and Robert Eisenstein and David Nelson met with agency officials, researchers and educators in Israel in 2001. A planning meeting for the US-Middle East materials workshop is tentatively scheduled for 2002 in Ankara, Turkey.

As a result of the joint National Science Foundation-European Commission workshop, an implementing arrangement between the European Commission and the National Science Foundation for cooperative activities in the field of materials sciences is now in effect (see http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2000/nsf0018/nsf0018.htm). The first awards were made in 2000 and 2001 following open competitions which involved coordinated review by the NSF and the EC. In two of the new collaborations, for example, inter-university US teams are partnering with multinational European research groups to fabricate novel nanostructured materials and to elucidate their behavior. A joint NSF-EC workshop to identify research opportunities in nanotechnology was held in Toulouse in October 2000; a series of four topical workshops in 'nano' planned for the US and Europe in 2002 will build on the findings of the Toulouse workshop.

Efforts to develop additional US-European interactions that complement and extend the NSF-EC cooperation are also bearing fruit. With the help of the NSF Office of International Science and Engineering, MPS staff organized a series of meetings with staff from European funding agencies beginning in 1998 to exchange information about national funding programs in materials, and to explore interest in supporting bilateral and multilateral research and education cooperation. The NSF is now preparing an announcement to the research community, better known as "Dear Colleague Letter" to initiate joint activities in cooperation with several European agencies including the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in Germany; the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), the Consorzio Interuniversitario per la Scienza e la Tecnologia dei Materiali (INSTM), and L'Instituto Nazionale per la Fisica della Materia (INFM) in Italy; the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research; Science Foundation of Ireland; and others. A workshop to identify opportunities for US-Italy cooperation in materials and nanotechnology is planned for March 2002 at the NSF.

"Dear Colleague Letters" are also being prepared by science funding agencies in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, as well as by NSF to initiate joint activities involving scientists and engineers from these countries in response to the recommendations of the workshops held in Saltillo and in Rio de Janeiro.

In order to explore ways to implement the recommendations of the Pretoria workshop, a meeting of government officials from thirteen African countries and the NSF was held on August 13, 2001 in Nairobi, Kenya. The minutes of this meeting are attached. A second meeting of this kind will be held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2002.

With respect to Asian Pacific countries, implementation of the Hawaii workshop recommendations is being discussed with various science funding agencies in these countries. A meeting in Moscow is planned for 2002 to explore ways to enhance scientific collaborations between materials researchers in Russia and their counterparts in the US. The Russian Foundation for Basic Research will host this meeting. Similar meetings are expected to take place with agencies in other major Asian Pacific regions (e.g., Australia, China, India, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea) over the next few years.

The NSF is preparing an "International Materials Institutes (IMIs)" competition in early CY 2002. It is expected that this competition will lead to the establishment of up to 3 IMIs that would address recommendations 1-5 mentioned above, serving as the initial US nodes of a world-wide network for international cooperation in materials research and education. This is a joint activity involving several directorates, including Engineering; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (Office of International Science Engineering); and Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

The countries mentioned in this report that contributed to the organization of the workshops will form the core of the envisioned world-wide materials network. Countries that sent observers to the workshops or those that were not represented may, of course, join the network at any time by forming partnerships with appropriate government and private organizations in other countries and issuing their own announcements to their respective research communities.

The materials network, once it is fully operational in a few years, should serve as an example for the other sciences and engineering fields to follow. We believe that international networks connecting scientists and engineers around the world are increasingly important as the new millennium unfolds, and as the demands of economic and global security test our scientific, engineering and technological capabilities more than ever.

Adriaan de Graaf
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
National Science Foundation

January 2002

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