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Photo of Arden Bement

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

"Faster, Stronger, Higher: Expanding the Benefits of U.S.-Japan Science Cooperation"

Hotel New Otani
Tokyo, Japan

May 8, 2009

President Ono, Dr. Winnacker, and esteemed guests:

On behalf of the scientists, engineers and staff at the National Science Foundation, I send greetings to all of you gathered here.

I want to express my profound thanks to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for the opportunity to come to Japan once again.

This afternoon at the Imperial Palace, I had the great honor, an honor unsurpassed in my experience, to receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star. I am humbled by this recognition bestowed upon NSF and upon me personally. I am indebted to President Ono and JSPS for the nomination, and to the Government of Japan for the award. I am especially pleased that my good friend and distinguished colleague, Dr. Winnacker, and I are able to share in our mutual good fortunes to be so honored together.

The nomination letter states that the award is given for meritorious contributions to promoting cooperation and understanding between the United States and Japan in the fields of science and technology.

Although I am delighted to accept the award, it is U.S. and Japanese scientists and engineers who have done the work: they sought out collaborators with complementary talents and synergistic expertise; they found partners with far-reaching vision and tenacious audacity; together they continue to pursue the "grand challenges" facing scientists and engineers the world over.

As director of NSF, it has been my pleasure to visit Japan on many occasions. I last visited Japan in October 2008, the same month when four Japanese scientists won Nobel Prizes.

Dr. Osamu Shimomura won the Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of green fluorescent protein, now used to illuminate cell development and other microscopic processes in living organisms.

The Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by Dr. Nambu, Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago; Dr. Masukawa, Professor, Kyoto Sangyo University; and Dr. Kobayashi, Executive Director, JSPS.

Dr. Nambu discovered the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics.

Dr. Kobayashi and Dr. Masukawa were awarded the Prize for their discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry that predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature.

As President Ono said at the time of the awards, "The wonderful success of this year's four laureates engenders an uplifted spirit of confidence and aspiration among the Japanese people."

At the end of his Nobel Prize lecture, Dr. Shimomura thanked the National Science Foundation for supporting his research over the years. As the current director of the National Science Foundation, may I say that I am delighted to share in the great pride you feel in the achievements of all four of the 2008 Nobelists from Japan.

Dr. Shimomura's contributions to science also validate a long-standing policy of NSF: Namely, Principle Investigators who receive research awards from NSF are free to welcome citizens of any nation to receive funding as graduate students and postdocs working in the investigator’s lab.

Over the years this policy has enabled NSF to welcome to the U.S. many outstanding young scientists and engineers from Japan, who have in turn contributed greatly to the research enterprise of the U.S., and to the goodwill and cooperation between the U.S. and Japan.

There are many reasons for scientists to engage in academic exchanges. I think the core reasons can be best expressed in the three words of the motto of the Olympic athlete: Faster, Higher, Stronger. These three words capture the essence of why we collaborate. I believe that, in many cases, collaborations among partners with complementary talents and resources spark synergies that advance science faster, higher, and stronger.

Our goal as scientists and engineers is to create new knowledge and new know-how. We fuel the human drive to figure out how nature works, and how to best put nature to work. We strive to excel at discovery, at creativity, at ingenuity and invention. One key to success: Work with the best -- the finest in people, in facilities, in physical infrastructure and in social networks, wherever in the world you find them.

The United States and Japan share many examples of exchanges and collaborations that are speeding discovery for scientists and engineers in both countries. We are also jointly cultivating future-looking partnerships in new fields such as computational sciences and in areas as pressing as the environment, energy, and the economy.

Together with researchers from many other nations, our scientists and engineers are forging a more interconnected world of research, discovery and invention.

A splendid example is the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. On my way to Japan, I had the pleasure to stop in Honolulu to participate in a ceremony welcoming the recently renovated drill ship, the JOIDES Resolution, back into service.

This year, 2009, is a banner year for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, because the JOIDES Resolution, the Chikyu, and ships provided by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling will all be in action.

The Chikyu and the JOIDES Resolution are deep-water drill ships that will let us probe the depth and the diversity of the Deep Biosphere; they will let us map and measure the ebb and flow of waters beneath the sea floor.

And they enable us to grasp the structure and dynamics of the Earth's crust.

As the work of the Chikyu and the JOIDES Resolution demonstrates, collaborations with our colleagues in Japan and in other nations are driven, in large part, by the increasing complexity of scientific problems, as well as the growing size and cost of the tools needed to solve them.

Faster, higher and stronger: to put these into action, we know that academic exchanges and collaborations enrich the enterprise of science in at least three ways.

They speed the careers for our scientists and engineers.

They advance science to greater heights.

They provide a stronger role for scientists in global diplomacy beyond politics and economic competition.

Through scientific diplomacy, collaborations in science and engineering can cultivate cooperation and understanding among people, cultures and nations.

With your permission, let me elaborate on these three themes.

First, academic exchanges speed the careers of our scientists and engineers. In addition, exchanges also make for more vibrant lives.

Our approach at NSF is to enable U.S. scientists and engineers of all ages, and at all stages in their career, to participate in research and education projects with partners in Japan, Germany and anywhere in the world. We think it essential to start early and to start fast, and especially to encourage the participation of students and post-docs because these are the vital, formative years. Collaborations between U.S. scientists or engineers in their early 20s and their counterparts in Japan can bear fruit for 30, 40 or 50 years.

By encouraging academic exchanges between Japan and the U.S., we intend to provide students and junior researchers two key benefits: early experience in international collaborative research, and faster connections to research networks on which to build future collaborations for a lifetime.

A key example of this approach is the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for Graduate Students. The Summer Institutes started in 1990 as a U.S.-Japan partnership, and today JSPS is an integral partner in the program.

The collaboration worked so well that NSF now has similar programs with six other partners: Australia, China, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan. JSPS has similarly expanded its program to include the U.K., France, Germany and Canada.

Each year, with the invaluable partnership of JSPS, the Summer Institutes enable about 65 U.S. graduate students in science and engineering to come to Japan for 10 weeks. The U.S. students gain research experience and receive an introduction to the science infrastructure of Japan.

I am delighted that the Japan-U.S. program now counts over 1,250 alumni. For nearly 20 years, the program has been a gateway to enable U.S. students to strengthen professional collaborations and personal networks that will better enable the U.S. students to collaborate with their Japanese counterparts in the future. In fact, I am especially pleased that we are seeing more "second generation" students -- students whose major professors participated in the Summer Institutes many years ago.

These networks often lead to reciprocal exchanges, with U.S. researchers welcoming their Japanese counterparts to visit and work in labs in the U.S.

To enable mid-career researchers to accelerate their careers through international collaborations, the flagship program is the Partnerships for International Research and Education, or PIRE. PIRE aims to leverage complementary resources and expertise among U.S. and international partners.

PIRE projects advance the frontiers of science and engineering in ways that cannot be done without international collaboration. PIRE projects can be large scale, up to five years long, and with budgets of several million dollars. These are big projects for which we have great expectations.

PIRE projects involve partnerships with any institution in the world.

We expect the projects to involve U.S. undergraduate and graduate students, post-docs and other researchers with their international counterparts. They focus on integrating research and education and on synergizing complementary talents and resources.

A splendid example of PIRE collaborations is an award to Rice University in the U.S. for a collaboration with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Osaka Institute of Technology.

This project explores magnetic brightening of carbon nanotubes and ultrafast optical manipulation of ferromagnetism. The project includes a twelve-week summer program that involves 16 freshman and sophomore science and engineering students from U.S. universities. They serve in research internships with academic nanotechnology laboratories here in Japan. These internships are focused on nanoscale semiconductor devices, nanophotonics, and carbon nanotubes.

This program underscores how to put complementary talents and resources to work in achieving common goals of discovery and innovation.

Now from Faster to Higher: Academic exchanges also take science to new heights -- or, in the case of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, to new depths.

For example, the Chikyu is scheduled to leave Shingu here in Japan and is headed for the Nankai Trough Seismogenic Experiment site.

This is a multi-expedition drilling project focused on an earthquake-generating zone. Aboard are the two co-chief project scientists. One is Masataka Kinoshita of the Institute for Frontier Research on Earth Evolution, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. The other is Harold Tobin of the University of Wisconsin.

In exploring to new depths, Dr. Kinoshita eloquently describes the need to speed this research: "Large-scale earthquakes, occurring along the coast of Japan, tragically cause a great deal of death and destruction. It is imperative that we closely study the factors causing such devastating earthquakes...We believe that our results will greatly help people prepare" for future earthquakes and tsunamis.

Faster, Higher, Stronger: To understand and to prepare for earthquakes and tsunamis are critical themes for another joint Japan-U.S. program in earthquake science and engineering.

Disaster preparedness is about discovering ways to leverage infrastructure, to protect it, and to respond and recover when local and regional infrastructure is damaged.

This is vital for Japan and for the United States. Through our joint academic exchanges, together we are able to discover and put to work the best science and engineering to protect our families, to secure our homes, and to safeguard our communities.

To combat devastating earthquake loss, the U.S. and Japan have agreed to enable researchers from each nation to share access to the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) in the U.S., and to the 3-D Full-Scale Earthquake Testing Facility, located in Miki City, near Kobe, Japan. NEES is a network of 15 experimental facilities for earthquake research at universities across the United States. These sites are connected by the NEES grid cyber-infrastructure. The Japanese facility, also called E-Defense -- meaning Earth-Defense -- came on line in January 2005, the 10th anniversary of the Kobe earthquake. Funded by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, it allows the testing of large structures subjected to simulated high-intensity earthquakes.

I am pleased to point out that not all Japan-U.S. exchanges occur in Japan or in the U.S.

For example, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array project is an international partnership among Europe, North America and Japan, in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA, which will be the premier millimeter and submillimeter telescope in the world, is under construction in the Altiplano region of northern Chile. Due to be completed in 2012, it will comprise an array of up to 64 12-meter antennas, with an additional compact array supplied by Japan.

ALMA will probe fundamental questions in astronomy such as the origins of planetary systems and the nature of early galaxies.

While ALMA helps us explore an expanding universe, our academic exchanges in cyberinfrastructure are expanding the capacity for world-wide research collaboration. The U.S. and Japan have been at the forefront of efforts to link researchers through the Internet.

In April 2005, Indiana University in the U.S. and three organizations in Japan -- the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, the National Institute of Informatics, and the Asia-Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) -- signed a Memorandum of Understanding to inaugurate TransPAC2. This high-speed Internet service connects research and education networks in the Asia-Pacific region to those in the U.S. by an underwater transpacific high-performance network cable.

From ocean drilling to earthquake engineering to cyberinfrastructure, these and other projects affirm the vibrant academic exchanges between the United States and Japan to drive advances in science and engineering.

That brings me to the third area that is made stronger by academic exchanges between Japan and the U.S. In addition to advancing careers and speeding research, academic exchanges and international collaborations strengthen and cultivate science diplomacy.

Science diplomacy represents a shift from an emphasis on global competition to one on global cooperation. Envisioned in the light of cooperation, science diplomacy is broad-ranging. It can encompass collaborations between the U.S. and other developed nations -- projects such as the carbon nanotube program in which Japanese and U.S. expertise complement each other.

Science diplomacy also includes collaborations between the U.S. and developing countries, in which U.S. scientists and engineers work with colleagues in developing nations to help build capacity to explore and to deal with issues such as climate change and water resource management. As I understand it, the program here in Japan entitled "Dispatch of Science and Technology Researchers" envisions a similar role for scientists and engineers from Japan to engage with colleagues in developing countries.

Thus, science diplomacy is a vibrant avenue for scientists and engineers acting in the sphere of public diplomacy to contribute to global prosperity and to create goodwill among nations. This work is so important to NSF that we are currently exploring ways we might accelerate our investments in international collaboration through graduate education.

Therefore, as I come to the end of my remarks, let me extend an invitation to begin a new venture together. I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you, my colleagues in Japan, so that together we can find ways to speed the advancement of science diplomacy.

In closing, I can think of no better way to express my gratitude for the honor you have bestowed on me for past work in promoting cooperation and understanding, than to join with you to continue that good work into the future.