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Photo of Kathie L. Olsen
Credit: Sam Kittner/kittner.com

Dr. Kathie L. Olsen
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation

"Working Together: U.S.-Norway Cooperation in Science and Education"
The Norwegian Research & Technology Forum in the United States and Canada; Transatlantic Co-operation and Competition in Research, Innovation and Higher Education

Royal Norwegian Embassy
Washington, D.C.
October 31, 2005

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.

Ambassador Voellebaek, Ambassador Naess, Dr. Mikletun, and distinguished guests: Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to speak today.

I am honored to again participate in the discussions of the Norwegian Research and Technology Forum. Many in this room know that I have strong ties to Norway for a number of reasons. As a professional, I recognize that Norwegian universities, institutes and their researchers and educators are among the best in the world, as are Norway's unique "laboratories" -- so much so, that several of our Federal research agencies -- NASA, NOAA, USGS, and of course NSF -- have benefited greatly from our partnerships. But many of you also know that I have personal ties as well.

[Slide #1: Dr. Olsen's Arctic Circle Certificate]
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I am proud to say that I crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time in 1988, and I have a certificate to commemorate the occasion. As Mark Twain once said, "It was so cold that if the thermometer had been an inch longer we all would have frozen to death." I have to admit that when I was at the Nord Kapp in July of 1988, I actually thought that! I was also a member of the Polar Bear Society in Hammerfest. You need to be present on Jan 1 to vote, but I have not made that event yet, although several of my relatives have!

My family is only one among many in the U.S. that feels a close affinity with Norway and Norwegians. We commemorate, with all of you, Norway's Centennial Anniversary. And we are delighted that our two nations continue to enjoy a long history of cooperation, shown recently when Norway generously provided supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims.

[Slide #2: Title Slide]
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This Forum targets another kind of cooperation -- focused on scientific research and education.

Science and engineering have always flourished across national borders, but today's global scale of research is unprecedented. New Ideas and discoveries emerge regularly around the world... and are transmitted instantaneously. International collaboration is now essential for the advancement of knowledge.

Science has always been international in its transparency and openness. Results of fundamental research -- from the origins of the universe to the fundamental properties of matter, from the interaction of oceans and atmosphere to the human genome -- are open to all; they are international activities, human activities.

And science has always been a force for human progress. We all have a stake in advancing understanding of climate change, emerging diseases, sustainable energy, and earthquake and storm research, to name just a few areas were scientific advances are critical for our society.

[Slide #3: Satellite View of Arctic Region]
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A view from the "top" of the world shows what close neighbors we really are. And like all neighbors the world over, we have common interests -- in this case, the Arctic.

In the Arctic, we are beginning to document the outlines of environmental change, from sea extent, retreating glaciers, shifting patterns in flora and fauna, to environmental observations by Arctic natives. Comprehending the course and causes of these changes is a key goal of NSF's activities in the Arctic -- and I know it is also one for our neighbors as well.

NSF, as the major U.S. supporter of basic research in the region, is committed to gathering the information -- oceanic, terrestrial, atmospheric, and cultural -- that will help us refine our models and interpret these changes. NSF also plays a vital Federal coordinating role for Arctic research. The NSF director chairs the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee.

[Slide #4: SEARCH Report Cover with Polar Bear]
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NSF has already joined with seven sister agencies in a coordinated, large-scale effort to understand the Arctic -- called SEARCH, the Study of Environmental Arctic Change. To comprehend the fragments of environmental change we have traced, we must ultimately understand the dynamics of climate across the entire region.

The interest of other nations in transforming SEARCH into an international effort has led to the establishment of the International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC). Clearly, we will have to cooperate internationally if we are going to unravel the extraordinary complexity of Arctic systems and dynamics.

And we are already working together to further research and education. Last year, I had the opportunity to represent the U.S. at a meeting of the Arctic Council of Ministers for Education and Science in Iceland, where the eight arctic nations (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) and a number of indigenous peoples' organizations played an equally important role in strengthening cooperation. This is only one example of how we can further our ties of friendship and research collaboration. There are many others as well, some quite broader than studying the environment. Here are some quick highlights that feature our recent activities with Norway.

I will begin with one that has garnered international media attention. It demonstrates just how powerful ideas can be.

[Slide #5: Center for Bits and Atoms Logo and Quote]
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The Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT is an NSF-sponsored research center. The Center was established to investigate the possibility of fabricating just about anything atom by atom -- one of the key questions for the burgeoning field of nanotechnology.

A surprising offshoot of this research is Fab Lab, developed by the Center's Director Neil Gerschenfeld. With simple off-the-shelf equipment, each Fab Lab provides the capability for local fabrication of items of use to local communities.

[Slide #6: Fab Lab Norway Before]
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Here you see Fab Lab Norway -- in its earliest days -- and as it is today. Norwegian farmer Haakon Karlson developed a way of tracking sheep in the dark winter hours by modifying a cell phone.

[Slide #7: Fab Lab Norway After]
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In cooperation with MIT, he has established a flourishing Fab Lab -- opened just this past summer -- which is now developing wireless communications technologies for humans as well as sheep!

[Slide #8: Healy Arctic Ocean Transect]
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A more traditional collaboration moved forward just this past summer. An international team from Norway, Sweden and the U.S. completed a geophysical transect of the Arctic Ocean to collect data on ridge structures and sediment. The venture involved both the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy and the Swedish icebreaker Oden and had scientists from seven countries on board. The Norwegian Petroleum Institute provided support, as did NSF and Swedish agencies.

[Slide #9: Arctic Marine Laboratory]
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NSF is planning to provide support for U.S. researchers to work with international colleagues at Norway's Arctic Marine Laboratory in Svalbard, officially opened this past summer. We expect this cooperation to flourish in the coming years as U.S. researchers continue to develop new partnerships and explore the rich resources at this world-class facility.

[Slide #10: US REU Site in Svalbard]
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We know that exposure to cutting-edge research at any level of education motivates students to continue studies in science. NSF supports the continuous integration of research and education from pre-school through post-graduate. Our Research Experience for Undergraduates program (REU) is designed to provide this enriching experience to undergraduates.

At Svalbard, which has seen profound shrinking of sea ice and glacial retreat over the past century, U.S. students study glacial lake and marine systems to reconstruct climate changes. Undergraduates work with student colleagues and faculty mentors to design their own research questions. The field research is done in collaboration with the Norwegian University Center on Svalbard and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

If we can help inspire young people to pursue a future in science, we would be performing one of the most significant and enduring acts of public service. A key priority for NSF is to develop programs and opportunities that excite, engage, enlist and train the next generation of scientists. Nothing could be more effective than giving students and young researchers the opportunity to work on international research teams!

The NSF International Research Fellowship Program enables U.S. scientists and engineers, at the beginning of their careers, to conduct research with outstanding investigators abroad.

[Slide #11: Dovekies]
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Working with scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso, U.S. researcher Dr. Nina Karnovsky is looking at dovekies, Arctic seabirds. She is observing how they adjust their foraging to variations in the distribution of two major currents that pass near their colonies at Spitsbergen. The study will provide evidence of how weather-driven changes in currents may impact seabirds, and it may eventually provide a way to detect signals of climate change through observations of dovekie behavior -- much like canaries were used in coalmines.

Opportunities to meet face to face and to work together through such international programs are the basis for friendships that enrich our collaborations. As we work across all boundaries to open new frontiers in science, we are also building bridges between nations, and advancing global prosperity and peace.

[Slide #12: International Polar Year 2007-2008]
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One opportunity to do this on a very broad scale is the upcoming International Polar Year. At NSF, we believe that the IPY -- spanning 2007 and 2008 -- will be an unprecedented opportunity for international collaboration in both research and education. The challenge will be to advance our scientific understanding of these highly complex environments and also to raise public awareness of the global significance of the Polar Regions.

The National Science Foundation is the lead U.S. agency for IPY. Dr. Karl Erb, who heads the NSF Office of Polar Programs, will be speaking here tomorrow, about U.S. and NSF plans for IPY. I hope all of you have the opportunity to hear him. I know Norway and Canada, together with many other nations, are enthusiastic supporters of IPY as well.

One reason for optimism about the success of IPY is the revolution in information and communication technologies that has swept science and engineering. We can look forward to a gigantic leap forward in our ability to gather, share and analyze massive data sets. Working together internationally means making the most of these powerful new tools.

[Slide #13: Sensors and Cyberinfrastructure]
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Progress in information and communications technology is yet another arena in which Norway and the U.S. have enjoyed successful cooperation -- beginning in 1999, through support for Eurolink. NSF partnered with the Nordic countries to ensure that high performance connections across the Atlantic are available to researchers. Today, we continue to partner in supporting next-generation grid technologies that will make international scientific collaboration even more productive.

Providing cyberinfrastructure for scientific research and education is a top priority for NSF. Distributed data banks, shared computer and visualization facilities, and other tools of the future will enable truly international research. They will give the research community the capability to call upon scientific and engineering talent wherever it is located and whenever it is needed.

The few examples of cooperation that I've mentioned today only scratch the surface of the deeper relationship that U.S. researchers have with our neighbors.

Many of you know that the U.S. and Norwegian governments have been working with the Norwegian Research Council to conclude a framework agreement that will foster even greater collaboration in research between Norway and the U.S. I know that there is great enthusiasm for this agreement on the part of both nations. I look forward to the speedy conclusion of this agreement.

[Slide #14: US Share of Norwegian Internationally Co-Authored Papers]
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There can be no doubt that the potential for broader and deeper collaboration exists for our nations. But are we doing everything we can to realize this potential? In 1994, U.S. scientists collaborated with Norwegian researchers on 29.6 percent of scientific papers published with international coauthors. Today, that figure has dropped to 26.3 percent! We clearly need to do more!

[Slide #15: Henrik Ibsen Quote]
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I think this quote from the illustrious Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen captures the spirit of our work. "A community," he said, "is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm."

I believe that describes the international science and engineering community in today's world. And it will be even more so for the youngsters we are training today. Genuine international collaboration -- with everyone prepared to steer the ship -- is the future of science and the future of our planet.

Thank you.



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