In the 21st century, advances in
science and engineering (S&E) will to a large measure determine
economic growth, quality of life, and the health and security of
our planet. The conduct, communication, and use of science, all
intrinsically global, are increasingly important in addressing many
critical global issues. Awareness of the importance of investing
in S&E research and education has grown throughout the world,
and many countries have taken steps to expand such investments.
The ability of science and engineering to contribute to societal
goals, address global problems, and make useful contributions to
foreign policy relies to a high degree on global communication and
cooperation in science and engineering.
New ideas and discoveries are emerging from all over the world and
the balance of S&E expertise is shifting among countries. Many
research problems require scientists and engineers in different
countries to work together. Collaborative activities and international
partnerships provide increasingly important means of keeping abreast
of new insights and discoveries critical to maintaining U.S. leadership
position in key fields. They also contribute to building more stable
relations among communities and nations by creating a universal
language and culture based on commonly accepted values of objectivity,
sharing, integrity, and free inquiry.
International S&E collaboration encompasses a complex network
of activities, with numerous participants and stakeholders, including
industry, universities, professional societies, international organizations,
private foundations, and governments. In the context of the United
States, the Federal Government has played a significant role over
the years in promoting international S&E activities through
the work of its agencies with S&E missions, and by supporting
research with international dimensions by scientists and engineers
at U.S. universities. Science and engineering have also been important
components of major foreign policy issues, such as arms control
and global climate change. The role of the Federal Government will
continue to be critical in supporting communication and collaboration
in science and engineering. How to improve the effectiveness of
the Federal role in international science and engineering is the
subject of this report.
The National Science
Board (NSB)(1) has periodically assessed
the role and needs of science and engineering in the international
arena. In February 1999, the NSB established a Task Force on International
Issues in Science and Engineering. The task force was charged with
addressing two tasks. The first was to develop recommendations for
strengthening the Federal institutional framework of policies and
agency relations that support S&E research and education in
an international setting. The second was to develop recommendations
for an effective leadership role for the National Science Foundation
(NSF) in international science and engineering in the 21st
century.(2) The task force engaged in an
extensive review of relevant policy documents and reports and held
hearings and consultations with experts and stakeholders.
The following key themes emerged during this information-gathering
- The need for more effective
coordination of the U.S. Governments international S&E
and S&E-related activities and greater consistency in meeting
its international commitments;
- The importance of increased
international cooperation in fundamental research and education,
particularly with developing countries and by younger scientists
and engineers; and
- The need to improve the use of S&E information
in foreign policy deliberations and in dealing with global issues
Based on these findings, the Board has concluded that
serious re-examination of the United States Governments role
in international S&E research and education and the contribution
of these activities to foreign policy is essential. Retaining the
status quo would jeopardize future U.S. economic and scientific
leadership and diminish the Nations ability to address important
global problems. New approaches to the management and coordination
of U.S. international S&E activities are needed if the United
States is to maintain the long term vitality of the U.S. economy
and its S&E enterprise. The Board urges implementation of seven
specific actions and makes the following overarching recommendation:
The U.S. Government should move expeditiously
to ensure the development of a more effective, coordinated framework
for its international S&E research and education activities.
This framework should integrate science and engineering more explicitly
into deliberations on broader global issues and should support cooperative
strategies that will ensure our access to worldwide talent, ideas,
information, S&E infrastructure, and partnerships.
A. U.S. Government Preparation for, Coordination
and Management of, and Commitment to Its International S&E Research
and Education Activities.
Although U.S. Government involvement in international
S&E related activities is growing, a clear picture of the activities
of the various Federal agencies and the degree of coordination among
them is lacking. Effective coordination and management require more
extensive and more timely information about international S&E
activities even though such information is often difficult to gather
and interpret and mechanisms for communicating and sharing this
information are not always adequate.
In many cases official international S&E
agreements have no associated budget authority. Only a small fraction
of overall Federal expenditures for international S&E activities
is derived from specifically designated international program budgets.
This lack of designation frequently leads to a paucity of funds
for management, coordination, and communication of internationally
focused activities. Appropriate structures and mechanisms for effective
coordination and management are needed to eliminate unnecessary
duplication, prevent inefficiencies, and facilitate synergy. An
additional problem is the difficulty of maintaining interest in
and support for long-term international projects, which has led
to the United States becoming perceived at times as an unreliable
international S&E partner.(3)
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
should strengthen its international focus to ensure an effective,
integrated, visible, and sustained role in monitoring, coordinating,
and managing U.S. international S&E research and education activities.
As part of this effort, OSTP should actively encourage Federal agencies
to identify and increase the visibility of their international S&E
research and education activities, to provide an adequate level
of funding for these activities, and to allocate adequate funding
and resources for their coordination and management. The Office
of Management and Budget should prepare an annual international
S&E budget crosscut, similar to its annual research and development
(R&D) budget crosscut, that includes international activities
found outside specifically designated international program budgets.
OSTP should encourage agencies to develop more
effective mechanisms for gathering and disseminating information
about U.S. collaboration and partnerships in international S&E
activities and similar activities in other countries, with emphasis
on fundamental research and S&E education.
The United States Government should promote
the development of international S&E policy aimed at facilitating
international cooperation in research and education. The formulation
and implementation of policies related to areas such as immigration,
intellectual property rights, and the exchange of scientific information
and personnel should include consideration of their impact on international
cooperation in research and education.
B. Encouragement and Facilitation of Expanded
S&E Research and Education Collaboration and Partnerships with
Other Nations, Particularly by Younger Scientists and Engineers
and with Developing Countries.
Scientific leadership requires access to people, knowledge,
and S&E infrastructure, wherever they are found. The ability
to communicate and interact with scientists and engineers in all
corners of the globe greatly benefits the U.S. S&E enterprise
as do the contributions of foreign-born scientists and engineers
who migrate to the United States and work in our universities and
Two areas deserve special attention: increased participation in
international S&E activities by younger scientists and engineers
and increased collaboration with developing countries.
Participation by Younger Scientists and Engineers: U.S. students
who study and conduct research abroad not only learn more about
the countries they visit but also enhance their skills and capabilities,
ultimately making them more productive participants in the U.S.
labor force. However, it is often difficult to convince younger
scientists and engineers to become involved in international cooperative
S&E research and education activities because of limited incentives
and a widespread perception in many fields that time spent abroad
may be detrimental to ones career.
Federal agencies should encourage and support
policies and programs that provide incentives for expanding participation
in international cooperative research and education activities by
younger scientists and engineers.
Collaboration with Developing Countries: Knowledge
and human capital are supplanting physical capital as the major
ingredients for sustainable economic development. Most developing
countries are aware of the need to build their science and engineering
infrastructure capacity, and especially their human capacity through
education and training. In the S&E realm, traditional forms
of development assistance are being replaced by international cooperation
that contributes to sustainable development through creation of
the necessary infrastructure, including human resources. Interaction
through collaboration and partnerships is not only more likely to
promote sustainable development in todays world but also to
make developing countries more effective partners in global problem
Federal agencies should encourage development
of human and physical infrastructure for science and engineering
in developing countries through partnerships with international,
multilateral, and private organizations providing support to developing
countries for S&E research and education.
C. Science and Engineering Information
for Foreign Policy and Global Problem Solving.
For several years there has been growing concern that
the attention given to science and engineering in foreign policy
deliberations is inadequate. Consistent with a number of earlier
studies on this topic, the recent National Research Council (NRC)
report, The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in
Foreign Policy: Imperatives for the Department of State,(4)
emphasized the need for a fundamental change in the orientation
of the U.S. foreign policy community. Specifically, the report recommended
strengthening the capabilities of the State Department in areas
involving S&E considerations through the commitment of agency
leadership, an improved organizational structure, and an informed
and motivated staff.
The U.S. Government, especially the Department
of State, with its primary responsibility for U.S. foreign policy,
should recognize and address the importance of science and engineering
in achieving its objectives. Mechanisms should be identified to
improve communication among science officers, other U.S. embassy
personnel, and science and engineering staff of other Federal agencies,
including those working abroad, to facilitate sharing of information
critical to planning and decision making, and to improve the general
flow of information on critical S&E issues.
The U.S. Government should strongly endorse the
spirit of the recommendations of the 1999 NRC report to the State
Department and ensure that responses to those recommendations are
implemented expeditiously. Because developing an appropriate U.S.
capability in this arena requires a long-term concerted effort,
effective change will require a multi-year, multi-Administration,
and bipartisan response, with appropriate levels of funding.
The development of an effective framework for
science and engineering in the international arena is a critical
priority for assuring U.S. global leadership in the decades ahead.
This framework must be based on clear policy objectives and effective
institutional arrangements, and supported by appropriate development
and sharing of information. The findings and recommendations presented
in this paper identify key areas for attention and action. The National
Science Board is prepared to assist in this endeavor.
1 The National Science Board serves as the governing
board of the National Science Foundation and provides advice to
the President and the Congress on matters of national science and
2 The Board discharged this latter role by producing
the report Toward a More Effective NSF Role in International
Science and Engineering. It is available on the NSB web site
at the following urlhttp://www.nsf.gov/nsb/documents/2000/nsb00217/nsb00217.htm.
3 Two examples are the International Thermonuclear Experimental
Reactor (ITER), which the Department of Energy withdrew from in
1999 due to budget cuts and the International Solar Polar Mission,
which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration withdrew
from in the early 1990s due to severe budget cuts.
4 National Research Council, Office of International Affairs, The
Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in Foreign Policy:
Imperatives for the Department of State, Washington, DC. 1999.