Letter from the Editor

bridges vol. 25, April 2010 / Letter from the Editor

By Caroline Adenberger

Dear Reader,

Good things come to those who wait. The old adage was illustrated this spring, on March 10, 2010, when US Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced long-awaited bipartisan legislation in Congress to enhance US efforts at science diplomacy.

The act called “Global Science Program for Security, Competitiveness, and Diplomacy” (H.R. 4801), cosponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), would, among other things, establish a program providing grants to US and foreign scientists to encourage research cooperation between their universities. The act also aims to strengthen the research infrastructure and curricula of institutes of higher learning in eligible third countries, and to foster international cooperative work on nuclear nonproliferation.

Science diplomacy, as often noted in this magazine, can offer an excellent opportunity for two countries to (re)engage, especially in situations of strained political relations. For example, US President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Science Envoy Program in his Cairo speech on June 4, 2009, in the context of seeking “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.” On November 3, 2009, while at the 6th Forum for the Future in Marrakech, Morocco, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton followed his lead when announcing the first three science envoys, Elias Zerhouni, Bruce Alberts, and Ahmed Zewail. All three were chosen by the US National Academies with help from the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and the US State Department. Since February this year, the science envoys have been embarking on their missions to forge new partnerships in S&T between the US and countries from North Africa to Southeast Asia.

The Administration’s laudable Science Envoys Initiative would be formalized by the above-mentioned act, which has currently been referred to the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. While waiting for this important legislation to (hopefully) pass, the Spring issue of bridges  will take a closer look at some of the many existing initiatives and projects through which science and technology are connecting countries and people. One example is the impressive educational experiment of establishing the first international university – with focus on science and technology – in Pyongyang, North Korea. It will open its doors in May, after more than 10 years of careful preparation by an engaged international team under the guidance of Korean-American Dr. James Kim. With an international faculty and Internet access, the Pyongyang University of Science & Technology (PUST) will hopefully open windows to the Western world for North Korean students, and vice versa.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick – all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} Another wonderful example of S&T building bridges between countries is the Austrian-Indian solar-cooking initiative that has now been running for over 25 years. In the 1980s, Austrian physicist Wolfgang Scheffler began collaborating with Indian partners to introduce large-scale solar steam-cooking systems to Indian rural communities. WHO estimates that about 400,000 of India’s population die prematurely every year due to the harmful effects of biomass fuel used for cooking on indoor mud stoves. Scheffler’s solar-cooking technology has not only been helping to eliminate people’s exposure to harmful smoke but also protects the environment and empowers India’s women.

In a guest commentary, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sig Hecker, who now serves as director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, shares his experiences in successful “smart power” nuclear diplomacy.  As his article describes, after dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992, it was the scientists from both countries who played a crucial role in safeguarding the nuclear materials in the times of turmoil that followed the collapse of the former superpower.

Another international S&T collaboration, still in its infancy, may develop between the US and Burma. Only last week, a US delegation under the leadership of AAAS’s center for science diplomacy returned from their first visit to Burma. Norm Neureiter, who was a member of the delegation, shares his impressions of their visit in his column.

Additional articles spotlight a new Austrian program called APPEAR, whose goal is to promote academic partnerships between “South and North,” and introduce you to the mission and work of the US-based nonprofit organization, “Civilian Research and Development Foundation,” which has been promoting international scientific and technical collaboration through grants, technical resources, and training for over 15 years.

I hope you enjoy this issue of bridges and wish you informative and stimulating reading.

With kind regards,

Caroline Adenberger