Norm Neureiter Awarded Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art 1st Class

bridges vol. 36, December 2012 / Norm Neureiter on S&T in Diplomacy

On October 23, 2012, Norman P. Neureiter was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art 1st Class by the Austrian Federal Minister for Science and Research on behalf of the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, for his services and contributions to Austrian science and research. The award ceremony took place at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, on the eve of IIASA's 40th Anniversary Conference (see related article in this issue "Worlds within Reach at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis: from Science to Policy"). The following is an abridged version of Neureiter's acceptance speech after receiving the Cross of Honor from Minister Karlheinz Töchterle.

Minister Töchterle, Professor Kabat, Professor Schelling (click on video below to view Nobel Prize Laureate Thomas Schelling's laudation of Norman Neureiter) and friends – thank you so much for this honor. My wife, Georgine, and I are deeply grateful – Vienna is for us a really special place and IIASA a special institution.

In 1965 I was assigned to the US Embassy in Germany as deputy scientific attaché. The office was also responsible for Austria. I was especially eager to come to Vienna, because my father was born here and his degree in chemistry was from the University. However, from a science standpoint, the trip was not a success. I concluded at that time that there was simply not much going on in Austrian science.

PlayClick the play button to watch Neureiter's full acceptance speech on YouTube.com

That situation has dramatically changed. There is a great deal going on here now. Austria is focusing on science, technology, and innovation. You have opened new research centers. Austria ranks high in science cooperation with the European Union's Framework programs; and the spin-off of Siemens' semiconductor operation known as Infineon even has its technical development center here in Villach, in the south of Austria. You also have a strong science unit in your embassy in Washington, the Office of Science & Technology (OST), which recently hosted its very impressive annual gathering of Austrian scientists working in the US, the Austrian Science Talk (click here for an event report of the Austrian Science Talk 2012), along with science leaders from Austria, at the premises of AAAS in Washington, DC. OST also publishes a quarterly online journal called bridges, which is an excellent, up-to-date chronicle on science and policy issues.

bridges also reports about science diplomacy – something I am today very involved with at AAAS. Science Diplomacy is active engagement in science cooperation with countries whose overall political relations may be strained or very bad indeed. It is the use of science as an instrument of constructive engagement with hostile countries. Over the past five years, I personally have been involved with Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Burma (or Myanmar), actually with quite remarkable results. I strongly believe in the value of such programs.

Toechterle Neureiter CrossIn 1972 Austria was a pioneer in one of the world's most successful and enduring science diplomacy initiatives – the creation of IIASA. It was to be an example of peaceful, cooperative engagement between the two hostile blocs of nations – the East and West, led by the Soviet Union and the US – even as each side built arsenals with thousands of nuclear weapons. It took some six years of discussion and negotiation, but in the end Austria won the quite fierce competition with Britain and France for location – by providing the former Habsburg palace in Laxenburg for IIASA headquarters. IIASA was active throughout the Cold War and was one example of how East and West could work together. Today, of course, IIASA has changed, but the broad mission of applying systems analysis techniques to the great problems facing mankind – energy, food, water, population, environment, etc. – still exists. There is today more of a North-South orientation, and the membership includes more developing and emerging economies. And the substantive work of IIASA serves as a unique source of objective analysis and information for governments throughout the world. You will hear a lot about this in the next three days of this conference.

But let me go back to some history. My father was born in Vienna and emigrated to the US in 1926. His father, and my grandfather, Ferdinand Neureiter was an engineer who became the head of the Siemens-Schuckert company here in Austria. While looking through some old papers in a desk at home recently, my sister found a speech which he gave here in Vienna in 1917 on the occasion of receiving an honorary doctorate. The title was "Die Lebenswerte der technischen Wissenschaften" – "the human values of the technical sciences." These values were Truth, Beauty, Culture, and Menschenliebe – a concern for mankind. He developed the argument for each. It was a great tribute to what technology (especially steam and electricity) had done in freeing human beings from brutal physical labor. However, even as Europe was engulfed in the third year of World War I in which his two older sons were actively fighting, and where the military uses of technology made that war especially terrifying and destructive, he did not mention this negative aspect of the technical sciences.

This issue remains one of the great global challenges for mankind today – preventing the misuse of science and technology, and especially the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. There now exists a 24-nation body called "The Global Partnership," dedicated to this goal. Even as modern science and technology today extend the life, health, and well-being of mankind, the dangers are also greater that their misuse could, in fact, have precisely the opposite result – the end of mankind.

In 1962, US President John F. Kennedy was caught in the greatest challenge of his all-too-short tenure as US president – the Cuban missile crisis. On October 23rd, exactly 50 years ago today, he made a potentially fateful decision by ordering the US Navy to set up a blockade to prevent any Soviet ship from reaching Cuba, where Soviet nuclear missile sites directed against the US had been found. He was risking a nuclear war, but believed his solution would work. It did, thanks to Khrushchev. And a few days later, when the crisis ended with a Soviet withdrawal, the greatest threat of nuclear war since the start of the nuclear age was over. But there are still thousands of nuclear weapons in the world. Professor Schelling has spent many years applying his own unique skills to finding a peaceful outcome to the nuclear era and defusing its horrendously lethal threats. But his work is far from done.

We also discovered something else about our grandfather. On July 9, 1918, most probably here in the Hofburg, he was elevated to the first level of Austrian nobility by the last Emperor of Austria, Karl the First, for having established what is now the Wirtschafts Universität – the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Ironically, this took place only a few months before the end of the Habsburg Empire. But today, our family does have in its possession the designated coat of arms and the marvelous hand-written documents conferring that honor. And if that system of nobility had not been eliminated after World War II, I could stand here proudly before you today as Dr. Norman Edler von Neureiter, instead of just good old Norm. Although "just Norm" does correspond somewhat better to US traditions.

So, let me express again my sincerest thanks to Minister Töchterle for this Award, to Pavel Kabat for tying the ceremony to this great conference, and to Tom Schelling for honoring us with his presence.

But I also must remind all of you that we have created an Endowment Fund for IIASA, as well as a US-based charitable organization called Friends of IIASA. We urge those of you who share our belief in the value of this work to remember IIASA in your personal philanthropy, your annual gift giving, or your future bequests. You can support chairs in your name, sponsor specific programs or projects, or enable scientists from around the world to visit and work at Laxenburg. We can guarantee that such gifts will be well spent and also can assure your continued involvement in IIASA programs. So, don't just wait for us to call you. Do call us, and tell us what you are interested in.

Thank you all so very much for being here this evening.

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Norman Neureiter has been a senior advisor to the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy (CSTSP) and the Center for Science Diplomacy (CSD) since July 2009.