Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
Human Frontier Science Program, 10th Anniversary Awards Ceremony
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
December 10, 1999
Good afternoon and welcome. I am pleased to have an opportunity, together with my Canadian colleague, Dr. Gilbert Normand, (Secretary of State for Science, Research and Technology in Canada), to honor recipients of the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Awards, especially in this 10th anniversary year of the program. We are pleased to be able to co-host the North American celebration, as a counterpart to previous intercontinental celebrations held in Tokyo and Strasbourg. The HFSP award is unique because it recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to science through the crucible of international collaboration. Today, we celebrate ten outstanding fellow scientists for their continuing commitment to international partnership. I recognize, too, the three individuals being honored for playing an instrumental role in the establishment and success of the HFSP Program itself.
We applaud our partner, Japan, for initiating and shepherding the HFSP from the very outset, from providing the original idea, to contributing a substantial portion of the funding, to demonstrating continuing leadership in the pursuit of basic biomedical and brain science research.
I want to focus my remarks today on the subject of globalization and its counterpart, intercontinental collaboration. If one were to ask, “What is the United States' perspective on the globalization of science?” we would answer that question along three dimensions: possibilities, implications, and
challenges. One, we are captured by new compelling possibilities which are being opened to the science community. Two, we are grappling with the implications of globalization and learning as we go. Three, the unique nature of collaboration itself presents new challenges. Collaboration requires us to develop new skills in relating to our international partners: learning to depend on others without absolute control, and communicating clearly across cultures.
Generally, when we speak of the globalization of science, we are referring to the increasing necessity of pursuing answers to scientific questions through international collaboration and cooperation. The change is one of degree. Of course, countries have collaborated on global issues in the past. But the extent to which we must rely on international cooperation to pursue answers to today's science problems is greater than ever before. The United States accepts readily enough that there is no such thing as domestic science. In the words of Louis Pasteur, “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.” Even that famous example of early American science—Ben Franklin's experiments with lightning as a source of electricity—were first made in France, not in the
Science has always been global but advances in information technology are providing an abundance of opportunities both in sourcing knowledge and in applying it to common global problems. Let us look first at the compelling new possibilities in the global world of science, for sourcing new knowledge. Through international collaboration, we have the opportunity to pursue the best science thinking, wherever it is found in the world today. Peaceful relations, increasingly open borders, powerful technology for immediate communication, and shared resources, enable us to leap ahead in basic scientific research. Knowledge begets knowledge. The greater the source of
collective knowledge, the greater the potential for cross-fertilization of the best minds, without regard for political boundaries. The fact that knowledge travels at lightening speed today and in accessible form has dramatically expanded our ability to stimulate each other's thinking, to extrapolate on each other's progress and to minimize repeating each other's mistakes.
It is international collaboration, which allows us to take advantage of the opportunities in the global economy. In addition to vastly expanding our source of knowledge, the globalization of science provides increased opportunity to apply our collective wisdom to our common problems. World peace and democracy depend and rely on freedom of association and inquiry, objectivity, and openness. Peace between nations is driven by peace between individuals. And peace between individuals is driven through working together to understand, prioritize and resolve common problems. Cooperation in science and technology provides a springboard for economic prosperity and sustainable development when relations between countries are good. Worldwide cooperative links between various academies of sciences and the International Council of Scientific Unions enable us to consolidate arguments and work toward a neutral, science-driven, response to emerging policies on contentious issues, such as genetically modified foods. In cases where relations between nations are strained, intercontinental cooperation in basic sciences can provide the sticky glue of understanding. Our bilateral science and technology agreements have proven to be an extremely valuable tool for engaging with former Warsaw Pact countries at the end of the Cold War, for example. No matter what our differences, all countries need one another for scientific progress. It is our common ground. And it is global ground.
For these reasons, the United States is committed to promoting international cooperation in science and technology. Clearly, it is in the best interests of all human beings for countries to collaborate in addressing emerging infectious diseases, environmental threats, nuclear nonproliferation, narco-trafficking, international terrorism, and world hunger. The breadth and depth of scientific knowledge is too broad to be captured and applied by any one nation. Problems of an interdependent nature can benefit from our collective
technological expertise. International collaboration enables us to save time, share effort and spread the cost of solutions over a broader global base. International cooperation in science and technology represent an opportunity for resolving existing problems and ones not yet foreseen. However globalization also brings with it important implications on the policy front.
The United States, like all countries, is grappling with the implications of globalization. Globalization occurs on multiple levels simultaneously and at a rapid pace, forcing policymakers and scientists to quickly locate where we are and which direction we need to go as new issues emerge. Take, for example, the new policies needed when Dolly was cloned. As we push the frontiers
Globalization is also forcing us to revisit some existing policies. In this area, we are learning as we go. Increasingly we find that traditional structures and relationships between governments, universities and industries need to be modified to remove barriers to innovation thereby creating the conditions in which basic science and applied research can thrive. International collaboration in research requires us to modernize approaches to assigning
The third element of the U.S. perspective focuses on the challenges inherent in international collaboration as opposed to the old ways of mostly “going it alone.”
The unique nature of the collaborative form can be seen in a story from the world of music: pianist Joseph Kalichstein was trying to cooperate with a page-turner during a performance at Carnegie Hall many years ago. As Kalichstein told it, “I assumed the page turner had had some experience, and I was hoping for the best. The page turner, perhaps not wishing to distract, didn't rise from his seat and reach for the top of the page to be turned, as he should have. Instead, he stayed glued to the chair and turned each page from the bottom of the manuscript, blocking the music with each motion. Finally, I hissed at him, ‘At the top! At the top!' – whereupon the page turner stood up indignantly and flipped all the music back to the starting measure.”
Let us not underestimate the challenges inherent in pursuing objectives through a cooperative form. The piano anecdote illustrates two of these main challenges: the need to depend on some ‘other' party, and the need to communicate clearly. The interdependence issue is indeed a challenge for our country where independence and the desire to be in control are some of the most highly valued characteristics in our culture. As the United States engages in developing shared knowledge and shared solutions, we will be depending on the cooperative efforts of some ‘other' country, and — no matter how tightly we would word a legal agreement — without definitive control. Hence our dilemma. We saw this vividly as one of several reasons that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was not ratified. “How would we measure and control the compliance of other countries?” opponents asked. The Administration feels strongly that we all need to encourage international cooperative efforts on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we will work toward a compromise with Congress to at least give the Treaty a try for a specified period of years. Still, we recognize how strongly our cultural backgrounds can influence our perspectives on international cooperation. As Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has said, “Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” I am certain that the pianist, Joseph Kalichstein, would have preferred to turn his own pages if he could. It will be a perpetual challenge to adapt to the unaccustomed taste of mutual interdependence. It is a taste that we must cultivate as it the way forward of the future.
Finally, whenever we work together, the challenge is to communicate clearly. A Japanese professor once said, “Not only do we need to understand; we need to understand when we have misunderstood.” The pianist and the page-turner both ended up indignant with each other and we must take care to prevent our cooperative endeavors from ending on the same discordant note. This is especially true in a cross-cultural context, where suspicions can surface quickly, and participants can sense insults when none were intended. It takes great maturity to extend grace in the international collaborative context. It takes time and effort to get our points across without sending mixed messages. The United States is committed to its international partners — even though our actions may not always clearly communicate that message due to the complexity of our political system.
In conclusion, let me say that this Administration embraces the reality that the future in science lies in cooperation. We look forward to taking advantage of the compelling opportunities for improving our world that today's science provides. We need to work together to openly discuss the implications of our new global reality; and rise to the challenge of being a good partner, extending grace where misunderstandings occur and communicating as clearly as we can with one another.
The United States will continue to learn and grow and explore various opportunities for thriving together in a mutually interdependent world. In this, we can learn a lot from the aggregate of individual cooperative efforts demonstrated by scientists involved in the Human Frontier Science Program, and especially our guests of honor tonight. We know that scientists who have demonstrated success at cross-border endeavors pave the way for those in our countries who may be more skeptical of collaborative outcomes. We thank you and honor you tonight as path-breakers on the road to successful international cooperation in the sciences. We also thank the Human Frontier Science Program for its extraordinary ability to facilitate international collaboration between scientists of our countries. We look forward to many more special anniversary celebrations in the future, as all of us hone our cooperative capabilities over time.
Thank you for your attention. Congratulations to our awardees.
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