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A Message to the American Forum for Global Education

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A Message to the American Forum
for Global Education
from the
Office of Science and Technology Policy


We appreciate this opportunity to discuss this Administration's views on science as a global undertaking, the national benefits of international scientific collaboration, and the power of Information Technology (IT) in fostering the exchange of data and ideas across the world.  We will also touch on ways in which the Federal government can help to prepare future generations to enter and contribute to the global scientific community.  We must do this by not only strengthening K-12 science education, but also by encouraging a greater diversity of students choosing to pursue science careers.

The International Nature of Science

At its core, science is an international undertaking.  The fundamental workings of nature — the function of a gene, the quantum behavior of matter and energy, the chemistry of the atmosphere — are not the sole province of any one nation.  Louis Pasteur noted more than a century ago that, “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.”  Many of the challenges we face, from international terrorism to emerging infectious disease, and many of the opportunities within our reach, from economic growth to preservation of species, are global in scope and consequences.

In recent decades, this internationalization of science has expanded rapidly around the globe.  The percentage of scientific papers with authors from more than one country has increased 200 percent from 1981 to 1995.  In 1997, international collaboration accounted for almost one third of all coauthored articles.  Scientific meetings draw attendees from around the world.  The growing sophistication of the scientific communities in many countries has diversified and strengthened our mutual pursuits.  This will only continue.

As President Clinton stated in 1994:

“The nature of science is international and the free flow of people, ideas, and data is essential to the health of our scientific enterprise.”

Benefits from International Collaboration

President Clinton's remarks, made early in his Administration in the report, “Science in the National Interest,” charted our nation's course toward an ever increasing era of global scientific cooperation.  Since then, universities, private industry and Federal agencies have strengthened bonds with international partners to advance discovery and tackle complex problems facing our global society – poverty, environmental degradation, disease and sustainable energy development.  As many of our goals are also held by other nations, international collaboration allows us to share the effort and the cost of scientific developments over a broader global base.

For example, the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii was built by an international partnership of seven nations and is the first of two large telescopes that can explore the entire northern and southern skies in optical and infrared light.  Its twin, Gemini South, is under construction on Cerro Pachón in northern Chile.  Together, they are expected to obtain unprecedented views of stars, galaxies, and the most distant outposts of the known universe. They will allow today's scientists to collect data on astronomical events that took place billions of years ago.  This information will provide insights into the origins of the universe.  As Jean René Roy, chairman of the Gemini Board explained:

"By combining resources, this international partnership has produced world-class instruments far more powerful than would have been possible for individual countries."

A well known example of international scientific collaboration is the International Space Station (ISS).  The United States is partnering with fifteen other countries to build and operate the International Space Station (ISS) as a world-class research center in the unique environment of space.  The participating nations are striving to solve crucial problems in medicine, ecology and other areas of science.  This endeavor will also lay the foundation for developing space-based commerce and create greater worldwide interest in space and science related education by cultivating the excitement, wonder and discovery that the ISS symbolizes.

The Human Genome Project is an international scientific effort to map all of the approximately 100,000 genes on the 23 human chromosomes and to sequence the 3 billion DNA base pairs that make up the human genome.  Begun in 1990 and centered in three countries, the United States, the United Kingdom and France, this project will help reveal the basis of genetic diseases such as muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer's.

Sustainable agriculture has been substantially advanced through international cooperation, enabling the global community to better respond to the interrelated issues of poverty, hunger, population growth, and environmental degradation.  The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) produced one of the first of the modern, high yielding, varieties of rice that helped stave off the mass famine that was predicted for Asia in the1970s.  IRRI is just one of the sixteen international agricultural research centers that make up the global network known as the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The CGIAR mobilizes the world's best in agricultural science on behalf of the world's poor and hungry.

International science led to the international actions addressing the depletion of the ozone layer.  The stratospheric ozone layer, a region of the atmosphere about ten miles above us, protects life on earth from the most harmful of the sun's rays.   A threat to the ozone from chemical pollution was first suggested in the 1970s, but governments were unable to agree on how to respond for nearly 10 years, in part because they had different interpretations of the scientific knowledge of the risk.  Beginning in the early 1980s, however, hundreds of scientists from around the world worked under the auspices of the UN Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization to identify, understand and communicate the seriousness of the threat to the ozone.  The common international scientific understanding provided by their collaborative efforts led to an international agreement to correct the threat, by eliminating nearly all production of the offending chemicals in the industrialized countries, and by working to reduce them in the developing countries.

International cooperation has also strengthened our ability to reduce the damage from natural disasters.  Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program are working with counterparts worldwide to improve volcano monitoring and eruption warning schemes.  Just prior to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, these systems enabled Philippine authorities to evacuate 60,000 people from villages in the region of destruction, and the U.S. military to evacuate 18,000 families from Clark Air Force Base before it was covered in ash and debris.  In September 1999, U.S. and Ecuadorian scientists began monitoring two volcanic crises in Ecuador.  As these two volcanoes could remain active for many months, their collaborative efforts will protect tens of thousands of people nearby.

International scientific cooperation also supports our political and national security objectives.  Cooperation in science and technology provides a springboard for economic prosperity and sustainable development when relations between countries are good.  Yet, in times of strained international affairs, scientific lines of communication between countries typically remain open even when most other forms of contact have collapsed.  Even during the chilliest periods of the Cold War, U.S. scientists maintained ties with their counterparts in the Soviet Union, and these relationships were of substantial value in promoting the transition to warmer relations.

This Administration's commitment to international scientific collaboration with Russia and the countries of the Former Soviet Union is exemplified by its support of the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), an intergovernmental organization established by the European Union, Japan, the Russian Federation, and the United States, and a counterpart organization, the Science and Technology Center of Ukraine (STCU).  The ISTC and STCU coordinate with governments, international organizations, and private sector industries to give former Soviet Union weapons scientists an opportunity to redirect their talents to peaceful activities, such as cancer research and commercially viable technologies for use in environmental studies.

Information Technology: A Catalyst for Global Collaboration

Perhaps no area has contributed more to the globalization of science than information technology.  Modern communications have been both a tool and a catalyst for scientific collaboration, enabling the instantaneous transmission of data and ideas to colleagues around the world. The international scientific community has become what the Canadian author Marshall McLuhan termed a “global village.”

The consequences of this rapid communication and sharing of ideas are not only scientific, they are social and cultural as well.  Today, by using the Internet, school children can communicate with people across the world as easily as with friends across the hall.  This ease of communicating with counterparts around the globe will also give young students experience with international collaboration that they could draw on later in life, or in future scientific endeavors.

One educational tool capitalizing on IT for international scientific collaboration is provided by the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program.  GLOBE is a worldwide network of students, teachers, and scientists working together to study and understand the global environment.  Students and teachers from over 8,000 schools in more than 85 countries are working with research scientists to learn more about our planet.

GLOBE students make environmental observations at or near their schools and report their data through the Internet.  Scientists might use GLOBE data in their research and provide feedback to the students to enrich their science education.  Global images based on GLOBE student data are displayed on the World Wide Web, enabling students and other visitors to visualize the student environmental observations.  Information about the GLOBE program can be found at http://www.globe.gov.

Preparing Future Generations to Participate in the Global Scientific Community

To prepare America's future workforce to best participate in the world's interdependent high-tech marketplace and the global scientific community, we must provide all young people access to high quality math and science education, and broaden and diversify the base of participants in our nation's own science and technology enterprise.  This Administration hopes to support these objectives by providing dedicated educators with:  1) improved teacher training opportunities in science and math, and 2) new information regarding “how” children learn.  Equally important, as we recognize the benefits of internationally diverse scientific expertise applied to global problems, this Administration is working to encourage students from diverse backgrounds in our own country to dream of and work toward careers in science and technology.

As President Clinton and Vice President Gore want to give every student the power to achieve their dreams, they are committed to providing math and science education that will give students essential analytical skills needed to succeed in today's international knowledge-based economy.  Many educators are already familiar with the major programs in the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF), where the focus typically has been on broad-based education reform.  However, a few relatively new efforts that will help support math and science teaching include: 1) the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2) an initiative by the Department of Commerce to address the math and science teacher shortage, and 3) a new partnership between NSF, the Department of Education (DoEd), and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to conduct large scale education research on the early learning of foundational skills in mathematics, science, and reading.

National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century

Far too many U.S. students finish high school without mastering the mathematics and science skills necessary for success in higher education and in the competitive, international, knowledge-based economy.  High quality teaching is critical to improving student achievement. Consequently, in March 1999, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley established a National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century.  Chaired by former Senator and astronaut John Glenn, the Commission is creating strategies to improve the quality of teaching in mathematics and science at all grades nationwide.  The Commission will finalize its report in the fall of 2000.  Individuals or groups may contribute ideas by calling, writing, or participating in an on-line discussion forum available on the Internet at http://www.ed.gov/americacounts/glenn.

K-12 Math, Science, and Technology Teacher Recruitment

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have joined forces to develop a model program for addressing the looming shortage of quality math and science teachers.  The program is called CASTL, for “Community Alliance for Advancing Science, Math and Technology Literacy.” It is a pilot program that partners school boards with local businesses to jointly recruit and hire high-quality math, science, and technology teachers and provide them with a year-long salary for at least 4 years.  Business leaders will guarantee summer or similar part-time employment for the teachers and support development of teaching methods that incorporate real-world experience.  This partnership builds a network for transferring knowledge from classroom to workplace and back again.  Recently, efforts in Maine and North Carolina have been initiated to replicate CASTL at the state level.

Interagency Education Research Initiative

This NSF/DoEd/NICHD partnership started with the recognition that advances in education and student learning -- in science as well as in other core academic subjects -- depend in no small part on rigorous and sustained research.  President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) pointed out in 1997 that we spend more than $300 billion on K-12 public education each year, but we spend less than 0.1 percent of that amount on research for the examination and improvement of educational practice.  In response, the Federal government launched the Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI) to accelerate the translation of robust research findings to the improvement of K-12 science education as well as other key academic areas.  The President's FY 01 budget calls for $50 million for the IERI.  In the next two grant competitions, the IERI will be supporting research focussed on improving two key transitions in pre-K-12 education: the early learning of foundational skills in mathematics, science and reading; and the transition to increasingly complex science and mathematics learning in middle and high school.

Diversifying the S&T Workforce:  Next Steps for the Federal Government

Just as we have seen that global scientific challenges are better tackled by the world's internationally diverse pool of scientists applying their collective expertise, we must also better engage our own diverse population in the United States to pursue careers in science and technology.  Unfortunately, we in America are still unable to attract a sufficiently diverse group of individuals to our own science and technology workforce.  Despite their gains in other professions, women, minorities, and persons with disabilities remain underrepresented in science and engineering fields.

In 1998, President Clinton directed the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to begin assessing how we can achieve greater diversity throughout the scientific and technological workforce, as it is within these underrepresented groups of Americans that our nation's growing talent pool resides.  The NSTC report and recommendations are available at /WH/EOP/OSTP/html/workforcerpt.html.

On April 6, 2000, the President announced that twenty-five companies answered his “call to action” to promote corporate diversity by each pledging at least $1 million dollars, annually for the next 10 years to expand diversity in the high-tech workforce.  These funds will be used for a wide range of programs, including scholarships, job training, math and science programs, internships and other programs to encourage minorities, women and disabled persons to pursue science, engineering and technical careers.


Let us close with a note of optimism for the future.  In 1998, the President addressed the American Association for the Advancement of Science at its sesquicentennial meeting in Philadelphia, and pondered how our world would look 50 years from now.  The President expressed his vision of a future  “where climatic disruption has been halted; where wars on cancer and AIDS have long since been won; where humanity is safe from the destructive force of chemical and biological weapons; where our noble career of science is pursued and then advanced by children of every race and background; and where the benefits of science are broadly shared in countries both rich and poor.”   The message we hope to leave you with today is that this vision can be most fully achieved through a global effort.

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Global Science and Technology Week - May 7-13, 2000

Examples of International Scientific Collaboration

President's Letter

Proposed Events

Teachers and students working in COMB's SciTech Center

Letter from Dr. Neal Lane, Issues in Global Education

The Explorers

About ASTC

A Message to the American Forum for Global Education

A Message to the National Science Teachers Association

Proclamation: Global Science and Technology Week, 2000

Building International Science & Technology Workforce Partnerships

Examples of International Scientific Collaboration

Global Science & Technology Week