Washington — Two science-outreach initiatives announced by U.S. State Department officials July 25 aim to boost international cooperation among scientists, engineers and other innovators working to address common global challenges.
“Breakthroughs are far more likely with many hands and perspectives at work,” Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said. “We can help our scientists achieve what nations struggle so mightily to do: come together to solve the challenges we cannot solve on our own.”
Burns spoke at the Science Diaspora Networking Reception in the Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, an event held as part of the State Department’s Global Diaspora Forum July 25–26.
The deputy secretary announced the creation of the Networks of Diasporas in Engineering and Science (NODES). The initiative, a joint effort of the State Department Science and Technology Adviser’s Office, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, aims to convene members of diasporas with skills in science to build their capacity to develop and influence effective U.S. policies while using their talents to meet needs in their countries of origin.
“Today’s scientific diasporas embody the ethos that nations don’t simply compete with each other — they also make things together,” Burns said. “Diaspora innovators are bringing together partners from the United States and their home countries to collaborate on research and create new joint ventures in research and business.”
The deputy secretary said this work is particularly important in meeting the needs of the developing world, “where exchanges of knowledge, human capital and technology are helping nations leapfrog into the digital age.”
Burns said the story of innovation in the United States has long been a story of immigrants, from Albert Einstein to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Foreign-born entrepreneurs were behind one in four U.S. technology startups from 1995 to 2005, and almost half of the U.S. Nobel laureates in science fields from 1990 to 2004 were immigrants. The deputy secretary said many of these leaders keep in close touch with their countries of origin, a trend the State Department hopes to encourage to benefit diplomacy, development and global science gains.
“These ties and the networks they create have great potential to help us advance economic development and international cooperation,” Burns said. “It is up to us to ensure that we turn the potential that we all agree is there into kinetic energy that improves lives around the world.”
NEW PUBLIC DIPLOMACY PARTNERSHIP
Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine later announced the new Science Technology Innovation Expert Partnership, which will introduce U.S. science and technology experts to foreign audiences through U.S. Embassy–supported public diplomacy programs.
“In the 21st century, the challenges we face are complex,” the undersecretary said. “The more partnerships, coalitions and networks we build … the greater our chances of making the scientific breakthroughs that find solutions, grow economies, create jobs and make life better for everyone.”
The State Department said in a July 26 news release that the new partnership advances U.S. efforts “to promote economic prosperity, democratic governance, social development and global scientific knowledge and to share that information with foreign audiences.”
Sonenshine said both initiatives aim also to recruit more women to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She said women and girls are underrepresented in those fields, and that their participation is critical to addressing the world’s most pressing challenges.
The undersecretary and other senior State Department officials joined 10 professional science societies to sign a memorandum of understanding formally establishing the partnership.
The reception was organized by the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, in partnership with the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the Bureau of International Information Programs, the Global Partnership Initiative, and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Innovation and Development Alliances.