"Co-operation Even Beyond the Regional Level" - Thematic Session (AAAS)       19.11.2011

Local policies of science have to look further afield than merely at the national or even regional levels. This idea was voiced repeatedly at the thematic section on Friday organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The session was chaired by Mr Vaughan Turekian, Chief International Officer at AAAS.

At the meeting representatives from various types of science policy organizations looked at how their respective institutions can adapt themselves to the increasingly global realities of the modern world and science.

“Every major problem has a science and technology component, and is global or multinational in character” – said Alan I. Leshner, CEO of AAAS in opening the section. According to him, governments – as evidenced by growing expenditures – are recognizing the strategic importance of science and technology, but science policies are not committed enough to take community perspectives seriously. In this regard he mentioned that science funding should be more mobile – even when public funds are distributed across national borders – simply because an increase in mobility can contribute to the national economy. At the same time, cutting down on bureaucracy at a local level may make major savings possible across the board. In the US for example 42 per cent of a researcher’s time is consumed by administration.

Ms Tracey Elliott, Head of International Relations at the Royal Society’s Science Policy Centre, mentioned some programmes of the Royal Society – such as the Newton International Fellowships – that do address cooperation with researchers from outside the UK. She stressed, however, that scientific cooperation was more common among partners in the same world region than among those further apart.

Mr Bud Rock, CEO of the Washington-based Association of Science and Technology Centers, suggested that formal science education is not sufficient for raising the youth’s interest in research careers – this also requires a positive social attitude to science. He mentioned that the science ranking of OECD countries is not correlated with test scores, and students with a genuine interest in science are more likely to study further than those who merely score high. Therefore, informal education programmes outside the school system, in institutes like museums and libraries, can have an important role in bringing science close to young people.

Mr Tateo Arimoto, director general of Japan’s Research Institute of Science and Technology (RISTEX), urged that the ideas of technological and social innovation should be combined at the policy level, and thus scientific research and technological development should respond to the most pressing problems of society. This approach is reflected in the Asian country’s 4th Science and Technology Basic Plan for 2011-2015, which represents a move to issue-driven STI-policy with a multidisciplinary focus. Regarding the advancement of scientific cooperation, the head of the Institute stressed the importance of international research infrastructures like the experimental fusion reactor (ITER) being developed in France, and – similarly to his British colleague – he also stressed the importance of cooperative partnerships beyond regional levels.

Comparing the R&D policies of the U.S. and the EU, Mr Patrick Cunningham, chief science adviser of the Irish government, noted that contrary to the sizes of population and economy, there is not only more R&D investment in the US, but the proportion of federal sums in public funds is also larger than the EU’s central R&D budget as compared to those of the member states. While he considers the 94 percent federal control in the American system too centralised, the EU’s 7 percent is too dispersed. However, in the next financial period of the EU it will be more than doubled, up to 16 percent, he said.


You can find more details on this session here.