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Committee on Science, Democratic Caucus

Hearing :: 4/2/2008 :: International Science and Technology Cooperation

Opening Statement By Rep. Brian Baird

Good morning.  Welcome to this Research and Science Education Subcommittee hearing on International Science and Technology Cooperation.

This is the second hearing that this subcommittee has held on the role of the federal government in fostering international scientific cooperation and science diplomacy.  At the first hearing we focused on how we might improve visa policy to facilitate the open exchange of students and scholars. 

More recently we hosted a roundtable on the broader topic of international science cooperation with four distinguished former State and USAID officials who have since left government.  They were able to provide me and our colleagues who attended the roundtable with insightful observations about what has and has not worked, as well as engage in creative brainstorming free from the political and time constraints of a formal hearing.  I learned a great deal and was very impressed with the amount of international science and technology cooperation that is already going within the assistance of the federal government.  We will hear more about some of this today. 

Unfortunately, I also learned that we must do more to maximize the effectiveness of science and technology cooperation.  Cooperation should not be pursued simply as a means of achieving bigger and better science.  It should also pursued for the sake of development, diplomacy, and informing decision-makers around the world about critical environmental, security, economic, resource and health issues.  It seems to me that the federal government might need an organization and a process dedicated to setting government-wide priorities and overseeing implementation of those priorities.  One of my goals for this hearing is to understand how – or if - the federal government sets priorities for international science cooperation, and who is or who should be responsible for coordinating and overseeing the entire effort.

There have been some attempts in the past – such as the creation of a Committee on International Science, Engineering and Technology under the President’s National Science and Technology Council – to assign that task to a dedicated organization.  Some experts have suggested assigning this task to the State Department itself.   To that end, Congress created a Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State in 1999.  Dr. Nina Fedoroff is the third renowned scientist to hold that position.  In a demonstration of her commitment to better integrate science in our diplomatic activities, Dr. Fedoroff personally lobbied Secretary Rice to broaden her job description to include Science Adviser to USAID. 

While the State Department may be at the center of many of these efforts, I would be remiss to downplay the critical role played by a number of other agencies, including the National Science Foundation; the mission agencies, represented here today by NASA; and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has responsibility both for advising the President on the science and technology components of national and international issues, and for coordinating research and development activities across the federal government.

Today, representatives from these agencies will tell us about current efforts and opportunities in international science and technology cooperation and help us understand how such cooperation benefits the United States and the world.



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