Press Release

Big Questions and Bold Ambitions: Recommendations for the Future of Large-Scale International Science


It will take bold ambition and best practices to address big questions about the essence of matter, the power of fusion, the nature of infectious disease, the widespread impacts of climate change, and other scientific inquiries that can only be answered by scientists and nations working together.

A new report from the Challenges of International Scientific Partnerships (CISP) initiative at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences offers principles for successful large-scale projects undertaken across scientific disciplines and national borders. Bold Ambition: International Large-Scale Science incorporates lessons learned, from CERN, the Human Genome Project, LIGO, and other efforts – successful and otherwise.

The Academy initiative is led by CISP Cochairs Arthur Bienenstock (Stanford University) and Peter Michelson (Stanford University), who also chair the project’s Large-Scale Science Working Group and offer expertise as both scientists and managers. They led scientists, agency leaders, policymakers, facility managers, and others to explore the future of large-scale science and recommend 10 best practices for both physical facilities and distributed networks.

Bold Ambition is the second of three reports from CISP. It follows America and the International Future of Science, issued in December 2020 to provide an overarching analysis of the challenges and benefits of American participation in international scientific partnerships, and it precedes Global Connections: Emerging Science Partners, which will examine mechanisms for strengthening and making more equitable collaborations with countries developing their R&D capacity.

This report emerges as COVID-19 has proven that science is inherently international and as a new Administration has an opportunity to ensure that the United States will not be isolated from the next generation of international scientific partnerships. With clear goals and support, the United States will be well-equipped to participate in the planning and development of global scientific discoveries.

The benefits of international scientific collaboration for the United States and the world are substantial and eclipse the challenges they can present. But without addressing the stressors, the potential of large-scale science will not be realized. The report presents 10 mechanisms for improved U.S. operation and support of large-scale science under four major principles:   

  • Prioritize excellence and impact
  • Define scope and management
  • Meet commitments
  • Adhere to ethical standards

“The Academy’s work to improve international scientific partnerships is rooted in a commitment to scientific research and discovery; it is also informed by our recognition that international scientific partnerships promote openness, trust, and diplomacy,” said David W. Oxtoby, the President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “The Academy’s mission is to advance the public good and when the United States is engaged in large-scale science conducted at its best, we are both increasing scientific knowledge and strengthening international relations.”

The Alfred P. Sloan, William and Flora Hewlett, and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations provided key financial support of this initiative.

The report is online in its entirety and print copies can be ordered.



Challenges for International Scientific Partnerships

Arthur I. Bienenstock and Peter F. Michelson