Global Connections: Emerging Science Partners

From the President of the American Academy

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Challenges for International Scientific Partnerships

The United States is the world’s largest funder of scientific research in an increasingly global science and technology (S&T) enterprise. It has a key leadership role to play in shaping scientific research to ensure that breakthroughs can help address our many global challenges. This need applies both to tackling issues with urgent scientific questions, such as those that arise when combating climate change and pandemics, and to building a more robust, more equitable scientific enterprise that leverages the power of innovation to benefit all people and create a more prosperous and just world.

As scientific leaders in the United States continue to reflect on the nation’s significant contributions to science in the years since the end of World War II and consider the promise of what the next generation will hold, it is worth expanding the historical lens of S&T investment. Indeed, the global system of scientific research is dynamic, with various countries playing diverse leadership roles. Increasingly, countries outside of the United States are boosting their national scientific funding, further spreading talent and research capacities worldwide. The way that science is conducted is likely to change significantly in the decades to come. U.S. policy-makers must take these trends into account to position the country to participate fully and lead innovation for future generations.

Although national funding levels and institutional scientific capacities are varied, science as a practice knows no national boundaries, and scientific talent can arise anywhere. Countries and researchers with limited financial resources today may provide the leading scientific talent of tomorrow. The scientific enterprise, historically an exclusionary practice reserved for the most privileged among us, will benefit from a substantial expansion of participation in research both within and beyond our borders. Emerging science partners are key collaborators for the United States in tackling global challenges and making discoveries that will improve all lives. This report lays out the case for collaborating with countries actively building their scientific capacity, examines key entry points and strategies for engagement, and puts forth recommendations for making these partnerships more robust and equitable, with specific mechanisms proposed for select U.S. audiences.

The United States has an important leadership role to play in engaging with these emerging science partners and in building up scientific research capacity for the benefit of all. Indeed, as research becomes increasingly global, for the United States to conduct world-class research, U.S. scientists must engage on a global scale with their peers, wherever they may be located. As underscored by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating climate crisis, the United States will benefit by working closely with established and emerging science partners alike to tackle the challenges facing the world.

This report is the final one of the Academy’s Challenges for International Scientific Partnerships (CISP) initiative and joins America and the International Future of Science (Winter 2020) and Bold Ambition: International Large-Scale Science (Spring 2021) in the analysis of the challenges and benefits of American participation in international scientific partnerships. The project, established in 2017 under the initiative of then-Academy President Jonathan F. Fanton, identifies mechanisms by which the United States could become a better partner in international collaborations of all scales and across all disciplines. It is a pleasure to continue this important work throughout my tenure as Academy President.

In this effort, the Academy extends its sincere gratitude to the cochairs of the Emerging Science Partners Working Group: Shirley Malcom, Senior Advisor and Director of SEA Change at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Olufunmilayo Olopade, Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor in the Biological Sciences Division, Professor of Medicine & Human Genetics, and Associate Dean for Global Health at the University of Chicago. In addition, we are grateful for the continued leadership of CISP Cochairs Arthur Bienenstock, Professor Emeritus of Photon Science, Special Assistant to the President for Federal Research Policy, and Associate Director of the Wallenberg Research Link at Stanford University, and Peter Michelson, Luke Blossom Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Professor of Physics, and Senior Associate Dean for the Natural Sciences at Stanford University.

The leadership and guidance from the CISP Steering Committee and the working group on Emerging Science Partners (ESP) were invaluable for the development of this report and in ensuring essential perspectives and voices were heard throughout this work. I am grateful to the Academy’s Board of Directors, Council, and Trust for their support of the development of this initiative, along with the contributions of many Academy Fellows. I especially extend my thanks to the scientists and policy-makers from all corners of the world who participated in the regional soundings and events hosted by this initiative and shared their perspectives on changes that would substantially shift U.S.-ESP collaborations toward strong, equitable partnership. Finally, this initiative has been graciously supported with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan, William and Flora Hewlett, and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations, for which we are sincerely appreciative.

I also thank the Academy staff who helped prepare this report: Rebecca Tiernan, Amanda Vernon, Islam Qasem, Tania Munz, Phyllis Bendell, Heather Struntz, Peter Walton, and Scott Raymond.

I join with all of those who supported the development of this report’s findings to call for its uptake by America’s scientific and policy leaders. As we look ahead to future challenges and opportunities for science and innovation, our country must fully participate in all scientific endeavors, including collaborations with talent in all parts of the world, and promote a just and equitable society.

David W. Oxtoby
President, American Academy of Arts and Sciences