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Summer/Fall 2002 Vol. 2 No. 2



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FROM THE PRESIDENT

National Academy of Sciences


Science and Technology Are Essentials
That No Nation Can Afford to Ignore

Bruce Alberts; photo by Richard Nowitz The scientific community can and must contribute -- through vigorous scientist-to-scientist and institution-to-institution interactions -- to creating a healthier and more sustainable world. Scientists can provide a voice for rationality and moderation in political affairs. They also can easily build strong bridges of understanding between cultures through collaborations in science, technology, health, agriculture, education, human rights, and sustainable economic development.

For precisely these reasons, the National Academies have worked for many years to help scientists from different countries collaborate. Experience has demonstrated that when we carry out joint studies with other academies from developing countries, we not only provide valuable information for decision-makers, we also play a significant role in building their future capacity for policy work. For example, our joint project on the Mexico City water supply stimulated that country's establishment of its own national research council, modeled after the National Research Council that is part of the U.S. National Academies. A second Academies study, Water for the Future: The West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel, and Jordan, successfully generated new scientific and technological connections between countries historically marked by conflict; it also produced a more cooperative and holistic way to deal with limited water resources in the area. And another joint study, Cooperation in the Energy Futures of China and the United States, stimulated an institutional cooperation between the Chinese Academies of Sciences and Engineering that will benefit their future policy work in China.

Some mistakenly believe that science is a luxury that developing nations cannot afford. Just the opposite is true. No nation can afford to be without its own cadre of scientists and engineers, with the expertise appropriate for its particular needs. For example, even the poorest nations will benefit from the contributions that such individuals can make to health, environment, agriculture, and economic development. Consider the tragic situation today in Zambia, where the government is preventing famine-starved people from eating donations of U.S. corn that was genetically engineered to produce Bt toxin, a natural insecticide. Examples such as these should make it obvious that science advice must be generated internally, if it is to be effective for wise decision-making. And only local scientists can harness the world's huge and growing store of scientific and technical knowledge to meet local opportunities and challenges, while generating new knowledge based on wisdom from their own societies.


    BRUCE ALBERTS
    President
    National Academy of Sciences



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Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences