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Fall 2007 Vol. 7 No. 3

Table of Contents

Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt FROM THE PRESIDENT

National Academy of Sciences

Our International Reach

Most of our studies focus on issues of importance to the U.S. and our federal and state governments. But, as highlighted in this issue of In Focus, the National Academies also undertake a wealth of activities and initiatives with positive impacts well beyond our own borders.

More than a billion people in developing areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America lack access to safe drinking water, a fundamental requirement for human health. Our Marian Koshland Science Museum, working with the National Research Council and the Global Health and Education Foundation, recently inaugurated a new Web resource called Safe Drinking Water Is Essential (see page 18). The Web site provides free information on sources of drinking water, contaminants, distribution problems, and treatment options directly to citizens and local officials.

Since 2002, we have also provided free access to our journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in more than 140 developing nations. This year, an equally ambitious initiative by the National Academies Press to provide our reports and books free of charge to developing countries passed an exciting milestone. After four years of operation, more than a half million users have downloaded in excess of 600,000 publications (see page 21).

And, as you will read on page 20, an Academies delegation that was led by former NAE President Bill Wulf and included Professor Joseph Taylor and NAS Foreign Secretary Michael Clegg recently returned from a visit to several cities and scientific institutions in Iran, continuing a program of scientific exchange and cooperation established in 1999. Our group was greeted enthusiastically, especially by young Iranian students. Next year we will continue this program with bilateral workshops and other cooperative efforts.

This is just a sampling of our many international activities.

As I write, Chinese and American experts on air pollution are sitting down in Beijing to consider “next steps” following a recent joint study on lessons China can draw from the successes and failures of U.S. efforts to improve urban air quality. And in Senegal, the African Science Academy Development Initiative -- funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the National Academies -- has just completed its third international conference focused on building the ability of science academies in Africa to inform policymaking and public debate.

We are committed to international engagement and cooperation because, first and foremost, we believe it is important to the scientific enterprise. But we also believe scientists can and should play a leadership role in building “people-to-people” bridges between nations. It is a long-term effort by which we and our scientific peers around the world hope to foster international openness and collaboration.

    National Academy of Sciences

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Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences