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Science and Technology in 21st Century Global Societies. Professor George H. Atkinson, Ph.D. Director, Institute on Science for Global Policy (ISGP), University of California former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretaries of State Powell and Rice (2003-2007).

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Science and Technology in 21st Century Global Societies

Professor George H. Atkinson, Ph.D.

Director, Institute on Science for Global Policy (ISGP),

University of California

former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretaries of State Powell and Rice (2003-2007)

Fermi National Laboratories

Chicago, Illinois

October 8, 2008


Overview of Remarks

  • 1. Questions: What are the “American” principles on which decisions are made?
  • 2. Evolution of U.S. science and technology (S&T) models
  • 3. S&T in 21st century global affairs: Challenges
  • 4. Institute on Science for Global Policy (ISGP)

5. The “Conundrum for Science Advice in Policy”

1 american principles for decision making ratification of the u s constitution
1. “American” principles for decision making: Ratification of the U.S. Constitution

“Reason and Reflection” versus “Force and Violence”

“Almost all the governments that have arisen among mankind, have sprung from force and violence. The records of history inform us of none that have been the result of cool and dispassionate reason and reflection.

Anonymous Anti-Federalist, New York, 1788

“… it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country [United States]… to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”

Alexander Hamilton: The Federalists I, 1787-1789

1 american principles for decision making a 20 th century government view
1. “American” principles for decision making: A 20th Century Government View

“… attempting to relate moral (ethical) considerations to foreign policy [involves] the behavior of governments, not of individuals.”

“... the functions, commitments, and moral obligations of governments are not the same as those of the individual.”

“ [government’s] primary obligation is to the interests of the national society it represents, not to the moral impulse that elements of that society may experience.”

“The interests of the national society for which governments must be concern itself are basically those of its military security, the integrity of its political life, and the well-being of its people.”

George F. Kennan, At A Century’s Ending: Reflections, 1982-1995


2. Evolution of the U.S. S&T model

Vannevar Bush (1945): Science: The Endless Frontier

“The U.S. government supports basic science research in universities, while industry pursues applied research”

Established NIH and NSF, and set the paradigm for the ascendance of American science and technology.

Basic Research  Applied Research  Development  Commercial Production

House Speaker Newt Gingrich (1997):

“With the collapse of the Soviet Union, … the Vannevar Bush approach is no longer valid. …. the competition we are engaged in now is less military and largely economic. Science today is an international enterprise, and we must assume a leadership role in guiding international science policy….


2. Evolution of the U.S. S&T Model

What characteristics of the U.S. system made it successful and which are relevant to the future?

1. U.S. made a consistent commitment to education, and especially to higher education and scientific research. U.S. research universities would not be what they are today without 50 years of Federal support.

2. U.S. fostered an open, welcoming environment that encouraged students and researchers from around the world to participate in the U.S. system.

3. U.S. private sector converted many scientific advances into world-class technologies promoting societal well-being and creating new global economies.

4. U.S. policy decisions were based largely (but NOT always correctly) on an anticipatory view concerning emerging and “at-the-horizon” S&T


2. Evolution of U.S. S&T models

Pasteur’s Quadrant: S&T Innovation

Consider use?



Quest for basic research?


A new appraisal of basic S&T research and innovation


2. Evolution of U.S. S&T models:2005-present

U.S. Commission on National Security 21st Century

“Americans are living off the economic and security benefits of the last three generations’ investment in science and education, but we are now consuming capital. Our systems of basic scientific research and education are in serious crisis, while other countries are redoubling their efforts. In the next quarter century, we will likely see ourselves surpassed, and in relative decline, unless we make a conscious national commitment to maintain our edge.

President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)

… it is the entire U.S. innovation ecosystem that is at risk. The loss of global market share in STEM talent could have dramatic future impacts”.


3. Recognizing 21st century global S&T challenges

  • Consider three primary issues affecting S&T strategies at the outset of the 21st century
  • worldwide innovation systems based on emerging S&T that are increasingly competitive intellectually and in global markets
  • a significantly expanding global population with rapidly aging demographics in specific countries
  • S&T advances that could dramatically alter societal and governmental institutions as well as challenge ethical and social mores

Critical Role of S&T Human Resources

Countries in Journal of Physical Chemistry

  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • PR China
  • Puerto Rico
  • Russia
  • Slovak
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Uruguay
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • (41%)
  • Venezuela












Czech Republic

  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea

Of the 12,543 pages published in 2003, 59% were contributed by authors working in countries outside the United States


Physical Review and Physical Review Letters (1983-2004)

Courtesy of

The American Physical Society


Council on Graduate Schools

Trends in Internat’l Graduate Applications: 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06

D 2003-’04D2004-’05 D2005-’06

U.S. Citizens & Perm. Res.0%- 1% --

International- 28%- 5% + 11%

Country of Origin

China- 45%- 13% + 21%

India- 28%- 9% + 23%

Korea- 14%0% + 3%

Middle East+ 4%+ 6% + 4%

Field of Study

Business- 24% - 8% + 7%

Education- 21%- 3% + 3%

Engineering- 36%- 7% + 17%

Humanities- 17%+ 2% + 4%

Life Sciences- 24%- 1% + 16%

Physical Science- 22%- 3% + 10%

Social Sciences- 20%- 4% + 10%


Population Growth; Developed and Developing Countries

Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects, The 1998 Revision; and estimates by the Population Reference Bureau.


Europe, North America, Australia/New Zealand and Japan

Median Age: 37.4 Total Population: 1.19 Billion Dependency Ratio: 483.4


48 countries designated by the United Nations

“Least Developed”

Median Age: 18.2 Total Population: 658 Million Dependency Ratio: 860.3


3. Recognizing the Challenges for 21st Century S&T

  • S&T as a bridge between cultures
  • Global S&T cooperation can infuse the liberal principles of science throughout the fabric of societies
  • Promotes access to information and knowledge, factors that empower citizens
  • Promotes transparency through open publication
  • Promotes meritocracy of ideas through peer review
  • Supports creativity and critical thinking
  • Promotes mutual respect for diverse views
  • Builds a “Knowledge-Based Society”

S&T: “Soft Power” in 21st Century Diplomacy

Data from Pew Global Attitudes Project:

What the World Thinks in 2002 – from Nye, J. 2004

(**) Seven countries with majority Muslim populations


3. Recognizing the Challenge for 21st Century S&T

  • Lessons Recalled and Relearned
  • Global Leadership in S&T is transitory
  • In the 19th century, and at the outset of the 20th century, the dominant global S&T power was Europe.
  • Since the mid-20th century, the dominant global S&T power has been the United States.
  • A new internationally collaborative reality is rapidly emerging.
  • S&T present increasingly difficult and complex challenges
  • S&T advances are global in their technical and societal impact.
  • The sources of scientific understanding (research) are increasingly international.
  • Technology is developed within a global framework.
1. Expand international engagements

“Successful 21st century innovation in any country will increasingly depend on the degree to which it can establish international S&T cooperation.”

2. Promote long-term, risk taking S&T research

“A system of societal investments in scientific research and technological development that does not anticipate and accept a reasonable degree of failure as the price for successful innovation is a system itself doomed to failure.”


“Accurate, timely understanding of the global significance of emerging and “at-the-horizon” S&T advances requires yet a new commitment to bridge the increasing gap between S&T researchers and societal and governmental decision makers. Balance the short- versus long-term. ”

New Directions

institute for
Institute for

Motivation for ISGP

  • Many of the most significant global challenges for 21st century societies, and especially for governments, are directly related to the remarkably rapid and profound scientific achievements of our time, and the technologies that emanate from them.

Success in fostering safe, secure, and prosperous “knowledge-based” societies often reflects how well governments recognize the opportunities and risks associated with emerging science and technology (S&T) and how effectively governments institute policies that balance short- versus long-term issues.

  • Unfortunately, the gap between science-based understanding and many political and governmental agenda and polices remains large.
university of california santa cruz and university of california washington d c
University of California, Santa Cruz and University of California, Washington, D.C.


Conference Rationale:

Creates face-to-face dialogues as effective venues for critical debates and detailed understanding between the global science and technology communities and those governmental and societal decisions makers relying on an anticipatory, accurate understanding of emerging scientific advances and technological developments.

  • Participants:
  • Selected governments:
  • US, UK, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Germany, France
  • International network of university faculty and students
  • Foundations, private donors and selected private sector companies

Goals and Function

Function: to assist governments and NGOs to formulate and implement policies involving S&T that can effectively guide the investments of financial and human resources needed to meet the reasonably anticipated challenges in the 21st century.

Goals: ISGP programs seek to:

  • enhance the capability of policy makers to develop practical, anticipatory “strategic roadmaps” by recognizing the potential societal impact and policy relevance of emerging and “at-the-horizon” S&T.
  • foster continuing, critical discussions and debates between policy makers and articulate, credible members of global S&T communities to increase the impact of numerous highly respected written reports (often expensive, delayed and unread with recommendation rarely implemented).
  • educate the next generation of scientists and engineers to the challenges of translating technical understanding into societal policy.
use a unique format of multiple, not-for-attribution” conferences and government-only caucuses to address a specific S&T topic previously vetted as a priority with participating governments.

address separate S&T topics (e.g., infectious diseases, energy, climate change, nano-materials and human health. information security, etc.) in parallel series (4 conferences/year on each S&T topic).

invited S&T speakers and the topic are selected for each conference following extensive consultations with participants and through a peer-review conducted with affiliated universities worldwide.

invited S&T speakers write 3-page statements on a specific topic to:

identify the central S&T advances and their policy significance,

provide reasons why governments and societies need to be attentive to opportunities and risks (short- or long-term),

suggest potential “actionable decisions” and the associated “foreseeable consequences” to be considered.

4. ISGP Conferences

institute for advanced studies science for global policy ias sgp
Institute for Advanced Studies:Science for Global Policy (IAS/SGP)

Governmental Caucuses

After each conference, ISGP organizes a private caucus for each participating government.

Caucuses are designed to facilitate discussions of the “next steps” to be considered by governments (no commitments or policy decisions are anticipated at the caucuses). Caucus feedback also shapes subsequent ISGP conferences.

Academic ISGP Interns and Fellows

The ISGP seeks to educate the next generation of S&T students in the challenges of creating global science policy, by acting as a “practical policy laboratory” for students to learn how S&T expertise can, and cannot, influence policy.

State of Global Science Policy

To ensure the long-term, worldwide impact of perspectives from ISGP programs, an annual report on the “State of Global Science Policy” is published and discussed at a VIP conference designed to heighten public recognition of S&T in global policy, to stimulate societal debate, and to shape worldwide government policy.

4. Structure and Process


5. The Conundrum for Science Advice in Policy

“What man desires in not knowledge, but certainty.”

Winston Churchill

“If all economists (scientists?) were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.”

George Bernard Shaw

“The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error.”

Bertolt Brecht, The Life of Galileo (1939)


5. The Conundrum for Science Advice in Policy

“There are costs and risks to every course of action, but they are less that the long-term costs and risks of comfortable inaction.”

U.S. President, John F. Kennedy

“...there is no idea so stupid that you can’t find a professor who will believe it.”

H.L. Mencken

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

Bertrand Russell

5 the conundrum for science advice in policy
5. The Conundrum for Science Advice in Policy

Scientists (nor the media) are not always correct !!

“All this stuff about traveling around the universe in space suits … belongs back where it came from, on the cereal box”

Edward Purcell, 1952

“If that’s the formula of penicillin, I’ll give up chemistry and grow mushrooms”

John Cornforth to Dorothy Hodgkin

“Newspaper (media) are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization”

George Bernard Shaw, Nobel Laureate 1925

Scientists (nor the media) are not always correct !!

“the most important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered”

Albert Michelson, 1903

“physics as we know it will be over in six months”

Max Born, 1928

“[ I do not have ] the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning”

Lord Rayleigh, 1896

5. The Conundrum for Science Advice in Policy


5. The Conundrum for Science Advice in Policy

“The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error.”

Bertolt Brecht, The Life of Galileo (1939)

“Most of us are more responsible for what we decide not to do than for what we do.”


“Eternity (and perhaps this presentation!!) is very long, especially towards the end”

Woody Allen (as quoted by Prof. Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal)


Academic Partnerships

ISGP programs offer:

New opportunities to incorporate educational programs attractive future generations interested in S&T.

Access to excellent “laboratories” in which to learn how S&T understanding can, and cannot, effectively influence policy decisions.

Exposure for the next generation to the challenges permeating S&T-policy discussions.

Educational and research opportunities are led by the institutions of higher learning affiliated with the ISGP through its international network.


Institutional Goals

Establish ISGP as a major international forum in which the major 21st century S&T issues between credible scientists and decision makers to reach actionable decisions.

Recruit some of the most talented, scientifically-trained individuals from across generations and from throughout the global community as ISGP staff.

Engage faculty, students, and subject matter experts from the international network of ISGP-affiliated universities and research organization to participate in ISGP programs.

Attract governments, foundations, and selected private sector enterprises as supporting participants in ISGP programs.