The Challenges for International Scientific Partnerships Initiative Publishes Bold Ambition Report

June 3, 2021

By Karina Antenucci

Recently, the Challenges for International Scientific Partnerships (CISP)—a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences— released the second of three reports. Dean James W. Curran, a member of the AAAS, was involved with the development of the report.

Titled, Bold Ambition: International Large-Scale Science, the report describes the essential role of large-scale science initiatives for the U.S. scientific enterprise. It also identifies best practices for building international large-scale scientific collaborations in the future in order to engender discovery, innovation, and economic development. 

The following summarizes Bold Ambition’s key findings:

  • The U.S should support and expand international scientific collaborations, including with nations with which it has strained relations not only for U.S. science, but for the country overall.
  • International large-scale scientific endeavors are an important component of our nation’s overall science and technology enterprise, and the U.S. must work to ensure their success.
  • The U.S. should support and partner with emerging science partners around the world, as many of the most pressing scientific questions are not defined by national boundaries and require global collaboration for advancement.

A virtual event was held on June 1, 2021, to share the report’s findings with attendees who included university administrators, lawyers, funders, journalists, scientists, and policy makers. It began with an introduction by David Oxtoby, president of AAAS, followed by remarks by project co-chairs Arthur Bienenstock, professor emeritus of photon science at Stanford University, and Peter Michelson, professor of physics at Stanford University.

Michelson presented the three principal benefits of U.S. engagement in large-scale science partnerships detailed in the report. These include that large-scale science enables inspiring discoveries that are otherwise impossible, improves lives, and promotes international understanding, including between nations that have strained diplomatic relations. He highlighted some examples of successful collaborations, such as CERN, LIGO, and synchrotron X-ray facilities, which have leveraged international talent to go beyond what can be done and learned at smaller scales. 

Additionally, Michelson noted that Bold Ambition identified that the U.S. must impart the following four principles in order to effectively and beneficially participate in large-scale science partnerships: prioritize scientific excellence and impact, develop well-defined project scopes and effective project management, establish ethical standards for the conduct of research, and meet its commitments.

The second half of the Zoom event featured a panel and Q&A session moderated by Editor-in-Chief of Science & Diplomacy E. William Colglazier discussing the role of the U.S. and the future of large-scale science. Panelists included Dean Curran, President-Emeritus of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Jonathan Dorfan, Director of the National Science Foundation France Córdova, and Dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology Kaye Husbands Fealing.

Curran, who contributed to Bold Ambition as part of the Emerging Science Partners Working Group, spoke about what the priorities should be for international collaboration in U.S. public health. His feedback included that responses to immediate emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, must be proceeded with long-term plans that involve international collaboration.

This discussion coincides with a special section in the report, “COVID-19 and International Large-Scale Science,” addressing the growing realization that large-scale science initiatives will be important post-pandemic for attending to the threat of newly emerging infectious diseases.

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