Insights into the Global STI Future: A View from the U.S. State Department

Friday, 14 February 2014
Grand Ballroom C North (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
E. William Colglazier , U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC
Having served as Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, I see how U.S. science and engineering excellence and leadership is essential for our nation’s security (e.g., its economy, defense, health), and how scientific cooperation is an essential tool of U.S. diplomacy and development. International STI research cooperation for the U.S. is a positive national strategy to help leverage scientific expertise, facilities, and funding around the world, to train a globally-engaged U.S. workforce, and to find new research and industrial partners and new markets. A key part of such a national effort is enabling U.S. universities to engage more strategically in international STI collaboration. As a nation we need to improve our ability to translate our vision into well-informed plans for STI research and action. I find that at meetings on complex challenges that require expertise from many sources (e.g., on urbanization, 3-D manufacturing, synthetic biology, water, nanotechnology), many of those I meet are striving to build such visionary capacity that is not so discipline- or institution-bound.  As I travel outside the U.S., I learn about ambitious STI aspirations, policies and programs of many other countries. I often stumble across top-notch projects being conducted by U.S. universities and their industry partners in these countries. With little information disseminated more widely about international STI engagement of U.S. universities and companies, it remains difficult for our nation and its institutions to understand our international STI portfolio, to learn from it, and to strengthen and grow it. And I find few ways to communicate to the U.S. STI enterprise the many things that can be uncovered about STI efforts in other nations. I know such insights could help U.S. scientists, universities and industries build strong, productive and sustainable STI partnerships. As a nation we have numerous efforts that seek to explore trends and implications of the rapid advances in STI.  Publicly-available reports funded or carried out by the U.S. government attempt to do this, e.g., the Department of Commerce’s “Deep Dive in Space”, the Air Force’s “Technology Horizons”, and the National Research Council’s “S&T Strategies of Six Countries”; such studies perform an essential national function by focusing on how global STI trends might influence national security.  Given our distributed, “bottom-up” STI R&D enterprise, however, there is little emphasis on disseminating insights from these and other assessment and foresight activities to enable us to engage more strategically around the world, and thereby harness the transformational potential of emerging STI for tremendous social and/or economic benefit for the U.S. and other nations.