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Posted: November 1, 2007
National Academies expand cooperation with Iranian research and education centers
(Nanowerk News) Following productive discussions in Iran between representatives of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and senior Iranian officials and scientific leaders, the U.S. National Academies plan to expand a program of scientific cooperation with Iranian institutions that began in 1999. During the past eight years, continuing political confrontations between the U.S. and Iranian governments have complicated bilateral scientific cooperation, but with perseverance by scientific institutions in both countries, important programs have been carried out.
Wm. A. Wulf, leader of the team that visited Iran from October 13 to 22 this year and the former president of the National Academy of Engineering, said that "we have an historic opportunity to continue our work with Iranian colleagues on problems of global importance that will not only advance international science and engineering, but also build trust and respect for one another throughout our societies."
Sharif University of Technology, in cooperation with the Iranian Academy of Sciences, was the host for meetings and visits in Tehran and several other cities. Iranian participants enthusiastically welcomed plans for expanded cooperation. The discussions uncovered a number of topics of mutual interest and a shared desire to strengthen collaboration. Among the projects to be undertaken are the following:
-- Iran's vice president for science Sadegh Vaez-Zadeh challenged Iranian and American scientists to help monitor and deter inappropriate "uses of scientific discoveries that cause harm," either inadvertently by inadequate foresight or willfully by violating international norms. In response, a bilateral dialogue will be initiated on general principles to deal with such issues with an initial focus on biological research, applications of nanotechnology, use of fossil fuels, and use of cyber technology.
-- During a workshop titled "Science, A Gateway to Understanding" where the American team made presentations, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami urged the participants to use achievements of science to benefit all nations, increase understanding among people, and avoid destructive confrontations. A follow-on workshop, which will emphasize practical means of moving toward "understanding," will be held in 2008.
-- The ninth in the series of bilateral workshops on various topics that began in the year 2000 will focus on reducing earthquake damage. It will be held in Iran in early 2008 on the topic of "adobe and unreinforced masonry structures."
-- An exchange of science policy specialists between the National Academies and Sharif University will begin in 2008 with an emphasis on young professionals.
-- An effort to establish channels of communication between Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax County Public Schools, with a counterpart secondary school in Tehran will be explored; initial steps to do so were taken during the visit.
A particularly notable aspect of the visit was the contribution of Joseph Taylor, a Nobel laureate in physics from Princeton University. He delivered a scientific lecture to an enthusiastic audience of more than 1,000 professors and students at Sharif University with Internet connections set up throughout the country. Taylor participated in many television interviews, and he provided personal insights on the life of a scientist to the Iranian students.
The American team also had discussions with representatives of other Iranian institutions in addition to leaders of universities and research centers. One such discussion was a dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and religious scholars in the city of Qom, followed by a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili.
This program of scientific outreach and cooperation by the National Academies has been consistently endorsed since its inception by the U.S. Department of State and by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury. It has also been encouraged by the Iranian government as the American team was told on numerous occasions while in Iran. Financial support has been provided by the National Academies and the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.
The U.S. National Academies delegation members were: Wm. A. Wulf (NAE president emeritus and professor of computer science, University of Virginia), Michael T. Clegg (NAS foreign secretary and professor of biological sciences, University of California at Irvine), Anita Jones (NAE member and professor of computer science, University of Virginia), Thomas Jordan (NAS Council member, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, and professor of geophysics, University of Southern California), Joseph Taylor (NAS member, Nobel laureate, and professor of physics, Princeton University), E. William Colglazier (NAS executive officer and National Research Council chief operating officer), Norman P. Neureiter (director, Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy, American Association for the Advancement of Science), Glenn Schweitzer (director, Office for Central Europe and Eurasia, National Research Council), Maxmillian Angerholzer (executive director, Richard Lounsbery Foundation), Catherine C. Colglazier (humanities division manager, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax County, Va.), Georgine Neureiter, and Amy E. Moore (program associate, National Research Council).