UA Conference Investigates Role of Scientists in International Diplomacy

At the Feb. 22-24 University of Arizona summit on science diplomacy and policy, numerous speakers – including a Nobel laureate and former ambassador – reiterated the need to serve as advocates of science, even in times of political turmoil. Attendees and speakers at a 2017 UA Summit, "Science Diplomacy and Policy with Focus on the Americas"

Just how best to advocate was a hot topic of discussion at the three-day Science Diplomacy and Policy with Focus on the Americas conference. The event, which was co-chaired by CEEM Department Head Kevin Lansey and research professor Hassan Vafai, emphasized climate change and water sustainability in the Americas

"It is scientific evidence that is essential for setting sound policies. Science is how we know the truth, how we understand the natural world. It is not an ideology," said keynote speaker Norman Neureiter, a former staff member in the White House Office of Science and Technology and the first science and technology adviser to a secretary of state.

Joining Neureiter as presenters were Thomas R. Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and Peter Agre, 2003 recipient of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. 

Agre argued the importance of continuing international collaboration among scientists despite political differences, referencing his own experience leading scientific delegations to Cuba, North Korea and other countries that have strained or nonexistent diplomatic relations with the U.S. 

"We weren't there to apologize or criticize; we were there to talk about science and to find common ground," he said. 

Several UA students, most from the College of Engineering, attended the conference as rapporteurs, documenting the proceedings for submission to the AAAS journal Science & Diplomacy. 

The conference was sponsored by the College of Engineering, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, Institute of the Environment, Office of Global Initiatives and the UA Foundation. 

Left: conference attendees; center: Lansey (left) and Vafai (right) are joined by William Colglazier of the American Association for Advancement of Science; right: the Sonoran Institute's Francisco Zamora, discusses collaborative research between the U.S. and Mexico.

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