U.S.-Cuba Science Diplomacy
In June 2014, Alan I. Leshner, then CEO of AAAS, and Gerald Fink, who was AAAS president, joined AAAS Chief International Officer Vaughan Turekian in an editorial arguing that improved relations with Cuba should allow joint organization of scientific workshops and meetings. President Barack Obama’s plan to establish new diplomatic ties with the island nation, announced in December, allows such scientific exchange, AAAS said in commending the policy change.
Despite economic difficulties, Cuba has fostered valuable scientific progress, articularly in the areas of medicine and biotechnology. Cooperation between Cuban and U.S. scientists on such public health threats as dengue and chikungunya, mosquito-borne viral diseases for which no vaccines exist, could prove vital. “Working together more closely will allow scientists from Cuba and the United States to better share data, identify and monitor outbreaks, and develop more coherent responses,” said Leshner.
Spurring Global Innovation
At the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I competition in Marrakech, Morocco, young innovators from developing countries presented their ideas before an international audience, while experiencing a crash course in startup culture to better their chances at entrepreneurship.
As part of the U.S. Department of State-led GIST initiative, AAAS brought 30 entrepreneurs from 23 countries to the finals of the 2014 competition. Their ideas ranged from an inexpensive heat-sensor alert system to control fires in South African slums, to an app to help midwives with difficult births in rural Uganda, to an air-conditioning system developed in Mexico that operates with solar power and silica gel. Eighteen mentors, recruited by AAAS, coached the young innovators through four days of pitching their technologies and refining their business plans.
The competition was held at the 5th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, where Vice President Joseph R. Biden said, “When I travel [in Africa and the Middle East] and the entire developing world, I see young people with limitless promise to make not only their countries but the whole world better.”
Ebola and Global Health Security
In November, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows organized a forum about the outbreak that brought together members of the Liberian diaspora and representatives of the federal departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security. “The single most important thing we can do to prevent a more serious outbreak here in the United States is make sure we get what is a raging epidemic right now in West Africa under control,” said Aaron Firoved, a former AAAS S&T Policy Fellow and now the senior biodefense advisor in the Department of Homeland Security.
As a public service, Science and Science Translational Medicine made available a collection of their news and research on Ebola published between 2000 and 2014. Meanwhile, Science published the report of a breakthrough sequencing of Ebola virus genomes that clarified the origin and spread of the recent outbreak. (See pages 19–22.)
New Science Diplomacy Course Draws 32 Nations
“I don’t believe there is any better way of cooperation, and world peace, than through science diplomacy,” Hilmers told participants at the inaugural June 2014 course on the topic organized in Trieste, Italy, by AAAS and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). More than 50 course registrants and leaders—representing 32 countries, particularly from developing nations—participated in presentations, case studies, and team exercises to develop skills and initiate specific projects. The short course is being offered annually as part of a AAAS-TWAS partnership in science diplomacy.
Connecting Networks in Latin America
ASEAN Science and Technology Fellows
As an example of a science-based problem, fellow Maria Ruth B. Pineda will work in the Philippines on a governance structure for the ASEAN-Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, Vaccines, and Traditional Medicines Innovation, an information-sharing effort.
At a Jakarta orientation event for the fellows, then AAAS science diplomat Norman Neureiter spoke about improving cross-border relations by cooperating on shared goals for advancing science. “In any country, science, technology, and innovation can be an essential piece of the development process,” Neureiter said. “This experiment in Southeast Asia, based on the AAAS model, will provide invaluable information on how best to leverage science to enhance regional development.”
(For more information on the S&T Policy Fellowships, see the Science, Policy, and Society section.)