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Letter to Congressional Leaders Transmitting the Annual Report on International Activities in Science and Technology

March 23, 1990

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. Chairman:)

In accordance with Title V of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of Fiscal 1979, as amended (Public Law 95 - 426; 22 U.S.C. 2656c(b)), I am pleased to transmit the annual report on international activities in science and technology (S&T) for fiscal year 1989.

A characteristic feature of our age is the unprecedented rate of change in science and technology. In 1989, however, the rate of change in foreign affairs, particularly in Eastern Europe, has surpassed even that of science and technology. These remarkable changes in Eastern Europe have provided expanded opportunities for S&T cooperation with countries of the Eastern Bloc.

For example, on July 13, 1989, during my visit to Budapest, Hungary, I committed the United States to work with Hungary to expand bilateral research exchanges between our two peoples. Subsequent negotiations resulted in the signing of an umbrella S&T agreement less than 3 months later. In addition, because of growing concern about the environmental problems that plague the countries of Eastern Europe, I announced the creation of a new, independent Eastern European Environment Center in Budapest, along with initiatives to improve the environmental quality of the historic city of Krakow, Poland. We will continue to look for opportunities to integrate mutually beneficial science and technology cooperation with our broad foreign policy goals that are aimed at encouraging independence, democratization, and economic growth in emerging market economies of Eastern Europe.

My desire to preserve and improve humanity's common heritage and to address issues of the environment and global change found expression in a number of other activities. During the Paris Economic Summit, I joined other heads of state in calling for decisive action to understand and protect the earth's ecological balance. The United States was instrumental in establishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the primary international forum on this topic. These and other efforts highlighted in this report emphasize the need for nations to work together to understand the interconnected earth system and the ways in which human activity is influencing that system.

Because science and technology are truly international activities, it is frequently the case that scientists and technologists collaborate more closely with colleagues on the other side of the globe than with those at the other end of the hall. This international dimension of science is built on the person-to-person and institution-to-institution bonds that are formed through shared education, collaboration in research and development, and communications.

We in the United States pride ourselves on open access to our educational institutions, not only for students of this country but for students around the globe. Many foreign students have been eager to take advantage of this access, because it remains a fact that the United States has the best system of graduate education anywhere in the world.

The free flow of students finds a parallel in the free flow of ideas around the world today, particularly in the area of basic scientific knowledge. Much of the international character of science derives from its universality. The United States is firmly committed to the free and open international flow of basic scientific knowledge.

This philosophy also underlies the U.S. approach to a very important subset of our scientific efforts today -- namely, the megaprojects in science, such as the Superconducting Super Collider, the human genome project, and Space Station Freedom. The results of these projects are a global resource adding to the knowledge base of all countries. We are moving toward a day when the responsibility for supporting large basic science projects will be distributed around the world, reflecting the truly international character of modern scientific research and the shared financial and intellectual underpinnings of that research.

Perhaps the most important element of federally funded international cooperation in S&T is the over 600 bilateral science and technology agreements involving more than 20 U.S. agencies, 120 foreign countries, and numerous multilateral organizations. These agreements -- many of which are highlighted in this report -- differ from one country to another, reflecting the state of that country's development and its past relations with the scientific community in the United States. However, there are several broad principles that apply in all our international science and technology agreements: comparable access, shared responsibilities for both basic and applied research, adequate protection and fair disposition of intellectual property rights, and effective protection of sensitive knowledge.

These agreements provide exciting opportunities for cooperation between the United States and the rest of the world, but we must remain cognizant of the fact that the global marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive. The United States still has the strongest science and technology enterprise that the world has ever seen, but we no longer are in a leading position in all fields. By concentrating resources and focusing efforts, other nations have succeeded in equaling and in some cases surpassing us in specific areas of research and technology.

This is part of the orderly development of nations and is due, at least in part, to the help that we provided to other countries since the end of World War II. But the internationalization of the marketplace emphasizes that we can no longer take our leadership for granted. In an increasingly competitive world, only a continuing effort to remain at the forefront of science and technology will ensure our economic and military security.

It has become increasingly clear that science and technology, the economy, and foreign relations are inextricably intertwined. Policy decisions must be made with a clear appreciation of the scientific and technological issues surrounding those decisions. We must find more creative and effective ways to ensure that science and technology are an integral and important part of our foreign policy around the globe. We have begun that process in 1989, and I look forward to continuing that effort in 1990 and beyond.


George Bush

Note: Identical letters were sent to Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Claiborne Pell, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and John Glenn, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

George Bush, Letter to Congressional Leaders Transmitting the Annual Report on International Activities in Science and Technology Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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