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Obama and the Promotion of International Science

Authors: Thomas J. Bollyky, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Economics, and Development, and Paul L. Bollyky
November 2012


Six months after his 2009 inauguration, U.S. President Obama spoke at Cairo University in Egypt and called for a new beginning in relations between the United States and Muslim-majority countries, defined by collaboration in science and technology. Innovation, according to the president, is the "currency of the 21st century" and the means by which the United States and its partners would create new jobs and tackle the global challenges of climate change, hunger, and disease. The Cairo speech remains a seminal moment in President Obama's broader initiative to ramp up U.S. cooperation in international science as a core component of his foreign policy agenda. On the eve of the next U.S. presidential election, now is an opportune moment to evaluate whether the Obama Administration's record on promoting international science has fulfilled the promise of its early rhetoric. This question will be considered through the lenses of diplomacy, international development, and the operational requirements for scientific exchange. For this analysis, we, like the president, refer to international scientific cooperation in its broadest sense, including not only research but also capacity-building and the application of technological innovations to achieve global goals.

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