Friday, 06 February 1987 Washington, DC
THE STAGE IS SET FOR THE RETURN OF THE UNITED STATES TO
UNESCO if it wishes, following the decision of the current
Director General, Amadou M'Bow, not to seek another term. The
US, later joined by the UK, withdrew from UNESCO on 31 Dec 84,
when M'Bow's only response to demands for political and financial
reform was to hire a Washington public relations firm (WN 17 Aug
84). Between them, the US and the UK carried off about a third
of UNESCO's financial support. At the time of the withdrawal,
the Administration gave its assurance that the funds that had
been going to UNESCO would be redirected to other international
projects, but that never materialized (WN 1 Mar 85). Physicists
have been particularly concerned about the impact on the Center
for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, which is dependent on UNESCO
for much of its support. Now it appears that the director of the
CTP, Abdus Salam, who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics, has
been nominated by Italy to replace M'Bow. Others reportedly
seeking the job include former Canadian Prime Minister Elliot
Trudeau, as well as former Prime Ministers of Australia and
Pakistan. The White House is engaged in an internal debate over
whether to support Salam, who is committed to reform of UNESCO.
The real issue, however, is whether the US seized on the inept
management of UNESCO merely as a convenient pretext to reduce
involvement in international science.
. THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION POLICY ON INTERNATIONAL
AFFAIRS is now seen as a complement to its domestic programs.
The NSF test for international activities is whether benefit can
be shown for US science. Four years ago, concerned that the
scientific infrastructure of some countries of Latin America was
threatened by the severe dollar shortage, the American Physical
Society submitted a proposal to the NSF for assistance to
scientists in these countries in the form of subscriptions to US
journals, page charges for published articles, spare parts for
equipment, and per diem support for scientific visits to the US.
The NSF approved $300K for this purpose, with half of the funds
coming from the DoE. By arrangement with DoE, the funds have
been administered out of Fermilab at no cost to the grant. The
program, which has been enormously beneficial, is now nearly
depleted. The sensitivity in the NSF director's office to the
infrastructure problem in Latin America, however, no longer
exists, and there is little prospect for such a grant today.
3. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN SCIENCE
is, however, a major
concern of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology,
which has created a new subcommittee under the chairmanship of
Rep. Ralph Hall (D-TX) to deal with it. Rep. Manuel Lujan
(R-NM), the ranking minority member on Science, Space and
Technology, has been pushing the Committee in this direction.
During hearings on Wednesday on the effect of export controls on
American competitiveness, Lujan sharply questioned members of the
Allen panel (WN 16 Jan 87) on why Latin America had been
neglected in their study.