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Fall 2009 Vol. 9 Number 2



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Photo courtesy Institute of Medicine FROM THE PRESIDENT

Institute of Medicine


Globalization and Science

As this issue of In Focus went to press, world leaders gathered in Copenhagen for a summit on climate. Few issues demonstrate more dramatically than climate change both global interdependence and the central role of science in shaping geo-political decisions. Although we cannot know precisely what will emerge from the Copenhagen meeting, it is clear that scientific evidence about global warming and the impact of humans on climate -- and public understanding of that scientific evidence -- should be potent drivers of policy decisions.

A number of the studies and activities highlighted in this issue demonstrate the global reach of science and the place of science in policy that affects the globe. Closely connected to the issue of climate, for example, is our project on America's Energy Future, which shows how careful scientific assessment can illuminate our nation's policy options and how they will affect the world. Two other recent reports -- one on the risks of emerging infections, the other on the international distribution of air pollution -- amply illustrate how choices made in one country affect others and the need for global scientific understanding of these risks to health. Beyond an expression of shared risk, health also represents a shared aspiration for human progress. The U.S. Commitment to Global Health, another important report covered in this issue, outlines how the U.S. can take advantage of its biomedical and technological prowess to promote global health and project a positive influence in the world.

A critical component of the steps we choose to take as a nation is international cooperation and collaboration. This year the National Academies celebrated decades of scientific, engineering, and health collaboration with our counterparts in China (30 years) and Russia (50 years). In recent years, the U.S. National Academies have also been working in partnership with science academies in Africa to enable them to provide the kind of guidance in their countries that the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine provide in the U.S. These milestones in international cooperation indicate the dual aspect of science as a driver of globalization and as an expression of globalization. Through our studies and cooperative activities, the National Academies provide a conduit for international partnerships and help to reinforce the place of science in policy decisions that affect everyone on the globe.


    HARVEY V. FINEBERG
    President
    Institute of Medicine



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Copyright 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences