Science in Foreign and Domestic Policy

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Publication date: 
1 June 2004

"Now, more than ever, American science must enlighten American statecraft." - Secretary of State Colin Powell

A new program will help the State Department tap into the scientific expertise of senior faculty at the nation's universities, while a National Academies committee is seeking ways to ensure that the best-qualified candidates are appointed to scientific posts within the federal government and on federal advisory committees.


Secretary of State Colin Powell took time from a busy schedule on May 26 to talk to members of the scientific, philanthropic, and diplomatic communities about how scientists and the State Department can work together for the benefit of the nation and the world. "Just as in the days of Franklin and Jefferson, American scientists and diplomats share a common goal today: They both seek to apply the best knowledge we have to the most significant challenges we face," Powell said at an event celebrating a new program to bring scientific expertise into the State Department.

The new Jefferson Science Fellowship program is based upon existing fellowship programs at the State Department, initiated by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In fact, AIP's first State Department Science Fellow, George Atkinson, who was named the Science and Technology Advisor to Secretary Powell after serving his AIP fellowship, was the driving force behind establishment of the Jefferson Fellowship. This new program, a partnership between the State Department, U.S. institutions of higher education, and several philanthropic foundations, will bring tenured science and engineering faculty members from participating universities to the State Department. They will join the fellows from AIP, AAAS, and several other professional science and engineering societies, working in various bureaus throughout the Department, and contributing their expertise to the scientific and technological aspects of foreign policy issues. As Powell remarked, "They will observe and participate in the day-to-day working of American foreign policy. They'll see how science and statecraft work together to improve the lives of people around the world. They'll gain an appreciation for the daily challenges confronting the men and women of the State Department...[and] take their experiences with them back into our nation's classrooms and laboratories." A key element of the Jefferson Fellowship is that fellows, once they return to their universities, will remain available as consultants to the Department for several years.

Powell concluded, "I look to our new Jefferson Fellows and to all the men and women of America's scientific community to help us in government build a safer, healthier and better world. We have unprecedented opportunities before us, and, with imagination, with compassion, and in partnership, we can seize these opportunities."

The various fellowship programs at the State Department provide opportunities for many in the science community to contribute their know-how to America's foreign policy. Qualified members of any of the 10 AIP Member Societies are eligible to apply for the AIP State Department Science Fellowship; see for details on the AIP program. Applications will be accepted this fall, with an application deadline of November 1, for the Fellowship selection in early 2005.

Readers interested in learning more about the Jefferson Fellowship should see Other professional science and engineering societies sponsoring fellowship programs at the State Department include:



and, most recently, ACS:

The full text of Secretary Powell's May 26 speech can be viewed at


In another effort to ensure that America's domestic and foreign policies are informed by high-quality science and qualified scientists, a committee of the National Academies plans to prepare a report on federal appointments to S&T-related positions and federal advisory committees. The Academies' Committee on Ensuring the Best Science and Technology Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Appointments is seeking public comments and suggestions on the appointment process, principles, and barriers to appointing the most-qualified candidates. For more information, please see The list of questions on which the committee is seeking comments can be viewed under "Statement of Task." All responses should be received by July 1, 2004.

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