Roemer Lecture explores intersection of science and foreign policy

This Wednesday, the Kenneth Roemer Lecture on World Affairs hosted Norman Neureiter, whose address, "Science and U.S. Foreign Policy," advocated the use of a scientific approach to diplomacy.

Neureiter worked under former presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in the State Department, went on to serve as the first science and technology advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State and is now the senior advisor at the Center for Technology and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has spent his career encouraging government officials to realize that diplomacy and the world's scientific issues are intertwined in many ways.

"Both governments and companies must invest in the future." Neureiter said. "And if they don't, there won't be a future." He said he believes we must face up to the "grand challenges" of the world, citing issues like the inequitable distribution of food, water and energy to the world's population. To make this a reality, Neuriter said, we must turn to diplomatic efforts along with intelligence gathering and military strength.

"Diplomacy is the last stop until war," he said.

While discussing tense dialogues between nations, he said "Science diplomacy is spreading the use of scientific cooperation as an instrument of a foreign policy engagement, especially where overall science cooperation is bad."

The lecture identified Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba and Burma, countries Neuriter deemed the "toughies," as areas where we need to patch up our broken dialogues and start scientific agreements to create a global discussion on these matters.

Neuriter also acknowledged that these nations are making strides toward increased scientific knowledge through advances including the establishment of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea and the Pugwash Meetings on nuclear weapons.

Neureiter noted positive trends in recent American foreign policy with relation to science. "[President Barack] Obama is the most science-friendly president we've had," Neureiter said.

John Holdren, the former science and technology advisor for the Obama administration, said he believes that the current administration is working hard to push for technological investments from within a government that is constantly fraught with departmental infighting and party line stances.

Carolina Tenorio, a junior international relations major, said she was impressed with what Neureiter had to say and was surprised to learn about how important science could be to diplomacy.

"This has opened my mind," she said. "It was really interesting to see that science could be a positive way to unite countries and bring peace."