MacArthur Supports New Science and Security Fellowship Program at U.S. Department of State
October 8, 2002 | Press Release

MacArthur and Carnegie Corporation of New York have announced grants totaling more than $1.1 million to help launch a senior fellowship program in the U.S. Department of State that will enable 15 leading scientists to work alongside senior diplomats and policymakers in efforts to solve international problems found at the intersection of science and security.

MacArthur's grant of $900,000 and Carnegie Corporation's grant of $250,000 to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will support the first three years of the Jefferson Science Fellows program.  These senior-level fellowships will annually bring five tenured research scientists and engineers from the U.S. academic community into the State Department for one-year assignments in Washington, D.C. or at U.S. embassies and missions abroad.  After their service, Jefferson Science Fellows will return to their academic careers, but will remain available to the U.S. government as expert consultants for short-term projects for five additional years.  Participating universities will provide financial and institutional support.  The program will be administered by the NAS. 

The fellowships are named for Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States and the nations first Secretary of State.  Jefferson was an eminent citizen-scientist whose interests, experimentation, and promotion of scientific discovery epitomized the positive contribution of scientists in government.

The Jefferson Science Fellows Program was announced today (Oct. 1, 2003) by Secretary of State Colin Powell.  A fact sheet issued in conjunction with the announcement said:

Globalization has emphasized the critical need for an accurate and timely understanding of the relevant science and technology in the formulation and implementation of effective foreign policy in areas as diverse as human health, security, environment, and even trade and commerce.  Jefferson Science Fellows can play an important role by providing cutting edge scientific and technical expertise to policy makers in the U.S. Department of State.  They will both advise and educate, using their professional experience to increase the understanding among policy officials of complex, cutting edge scientific issues and to identify the potential impact of scientific advances on U.S. foreign policy and international relations.  By helping to bridge the science and policy worlds, each fellow will alert the policy community to opportunities and challenges associated with longer range, emerging international scientific developments.   In doing so, the Jefferson Science Fellows program defines a significantly new type of relationship between the scientific community in U.S. universities and the U.S. Department of State.  

We fully expect the Jefferson program to emerge as the most prestigious fellowship program available to senior scientists who wish to work in government and contribute to foreign and security policy, said George Atkinson, who was instrumental in developing the fellowship program and who was recently named to the position of Science and Technology Adviser to Secretary Powell. 

There has never been a greater need for expert technical analysis of complex scientific and technical issues available to those responsible for decisions about war and peace, the environment, and sustainable development, said Jonathan F. Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation. It is important that those responsible for policy involving such matters have immediate access to the best possible information.  Those serving the nation as Jefferson Fellows will be an important source of such expertise.

"These fellowships can help break down the walls between scientists and international policy makers," said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.  "Too often scientists and policy makers are working on issues of importance to both of their work but there are few opportunities for shared knowledge, and cross fertilization of ideas that can make the policy breakthrough.  We believe this is one way to break down the barriers and to open opportunities."

Candidates for Jefferson Fellowships will be selected for their scientific achievements, articulation and communication skills, ability to accurately describe scientific topics for non-expert audiences, and their interest in issues at the intersection of science, diplomacy, and foreign policy.

MacArthur's support for the Jefferson Science Fellows pilot program is the most recent grant made under its Science, Technology, and Security Initiative, designed to engage scientists and engineers at leading universities and research facilities in the U.S. and internationally in efforts to help reduce the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.

Through the Initiative, the Foundation provided funding for nine U.S. universities that are helping to create 10 new tenured faculty positions for scientists and engineers and 100 positions for mid-career scientists and post-doctoral students engaged in international security research, a major expansion in the number of such positions dedicated to security issues.

Grants have also been made through the initiative to expand the opportunity for scientists and engineers in the United Kingdom, Russia, and China to work on international security policy. Other grants have been awarded to policy institutes and projects to help ensure that expert scientific and technical advice is made available to policymakers in a timely and accessible way.  Prominent grant recipients include the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, offering objective analysis and advice on a variety of security issues, including the dangers associated with nuclear testing and proliferation as well as emerging biological, chemical, and space weapons.

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