AFOSR – The importance of basic science in science diplomacy

by Erin Crawley
Air Force Office of Scientific Research

11/23/2015 – ARLINGTON, Va. – The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has a rich history of global engagement, building international partnerships and funding world class basic research scientists to support the science and technology aspects of the Air Force mission.

It seems now more than ever in this globalized era, that if the United States wants to hold its place as the world leader in technological advances and cutting-edge science, continued international engagement is a strategic must. Combining diplomatic efforts with U.S science and technology goals can be a wise approach to achieve that objective.

Dr. E. William Colglazier, former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (STAS), and currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), would agree. A strong advocate of science diplomacy, he has worked with AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon, on international collaborations with South Africa, Italy and Australia over the past three years. The relationship between AFOSR and Dr. Colglazier rested on a single overarching principle – mutual trust. From that foundation, AFOSR and STAS set forth on an interagency strategy that opened unique pathways to build international partnerships.

“What I found is that AFOSR is one of those institutions that learned very early on the importance of what globalization is in terms of maintaining U.S. excellence in science and technology. I certainly want the U.S to be the world leader. If the U.S. is going to stay in the forefront, we’ve got to find out who the very good people are in other places doing interesting work and go out and engage with them,” Colglazier said.

Colglazier continued, “So the fact that AFOSR is engaged around the world, it has offices overseas, plus it can fund basic unclassified fundamental research, is surely the crown jewel of American science.”

link graphic A photo of Dr. E. William Colglazier, former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, and currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Over the past three years, Dr. E. William Colglazier, a strong advocate of science diplomacy, collaborated with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to build partnerships with leading scientists and engineers of South Africa, Italy and Australia to strengthen and advance international engagement through science. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Cherie Cullen)

Colglazier’s first engagement with AFOSR was when he was invited to collaborate on the 2011 South Africa Joint Services & Technology Workshop, held in South Africa. “I think AFOSR found it useful to go with someone from the State Department in a joint effort with the Department of Defense (DoD) to help emphasize why it is in the interest of the South African researchers as well as in the interest of the U.S. to develop these relationships,” Colglazier said.

At the time, AFOSR was scouting the best universities, research laboratories, and companies performing unique fundamental science in South Africa, Italy and Australia that might be relevant to AFOSR’s mission. Since then the joint efforts of Dr. Colglazier and Dr. Bin-Salamon led to an unprecedented DoD basic research engagement in continental Africa by building linkages with S&T organizations such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); the African Laser Centre, the Minerals Technology Laboratory, and many others. These relationships created partnership opportunities not just for AFOSR, but also for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Army Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research, Army Corp of Engineers, and United States Africa Command. In addition, AFOSR has gone on to fund and build relationships with top African scientists in the areas of materials science, physics, sensors and electronics and hosted the 2014 Joint Services & OSD Africa Technical Exchange, Arlington, VA.

Colglazier sees this new DoD basic research engagement in continental Africa as a great example of what he calls science diplomacy. He says using diplomacy to help advance our relations with other countries and advance the global scientific enterprise is essential.

“While historically, the U.S. has engaged in science and diplomacy efforts both in times of peace and war, it is especially important now for there to be universal acceptance by the U.S. government of the importance of international science and cooperation and its impact on protecting the United States,” Colglazier said.

To further support the efforts in Africa during this time, Dr. Bin-Salamon reached out to Professor Geraldine Richmond, Presidential Chair in Science, Professor of Chemistry at University of Oregon, National Academy of Science member, and President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to join forces with AFOSR to visit CSIR and universities in South Africa in hopes of expanding research activities in Africa.

Richmond is a passionate advocate for women in science and is also the Director and co-founder of COACh, a grass-roots organization based at the University of Oregon, assisting in the advancement of women scientists and engineers in both the U.S. and in developing countries. “At that time I accompanied Sofi and a team from AFOSR along with other agencies, to visit CSIR and universities in South Africa, I was very interested in helping to increase research collaborations between scientists in the U.S. and in Africa, especially women scientists who often get overlooked in international collaborations,” Richmond said.

Richmond says the importance of basic science often comes up in discussions at the outset of these joint efforts, in both developing and developed countries. She says this is where AFOSR can assist in international collaborative ventures.

“In many less developed countries, in Africa and Asia, basic science, what I call ‘discovery science’, is a luxury that many believe they cannot afford.   With limited resources I often see the strategy of these countries to instead want to invest in development or applications science rather than discovery science, relying on the more scientifically advanced countries to provide that fundamental knowledge. While I believe that this is a wise choice it is short term oriented. Many of the scientists in those countries still have an interest in doing fundamental science but they generally know that they will likely need international collaborations to do that, or funding from outside of their country. AFOSR can play a role in both assisting in collaborations between U.S. scientists and those in less developed countries and also help to fund discovery science in those countries,” Richmond explained.

“I believe that we have a lot to learn from such joint ventures. In many parts of the world, problems that they face today often foreshadow what we in the U.S. will face in the future. Climate change is a good example of that.   Learning and working with scientists in these countries not only helps them cope with those problems but also helps us prepare for the future. AFOSR can help to bring scientists from different countries together to solve common problems, creating international networks that are necessary for solving global problems that do not have boundaries. This is where AFOSR can have a huge impact,” Richmond said.

That same year Bin-Salamon and Colglazier worked together to build strategic basic research and diplomatic collaborations between the U.S. and Australia by working with the Australian government and the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF). This eventually led AFOSR to leverage the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) that resulted in many successful partnerships with the Australian research landscape involving the Australian Department of Education and Training; the Department of Industry and Science; Australian Academy of Science, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; and Australian universities.

Over the past four years the extensive collaborative efforts between AFOSR and the Australian Government resulted in three successful major engagements, with the most recent one, the US-Australia Enabling Technologies Technical Exchange Meeting, taking place in May 2015 in Arlington, Va.

Two key players from the Education, Science and Technology Branch of the Embassy of Australia, Mr. Michael Schwager, former Minister-Counsellor for Education, Science and Technology and Ms. Laura Rahn, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, along with Mrs. Rosie Hicks, ANFF CEO, collaborated with AFOSR to be inclusive of Australian researchers from all Australian universities and publically funded research agencies as part of the program agenda. Australian researchers were chosen to participate depending on possible new areas of collaboration between Australian and U.S. participants and the potential to enhance international cooperation in the development, operation and use of research infrastructure.

The result was an amazing gathering of more than 80 participants from the U.S. and Australia. Thirty-five researchers from 17 Australian universities and four publically funded research agencies were in attendance and presented to a range of U.S. research funding agencies and universities. This year’s workshop was the largest one thus far, attracting more candidates and participants than in previous years, creating a collaborative innovative environment for researchers to discuss their cutting edge research.

“In addition to the Enabling Technologies Workshop, the Australian Government also supported a pilot research placement program in 2014 which placed Australian researchers in AFOSR funded labs across the U.S.. This was a successful way to continue the ongoing linkages between Australian and AFOSR funded researchers by enabling them to interact face to face in the lab with their US counterpart,” said Schwager, Head of the Science & Commercialisation Division in the Australian Federal Department of Industry & Science.

Schwager continued, “It is through these activities that the Australian Government hopes to strengthen our connections with AFOSR further and to foster future innovations.”

Following engagements in continental Africa and Australia, the pattern of creating relationships between AFOSR and global civilian research organizations repeated in Italy in the following years.

In 2013 Colglazier introduced Bin-Salamon to Mr. Giulio Busulini, Scientific Attaché at the Embassy of Italy in Washington D.C., to establish a science and technology dialogue with the Italian S&T community. Since then they have been coordinating together on several fronts, to include very successful collaborations with Italian science organizations.

In addition, Bin-Salamon and Busulini worked diligently with representatives from U.S. Department of State, Italian Ministry of Research, the Italian Ministry of Defense, and the Italian Industries Federation for Aerospace, Defense and Security; to organize the AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange as part of the US-Italy Defense S&T Dialogue. The effort established interagency engagements with the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) through the AFOSR/NIH/CNR Technical Exchange and the AFOSR/DARPA/NCI Strategic Workshop, and CIRA Italian Aerospace Research Centre that manages one of the top hypersonics testing facility in the world. In unprecedented fashion, CIRA has participated in AFOSR Program Reviews to engage the USAF basic research enterprise, and the Embassy of Italy worked in concert with AFOSR to support projects and researcher exchanges between Italian universities and AFOSR-funded academic laboratories. By opening new doors with CNR and CIRA, there are now opportunities to enable scientist from the U.S. to use the CIRA testing facilities for basic research purposes. Collaborators hope this will also create opportunities for more technology transfers for the DoD and aerospace industry.

“CIRA gave their first presentation to AFOSR at the US-Italy Joint Defense S&T Dialogue, held in 2013 in Washington, D.C., and showed to the U.S. Program managers how they might use the testing facilities for specific scientific areas. In addition, during this meeting, CIRA also communicated their interest in some joint research efforts,” Busulini said.

Appreciative of the newly established relationship with AFOSR, Busulini said, “This collaboration enabled us to bring CIRA in the conversation. Our relationship with AFOSR helped to accelerate the progress to start a more open dialogue in basic research”, Busulini said.

Another positive outcome resulting from the science and technology dialogue between AFOSR and the Italian Government is that the Ministry of Defense of Italy is moving toward more collaborative opportunities in basic science.

“AFOSR has mechanisms in place that make it very simple to fund and co-fund opportunities while making more efficient and economically beneficial investments. Additionally, the AFOSR model encourages long-term science and technology strategies that enable international partners to better connect with new scientific frontiers,” Busulini said.

While the success of these collaborations with continental Africa, Australia and Italy are the result of a lot of hard work by very committed and dedicated governments, scientists, program officers, academic institutions and industry partners, some of these relationships never would have been established without Colglazier in the mix.

“Dr. Colglazier’s partnership was central in our initiative to create a new international basic research landscape for AFOSR,” said Dr. Bin-Salamon. “By working together in a way that complemented our resources, we achieved successes that would not have occurred otherwise.”

A photo of Dr. E. William Colglazier and Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon.

Dr. E. William Colglazier and Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon share a common view of partnering with scientists around the world to advance the U.S. scientific enterprise while enabling the international community to solve global problems. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Cherie Cullen)

Through science diplomacy we can increase our global reach and help to influence a better future. “For me, science diplomacy is not about using science as a tool to advance our diplomatic goals like influencing the behavior of other countries and their investments, but it is also about using diplomacy in international engagement to advance the U.S. scientific enterprise,” added Colglazier.

The efforts of the State Department and AFOSR working together have helped to strengthen that enterprise. Colglazier expressed his appreciation in working with AFOSR, “Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon has been a very valued colleague of mine and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s been my partner in terms of engagement together, in Africa and in other countries. He’s an example of one of these bright young scientists who has come into the public policy sphere through these fellowship programs, originally through the AAAS, and who have become civil servants and very important components of the strategy of agencies like AFOSR for international engagement around the world.”

Dr. Colglazier is currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Find more information about Dr. Colglazier’s work in this area at: The United States Looks to the Global Science, Technology, and Innovation Horizon, and Platform of Enhancing Global Academic Strategic Collaboration in Science (PEGASCIS).

ABOUT AFOSR:

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, located in Arlington, Virginia, continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge through its leadership and management of the Air Force’s basic research program. As a vital component of the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFOSR’s mission is to discover, shape and champion basic science that profoundly impacts the future Air Force. Through its international enterprise AFOSR supports the Air Force science and technology community by identifying foreign technological capabilities and accomplishments that can be applied to Air Force needs.

To stay up-to-date on the latest AFOSR happenings, please join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Week in Review: 12/7/14 – 12/13/14

December 11, 2014

Penn Research Outlines Basic Rules for Construction With a Type of Origami
A team of University of Pennsylvania researchers is turning kirigami, a related art form that allows the paper to be cut, into a technique that can be applied equally to structures on those vastly divergent length scales. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation through its ODISSEI program, the American Philosophical Society and the Simons Foundation.
http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-research-outlines-basic-rules-construction-type-origami

December 10, 2014

Defects are perfect in laser-induced graphene
Researchers at Rice University have created flexible, patterned sheets of multilayer graphene from a cheap polymer by burning it with a computer-controlled laser. The process works in air at room temperature and eliminates the need for hot furnaces and controlled environments, and it makes graphene that may be suitable for electronics or energy storage.
http://news.rice.edu/2014/12/10/defects-are-perfect-in-laser-induced-graphene/

December 9, 2014

Local Scrabble player places second in world
A competitive Scrabble player who works at the Rome Air Force Research Laboratory, Lipe last month achieved what he called an “amazing experience,” finishing second at the world Scrabble Champions Tournament in London.
http://romesentinel.com/county/local-scrabble-player-places-second-in-world/QBqnlh!8bJmTlrrvCgSyy7qVVVG3Q/

Contact lens merges plastics and active electronics via 3-D printing
As part of a project demonstrating new 3-D printing techniques, Princeton researchers have embedded tiny light-emitting diodes into a standard contact lens, allowing the device to project beams of colored light.
http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S41/81/41S44/index.xml

A Week in Review: 11/23/14-11/29/14

November 26, 2014

University of Minnesota engineers make sound loud enough to bend light on a computer chip
University of Minnesota engineering researchers have developed a chip on which both sound wave and light wave are generated and confined together so that the sound can very efficiently control the light. The novel device platform could improve wireless communications systems using optical fibers and ultimately be used for computation using quantum physics.
http://discover.umn.edu/news/science-technology/university-minnesota-engineers-make-sound-loud-enough-bend-light-computer

November 24, 2014

New device could make large biological circuits practical
A team of researchers at MIT has now come up with a way of greatly reducing that unpredictability, introducing a device that could ultimately allow such circuits to behave nearly as predictably as their electronic counterparts. The findings are published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology, in a paper by associate professor of mechanical engineering Domitilla Del Vecchio and professor of biological engineering Ron Weiss.
http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/predictable-biological-circuits-1124

 

A Week in Review: 8/31/14 – 9/6/14

Sept. 5, 2014

Scientists urge government to fund basic research
Research into fundamental processes in nature needed to open new possibilities for true innovation
http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/scientists-urge-government-to-fund-basic-research-1.2756038

Sept. 2, 2014

Synthetic Diesel
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) is assuring fuel supply and reducing waste by developing a mobile alternative energy system that creates liquid diesel fuel from synthetic gas (syngas) that can be used at forward operating bases.
http://science.dodlive.mil/2014/09/02/synthetic-diesel/

Focus on the Future

History has demonstrated that basic science is often unpredictable. When managed successfully it produces groundbreaking and game changing technologies for the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force and society as a whole. The United States depends on science, technology and innovative engineering to protect the American people and advance our national interests.

In this video, we focus on AFOSR’s investment in the six basic research areas that have the potential to create foundations for new disruptive technologies and solve formerly unsolvable problems for the Department of Defense. These areas are organized and managed in five scientific directorates: Dynamical Systems and Control (RTA), Quantum & Non-Equilibrium Processes (RTB), Information, Decision, and Complex Networks (RTC), Complex materials and Devices (RTD), and Energy, Power, and Propulsion (RTE). The research activities managed within each directorate are summarized on our website.

Dr. Russell, the former director of AFOSR (current Director of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory) highlights AFOSR’s focus to identify cutting edge scientific principles that will lead to a future Air Force unlike the one we have today.

The focus of AFOSR is on research areas that offer significant and comprehensive benefits to our national warfighting and peacekeeping capabilities. The ground breaking work of our scientists and engineers will yield significant results well into the future!

What disruptive technology do you envision in the future?