U.S.-Germany Science And Technology Agreement Signing

James B. Steinberg
Deputy Secretary of State
Annette Schavan, German Minister For Education And Research
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
February 18, 2010

DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Thank you, Kerri-Ann. It’s a great pleasure to be here and to welcome Minister Schavan and Ambassador Scharioth here, and the whole German delegation. This really is a momentous occasion that reflects an important element of our cooperation – bilateral cooperation, which doesn’t get enough attention – the kind of work that in some ways has its biggest impact on the lives of our people. Our ability to work together to meet the great scientific challenges of our time. A contribution that we make not only to each other, but to the international community as a whole. And I’m grateful that Kerri-Ann Jones, our Assistant Secretary, is here, and her strong leadership here at the Department, which has restored a measure of prominence and importance not only to the scientific agenda, but particularly to international cooperation.

There’s no better symbol of what it means to live in a world without borders than the opportunities for scientific cooperation. Our scientists know that knowledge knows no borders, and that if we’re going to meet the great challenges of our day, whether it’s in health or the environment or energy or so many other issues that we will be working on together, drawing on the best minds around the world is so critical. And we have a very strong commitment to that level of international cooperation. And as I told the minister, it runs in my family, since we have a strong tradition here, with my wife at OSTP, in supporting international scientific cooperation.

So it is a great opportunity to be here. And I’m glad that we have so many people from our scientific establishment in the government here, including Dr. Bement from NSF, and so many others form the other agencies that will be involved in our collaborative work. We know that the genius of science is that it needs to follow its own paths and to follow the best ideas. And the goal of government is to support good work and good researchers as they do their efforts and try to deal with these great challenges.

The President has made a great deal of emphasis on the importance of this. And I just want to quote from his Cairo speech, in which he said, “The global challenges we must – the global challenge we face must be dealt with through partnerships based on mutual interest and mutual respect and on shared principles of justice and progress.” Science and technology are critical to addressing many of the challenges we face today, from climate change to protecting biodiversity. Moreover, knowledge and innovation will be the basis of economic prosperity in the 21st century. That’s why the United States is taking steps to invest in science and technology at home and why we’re committed to science and technology as a key part of our global engagement.

And as I said, the range of issues that are so important to our long-term welfare include issues like climate change, natural disaster prediction, water scarcity, food shortages as – security, and infectious diseases. And we know the critical role that so many of these world-renowned German institutions have played in meeting all these challenges, from the Max Planck Society, to the Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz Association of German Research, and the Leibniz Science Association. And we have many representatives from these distinguished institutions here today.

I was told that the history of U.S. and German scientific collaboration goes way back to one of the great names of German science, that of Alexander von Humboldt, who was renowned for his travels around the world, but apparently during his many travels, came here to the United States and engaged in a little scientific discourse between himself and our scientist-in-chief, Thomas Jefferson, who as we all know, had a great interest in science and all matters of discovery. And I think that we have been able to build today on that 200-year tradition by agreeing on this framework agreement that will allow us to both achieve a more systematic approach to our collaboration and also to make our efforts more effective.

And I know that following on our signing today, there are going to be some important implementing agreements also reached. I know the NIH is going to be hosting meetings this afternoon to discuss enhanced bilateral cooperation in rare diseases and stem cell research. And the NSF has organized the discussions this afternoon with NSF, the Department of Energy, and our German counterparts to explore opportunities for cooperation on climate change and energy research.

And we also have a collaborative agreement with the Joint Fellowship Program in cancer research and that DOE’s Oakridge Labs are also going to be signing implementing arrangements. So these are all very concrete evidence that this is not just a symbolic effort, as important as that is, but actually the beginning of a new era and a new level of intensity in our cooperation.

So let me conclude by thanking Minister Schavan for coming here and expressing our strong commitment to seeing this not as an end, but a beginning of a very strong partnership between our two countries in this important area.

Minister Schavan. (Applause.)

MINISTER SCHAVAN: (Via interpreter) Deputy Secretary Steinberg, Ambassador Scharioth, ladies and gentlemen, it is very good to be here at a time where both Governments, that of the United States and that of Germany, are convinced that investment in research and innovation is the key to future prosperity and development.

It is our deep conviction, and indeed a mentality, that we must intensify the dialogue between politics and science in both our countries as well as the international dialogue between politics and science, and to understand this as an opportunity to responsibly change the future of the world. As you so impressively said, the big challenges of the future – and climate change is just one of them – can only be solved if we focus our efforts in terms of content and in terms of resources on investing in these things.

The delegation has arrived. (Laughter.)

Among them, the president of the DFG, Professor Kleiner, and the president of the Helmholtz Association, Professor Mlynek, and the vice president of the DAAD, Professor Huber, as well as many scientists from Germany who have much experience in cooperating with scientists from U.S. These scientists have many years of experience in cooperating. We have had science cooperation between both our countries for many decades and this really has been the time to finally conclude a government agreement which combines our joint strategies in this field.

This inter-government agreement is based on years of experience on our common interest also in issues of strategic research policy. German research and German research policy are much interested in intensifying cooperation and in anchoring research in our policy. This inter-government agreement will facilitate collaborative research and it will facilitate dealing with the issue of intellectual property rights. It will enable us to assume our responsibility within the transatlantic alliance and in developing work programs accordingly.

Mr. Steinberg, you have addressed the flexure of products which are energy supply, climate change, how to feed a growing population, how to fight poverty, and the issue of scienty and migration in a globalized world.

And let me summarize this by saying that I am deeply convinced, also my political work, that politics will only be able to act responsibly in the 21st century if we manage to build strong and lasting bridges between science and politics and if we do not ignore the findings of science. And therefore, it’s always good if many scientists understand a bit of politics and if many politicians understand a bit of science.

I would like to take this opportunity in these beautiful surroundings to also thank the scientists from the United States and Germany for their work and for the preparation of this intergovernmental agreement. I think this is truly a good day for cooperation in science between the United States and Germany. And I would like to ask you, the representatives of science in the United States and Germany, to understand this also as a key for future development in Europe. We, Germany – we want to become more strongly involved in European developments. We want Europe to be an interesting and future-oriented partner to science.

Thank you very much. (Applause.) We will sign this intergovernmental agreement and try to use this momentum of the coming years to strengthen science and research internationally. (Applause.)

# # #