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Opportunities for International
Interdisciplinary Research

22–23 May, 1998 Ames, Iowa (USA)

Workshop on Theoretical Nuclear/Particle Physics

Statement in support of basic research

Benefits of a strong science education capacity and
a strong basic science research community
Balance between basic and applied
Action items

Background    Back to top

The purposes of this Workshop were to:

  • feature nuclear/particle physics results where there is a US-Lesser Developed Country (LDC) collaboration;
  • develop this statement to be presented to UNESCO and other international bodies on the value of such collaborations in basic science.

The physics community of this interdisciplinary subfield is rather new and small. As it is new, opportunities for LDC scientists to participate in frontier science are greater. There are examples of this already happening; the initial scientific results were presented to the present Workshop and demonstrated that LDC scientists are among the leaders in this cross-disciplinary field.

Facilitation issues such as the role of emerging digital communications technologies, support sources/mechanisms, etc., were discussed in order to assess their potential roles.

This statement emerged in order to present motivations and suggestions for the international community and LDC’s to support this area of science in general and these types of collaborative effort in particular.

The participants in the Workshop hope that the present Statement will help generate greater world-wide support of other emerging interdisciplinary subfields in the physical sciences.

Motivation                   Back to top

Future economic and social development will increasingly depend on a scientifically literate and technologically capable society. Knowledge industries, computer/communications industry and the software industry are but a few examples of rapidly expanding areas of commerce.

Such a society requires a good capacity in science education at all levels – in order to develop a technologically skilled workforce, especially in such areas as engineering, medicine, science and informatics.

In order to have a strong science education capacity, it is important to have active scientists in higher education as science educators. These educators/researchers will train the successive generations of qualified science and technology teachers for all levels (from primary through post-secondary) while maintaining their nation’s participation in the global science and technology enterprise. They will also train the technologically sophisticated workforce.

Benefits of a strong science education capacity and a strong basic science research community                          Back to top

Society benefits greatly from a vigorous culture of science and technology. This culture of science and technology

  • promotes sustainable economic development in high-technology industries and global competitiveness, creating new industries and jobs through technology;
  • trains problem-solvers addressing the local issues, new business opportunities such as investment banking, applications of computers and networks, etc.;
  • combats superstition, misconceptions about the physical world, etc.;
  • improves living conditions.

Many challenges facing societies are increasingly complex and require scientific/technical inputs for national and local policy-making. Often, these challenges require a regional and global perspective. Furthermore, science itself has become a global enterprise and therefore international cooperation offers a means of enhancing the cost-effectiveness of a nation’s effort.

Balance between basic and applied                                 Back to top

  • Basic research addresses fundamental issues in order to create new understanding of nature and its laws. Basic research is not necessarily motivated by an immediate economic consideration.
  • Applied research addresses issues closely tied in with products/services having an economic impact.

While we have provided operational definitions, the distinctions between basic and applied research are not always clearcut. As argued above, basic research has often led to powerful breakthroughs which have vastly improved the human condition. Our consensus is that both basic and applied research are necessary and that they need mutually to support each other. Therefore, we conclude that each country should invest a suitable amount of support in its basic science efforts.

Action items                                          Back to top

  • strengthen universities and research centers;
  • invest more in basic research;
  • invest more in international collaboration;
  • improve science teaching at the secondary school level.

Recommendations                                    Back to top

We recommend that UNESCO and other international agencies:

  • bring these points to the attention of the Ministers of Science and Technology and the Ministers of Education of all countries of the world;

  • initiate a further analysis of these issues in order to provide concrete guidelines for all countries.


Contacts    Back to top
For further information, contact James Vary, Director, IITAP: ,


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