The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Department of State, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Army Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, and the Republic of South Africa Department of Science and Technology, recently†organized a technical exchange meeting in Arlington, Va., with the objective of exploring basic research collaborations in the areas of materials science, applied mathematics and physics.
The technical exchange was an action item of the US – Republic of South Africa Joint Commission Meeting Advanced Materials Working Group chaired by AFOSR’s Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon and Dr. Mahlori Mashimbye. The event provided a venue for participants to present their work and to discover scientific partnerships with the aim of building long-term ties between the†Department of Defense research enterprise and African scientists.
Among the attendees was Dr. William Colglazier, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, who expressed the importance of these kinds of exchanges.
ìAFOSR has been a leader for the U.S. in identifying high quality fundamental basic research being carried out in important scientific and technological fields by scientists and engineers in other countries, and then helping to support that research and link the best foreign investigators with colleagues in the U.S. research community to facilitate new collaborations,” Colglazier said. “I had the pleasure of joining an AFOSR delegation that went to South Africa in 2011 to visit universities and research laboratories there to learn about exciting fundamental work being carried out by South African scientists. Since then AFOSR has made other trips to South Africa, and the result has been the highly successful exchange meeting with South African researchers in 2014 and increased scientific collaboration between our two countries. For me, this is a great example of a basic research organization in the U.S. advancing not only the frontiers of science but also strengthening relations between countries.”
Fellow†attendee†Duncan Lang, International Cooperation Officer, Office of the Secretary of Defense,†echoed Dr. Colglazier’s comments.
ìNo country has a monopoly on good ideas,” Lang said. “Sometimes unique cultural, historical, or geographical conditions can lead to innovative approaches to solving common problems.
Exchanges such as this are crucial to learning what those ‘good ideas’ might be and are the very essence of international technology cooperation. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics is very pleased with the enthusiasm and hard work of all involved with the Tech Exchange, but especially with the efforts of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Republic of South Africa Department of Science and Technology†that originated this cooperative process in 2012 and have continued to support and expand it.”
Professor Geraldine Richmond, National Academy of Science member and President-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was also in attendance and said she†was impressed with AFOSR’s efforts to assist in developing research collaborations between the U.S., South Africa and nearby African countries.
“The meeting provided a unique forum for identifying common research interests of scientists and funding agencies in our two regions of the world, particularly in the area of materials sciences,” Richmond said.
Other notable attendees included Nowetu Luti (Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of South Africa in the United States),†Robert Baker (Deputy Director of Plans and Programs, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research†and Engineering), Dr. Patrick Carrick (Director of Research, AFOSR), Dr. Richard Colton (Chemistry Division Superintendent, Naval Research Laboratory), and Dr. Stephen Lee (Chief Scientist, Army Research Office).
In addition to exploring technical collaborations, U.S. and African working group members discussed national science and technology capabilities, science networks, and strategic investments. As part of the technical exchange,†members from the African delegation also visited Army Research Laboratory to tour the Sensors and Electronics Devices Division facilities, and met with Army researchers. In addition, researchers from the University of Limpopo and University of the Witwatersrand participated in the 2014 AFOSR Aerospace Materials for Extreme Environment Program Review.
Looking toward the future, Dr. Patrick Carrick, Chief, Basic Research Program Office, AFOSR, said, “I am very pleased with the results of this exchange meeting. I’m looking forward to multiple collaborative efforts that I expect will result from additional discussions.”
Participation from African academic, national and industrial research organizations included the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in the United States, RSA Department of Science and Technology, National Research Foundation, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Minerals Research Council, University of Cape Town, University of Limpopo, University of the Witwatersrand, and the Nelson Mandela African Institutes of Science and Technology in Nigeria and Tanzania respectively. U.S. organizations involved with the event included the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Research Laboratory, Army Research Office, Naval Research Laboratory, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, National Academy of Science, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.