Citing 'human obligation,' AAAS CEO urges U.S.-Cuban collaboration

The American scientific community has a "human obligation" to "explore ways that science can improve the lives of people everywhere"--including Cuba, Alan I. Leshner, head of the world's largest general scientific organization told U.S. policymakers today.

"The entire world is facing increasingly complex and often devastating problems of poverty, environmental degradation and human disease," Leshner added, in testimony regarding the proposed Bridges to the Cuban People Act of 2001, designed to increase humanitarian aid to Cuba, mostly through the transfer of food and medicines. "Science and technology have a long and fruitful track record in helping to solve many of the most complex problems of humanity."

Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publisher of the weekly journal, Science, noted that the "universal language of science" often helps bridge the political chasms that divide nations. International scientific cooperation may support broader diplomatic discussions in many cases-as during the "cold war" with the Soviet Union, and during difficult times in our relations with Chile, he said.

U.S. and Cuban collaboration, in particular, has resulted in the discovery of new species, an increased awareness about the importance of Caribbean biodiversity, and joint publication and dissemination of other ecological and biological information, according to Leshner.

In summary, Leshner said, "There is no credible reason to limit international collaboration in non-classified research." His statement expanded upon a previous AAAS Board of Directors resolution, emphasizing the need for unfettered information exchange--especially freedom of movement across countries, and the right to travel.

Leshner and others were called to testify before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Narcotics Affairs. The hearing

Contact: Ginger Pinholster
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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