Grant supports scientific analysis of security issues

By Steven Schultz

Princeton NJ -- The MacArthur Foundation has given $1.35 million to Princeton's Program on Science and Global Security as part of a broad initiative to promote scientifically based analysis of security issues.

The grant, which will be spread over three years, will fund a new faculty position as well as several teaching and research initiatives. The Program on Science and Global Security, which is part of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs, is one of nine U.S. and seven foreign programs to receive grants as part of the MacArthur project.

"There really is a crying need for independent expertise," said Kennette Benedict, who directs the MacArthur effort. Even though several government agencies have their own highly skilled technical analysts, both Congress and the executive branch often look for "credible, authoritative analysis" from outside experts, she said.

Since its founding in the early 1970s, the Program on Science and Global Security has focused primarily on issues of nuclear arms control and nonpro- liferation, nuclear-power safety and, after the Cold War, the safe conversion of the Soviet nuclear infra-structure and materials to peacetime uses. In the last year, it has begun research on appropriate policy responses to concerns about bioterrorism.

One of the program's strengths has been the technical expertise of its faculty and research staff, most of whom have trained as physicists and often incorporate their own calculations into their analyses. Its founders and co-directors, Frank von Hippel, professor of public and international affairs, and Harold Feiveson, a lecturer and senior research policy analyst, both have backgrounds as physicists.

Another strong point has been the program's success in attracting staff and visiting researchers from around the world, including countries such as India, Pakistan, Russia, China and South Korea. "Von Hippel has an eye for talent and is tireless in his efforts to bring younger scientists into the field," said Benedict. Some of the program's foreign visitors have returned to their universities and established similar programs.

Funding at a critical time

The MacArthur grant comes at a critical time, said von Hippel. Since the end of the Cold War, financial support of technically trained researchers interested in security policy analysis has declined, he said.

"There was an attitude in universities nationally that this was a Cold War agenda," so there was no need to recruit new people into the field, said von Hippel. After the terrorist attacks of September 2001, he said, "that attitude has changed to a considerable degree."

The MacArthur funding will support four main initiatives:

· Hiring a senior science-and-security faculty member, who, if possible, would have expertise in biological weapons issues. The University and the Woodrow Wilson School have committed to funding the position beyond the MacArthur grant period.

· Continuing the program's research on the technical basis for new nuclear and biological-weapons control initiatives.

· Creating half-time, two-year fellowships for science or engineering Ph.D. students to pursue a security policy "minor." In addition to the doctoral research in their fields, fellowship students would write a publishable policy paper and receive a certificate from the Woodrow Wilson School.

· Helping faculty members in science and engineering departments develop security-related graduate policy workshops or junior policy task forces in the Woodrow Wilson School.

Across all the institutions receiving grants, MacArthur's Initiative in Science, Technology and Security is expected to create about 10 new faculty positions dedicated to science and security, said Benedict, who is MacArthur's director for international peace and security.

The response of universities to the initiative has been tremendous, said Benedict. "The scientists in universities want to serve. They want to serve the public, and they see this as a real opportunity to do that."

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