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AAAS links U.S., Cuban scientists
CubaNews / July 2002

By Larry Luxner

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has wrapped up a two-year study aimed at improving the flow of information between scientists in the United States and Cuba.

The $150,000 project, funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, has allowed the AAAS to distribute scientific literature, develop and implementing joint projects, and conduct research in various scientific fields. The AAAS has also sponsored panels on the topic of U.S.-Cuban scientific collaboration, inviting top U.S. Treasury and U.S. State Department officials to speak about their Cuba travel policies.

"We are opposed to the travel restrictions imposed against scientists, and any kind of restrictions on the non-classified exchange of information," said Marina Ratchford, who directed the project. "We provide scientists and academics with concise and updated information about the travel policies. We also encourage them to take advantage of the existing opportunities for collaboration between the two nations."

In 2000, the AAAS established a clearinghouse of information on scientific and academic travel between the United States and Cuba. The goal: to provide scientists with "clear and updated information about U.S. and Cuban travel policies," and to "respond to allegations of the misapplication of travel restrictions."

Among other things, the clearinghouse surveyed nearly 1,000 individuals, universities, research institutes, think tanks, government agencies, NGOs, professional scientific associations, museums, journalists, businesses and foundations to determine the extent of ongoing U.S.-Cuban scientific collaboration and the level of interest in initiating new exchanges.

Following that poll, AAAS staffers traveled to Havana and Santiago de Cuba in October 2000, and met with researchers in physics, chemistry, public health, environment, agriculture, information technologies, anthropology, political science, history, and biotechnology. The AAAS also led a congressional delegation to Havana in April 2001. The trip sought to broaden the exposure of Cuba-related issues on Capitol Hill, focusing on Cuban science and U.S.-Cuba scientific cooperation.

In June 2001, the AAAS donated 40 boxes of scientific journals, books, magazines and CD-ROMs to Cuba through the humanitarian organization Pastors for Peace. Even though informational items are exempt from the provisions of the U.S. embargo, it's often difficult to get these resources to the island, said Ratchford. Many American scientists have recently stated that Cuban science is languishing, partly because their Cuban counterparts lack access to the scientific journals and literature they need to stay appraised of the latest developments in their fields.

Details: Victoria Baxter, senior program associate/Latin America, AAAS, 1200 New York Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20005. Tel: (202) 326-6490. Fax: (202) 289-4958. E-mail: mratchfo@aaas.org. Internet: www.aaas.org/international/lac.

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