Transforming science through international collaboration at the NSF Brussels office

Nicole Peterson, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at NSF, and Jessica Arriens, NSF’s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs

Scientific cooperation is stronger today than ever before. With increasing access to STEM education (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) and scientific facilities, opportunities for collaborative research are growing. Working together ensures we leverage both scientific resources and funding to improve science and relationships among people around the world. The National Science Foudation (NSF) Europe and Eurasia Office in Brussels that recently moved from Paris where it had been located since the 1980s is a hub for creating relationships with funders, scientists, and policymakers that can lead to better scientific collaborations, global research programs, and greater awareness of scientific results. With more than 55 percent of U.S. international research involving Europe or Eurasian countries, the Office plays an important role in maintaining our transatlantic connections.

NSF’s Brussels office is very new and is working hard on promoting its core business to the scientific community from its new location. The Office represents NSF – the only US federal agency supporting basic research across all fields of science and engineering – in Europe and Eurasia. The mission of the Office is to ensure that the United States is a strong partner in the 21st century scientific enterprise. In addition to representing the Foundation in Europe and Eurasia, the Office facilitates collaborations with governments, institutions and scientists in the region.

While NSF only funds the US side of research partnerships, the NSF Brussels office helps connect research efforts, coordinate funding mechanisms, and create a stronger global infrastructure for research. The NSF office in Brussels communicates about NSF research programs and scientific advances through lectures and other events at the Office and elsewhere. As part of the U.S. Mission to the European Union, the Office works closely with the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health group of the economic section at the Mission to ensure that U.S. scientific and diplomatic engagements are well aligned.

Opening the NSF Brussels Office in 2015: Sonia Ortega, Rebecca Keiser (Head of OISE), Arthur Bienenstock (National Science Board), France Cordova (Director of NSF), Graham Harrison (NSF), and Carine Polliotti (Source: Carine Polliotti, NSF)

In April for example, the head of NSF’s Brussels Office, Doctor Sonia Ortega discussed recent NSF efforts to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in science in the U.S. at Science Europe’s Gender and Diversity Working Group . Her talk included information on a new NSF initiative, INCLUDES, which seeks to improve the preparation, increase the participation, and ensure the contributions of individuals from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented and underserved in the STEM enterprise, including women, members of racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with low socio-economic status.

Attendees at the French-American Workshop in Grenoble, France (Source: Sonia Ortega)

And at the June French-American Workshop in Grenoble, Dr. Ortega learned about the first hand experiences of NSF-funded students working in Europe. Many were involved in NSF’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, which works to increase the number of students pursuing STEM degrees. She also met with scientists from the Research and Education in Active Coatings Technologies for the Human Habitat (React) collaboration and learned how transatlantic cooperation on materials is being used to study microbial transmission, energy, and water.

Some other topics of particular importance to NSF are: nanotechnology and Smart Cities.

We encourage you to reach out to the Office about scientific events and opportunities to discover how NSF can be a valuable resource and connection with the US research community.

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