Happy Birthday, Science International

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Science  06 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5625, pp. 1475
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5625.1475

It's the 10th anniversary of Science's international office in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and if you will pardon our pride, we feel like celebrating. Birthdays are great occasions for that, but they also encourage us to look back on our history and take note of the ways in which things have become different. “How you've changed” can be a tactless greeting if it's the wrong kind of birthday, but it is surely the right greeting for science{at}science-int.co.uk. That's the e-mail address for the talented group of people at our UK branch who work on Science and Science's sister ventures: Next Wave, our multinational guidance Web site for graduate students and postdoctorals; and Science Careers, the useful electronic interface where job opportunities and job seekers from all over the world can meet. Science's News department is represented in Cambridge and also elsewhere in Europe; circulation and membership staffs are available at the same address. Their proximity to our increasing number of submitters and subscribers in Europe has helped us; and, we hope, helped them as well.

When the Cambridge office was born, as part of a broadening international strategy, we hoped in an editorial that our presence could contribute to the trend toward internationalizing science, and give us a leg up in our own international role. That has happened in a gratifying way. A glance at the 9 and 16 May issues sketches an interesting picture: Nearly 60% of the research papers included authors from laboratories outside the United States. Of the papers that came from a single country, 14 came from the United States and 12 from half a dozen different other countries. Perhaps more impressive, half a dozen papers involved collaborative efforts from laboratories in more than one country! That is remarkable testimony to the rate of globalization that is under way in our enterprise. We do not, by the way, route non-U.S. and U.S. papers separately: All of Science's 24 editors handle manuscripts from all sources, and reviewing assignments are made on the basis of expertise, not location.

It is a good time to remind our readers that during the past 10 years, many other things have changed at Science. Science Online, which includes the e-version of our journal, now goes via site license to about 1000 institutions all over the world. Thanks to the licenses purchased by these institutions, over 8 million people in those places are free to access all of Science's research content right away. Not all of them are scientists, of course, but about 800,000 unique IP addresses are represented in this population. In addition, the 120,000 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the society that publishes the journal, receive Science Online in addition to their print version of Science. Another 145,000 people have simply registered at Science Online for the material that is free to anyone. Clearly, more members of the world science community see us now than ever before; indeed, some 20 million page requests from Science Online were logged in the first quarter of this year alone.

How is the international venture of science faring? Our sense is that it is in good general health. There has been a remarkable growth in the number of laboratories around the world, in nations of all regions and circumstances, in which important work is being done. At the same time, we will do well to recognize (and, if possible, correct) trends that make it more difficult for transnational collaboration and exchange to happen.

International tension, of course, is the enemy of scientific collaboration. The rise of terrorism and the increasing conflicts in the Middle East have produced responses that are becoming serious barriers to that objective, including ill-advised proposals amounting to academic boycotting. Domestic responses to terrorism in the United States have made it more difficult for scientific exchange; despite pleas from the academic and scientific communities here, immigration laws and proposals to restrict certain information as “sensitive but not classified” have continued to have a chilling effect. Perhaps worse has been the sense of alienation between the United States and some of its traditional allies in the aftermath of the Iraq war. It is natural to criticize one's friends when they decide on a course of action different from one's own. But statements from U.S. government leaders about postwar relations with other nations, particularly France, have led to speculation that punishment may follow in the form of discontinued support for joint projects. That would be an unfortunate blow indeed for international science.

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