Naomi Weir looks ahead to visiting the US on the International Visiting Leadership Program

Toby: This isn't ideological. It's science.

Al: It's science to you.

Toby: Science is science to everybody, Al.

(The West Wing, May 2000)

Don't worry, CaSE isn't leaving the UK (after all, we were Save British Science). And we also haven't suddenly found funds for international travel. Rather, this weekend I fly to the States to participate in the International Visiting Leadership Program (IVLP). This is a long-running US State Department-funded professional exchange program, with my particular project focusing on science and technology. I feel very privileged to have been put forward by contacts at the US Embassy in London to take part in what will be a whistlestop tour!

I’ll be starting in Washington DC, and over the course of two weeks I will be heading to Cleveland OH, San Francisco CA and ending in New York NY. In addition to reenacting scenes from the West Wing, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing exciting science in so many different settings, from Government labs to universities, spinouts and bigger companies. And NASA.

For CaSE, this trip will be a great opportunity to see firsthand and dig beneath the surface of some of the ideas and organisations that come up again and again in UK policy making; DARPA, SBIR, innovation clusters, commercialization of research, business R&D funding to name a few.  As the UK and the US both wrestle with how to address regional inequality it will also provide an interesting opportunity to explore how research and innovation have (or have not) driven productivity, job creation, and economic and social wellbeing in different places and the different contributing factors to success or otherwise. I also hope it will be a chance to hear from research colleagues in the States about their view of the UK as we go through a major period of change and uncertainty, to compare notes on initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion in STEM, to meet and learn from organisations like CaSE seeking to be a voice for science in the States, and to explore how scientific evidence makes its way into policymaking (at national and subnational levels).

We often, and rightly, talk of the value of international collaboration in research and the way it helps to spur innovation, generate ideas and bring different perspectives to the same challenges. I'm similarly hoping that this exchange will help to provide some policy food for thought for CaSE’s work in future.

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