Major research institutions on both sides of the Atlantic will work closely to promote the use of technology for safety, security and sustainability, as part of a deal signed last night (28 October) by the EU's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
While the agreement covers a broad range of issues, the theme identified for "immediate cooperation" is to work on addressing scientific challenges regarding the verification of nuclear activities.
Europe's Institute for Transuranium Elements will now work with the AAAS's Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy (CSTSP) to produce a report on nuclear forensics. It will also host workshops and consider ways to improve international exchange of best practice and technologies in this area.
According to the memorandum of understanding signed between the two scientific bodies, better monitoring tools for nuclear fuel will be needed if nuclear power is to expand without leading to weapons proliferation.
Researchers on both sides agreed that better detection systems are required in order to continue to reduce nuclear arsenals "as we move from a bilateral US-Russian arms control of the past" to a broader, multilateral approach.
The three-year deal signed in Brussels highlights the need to invent and deploy new systems to count stockpiles of weapons and to "verifiably dismantle and down-blend weapons and weapons-grade fissile material". A confidentiality clause applies to all parties for five years after the termination of the agreement.
The ultimate aim is to move towards having joint centres for verification and monitoring technologies. Both sides agreed to provide assistance to "high-profile international initiatives organised by third parties" and to assist compliance with arms control treaties.
Alan Leshner, CEO of the AAAS, said his organisation and the JRC are already working on these issues, "and this is a great opportunity to exploit one another's expertise".
New deal to boost 'science diplomacy'
The research organisiations also pledged to work on enhancing public understanding of science, boosting international cooperation and promoting opportunities for women in science and technology.
Speaking in Brussels on the 50th anniversary of the JRC, Leshner said "science diplomacy" could help build international relationships, adding that a science can help inform sound decision-making.
The AAAS has already established a new Centre for Science Diplomacy, which it says can make science an important element of foreign policy.
Leshner, who is executive publisher of the world's highest ranking journal, 'Science', said the US and Europe should help set standards for science globally, but he said it would be arrogant to think that Western scientists cannot learn from their counterparts in developing countries.
Delivering the first annual JRC lecture, he noted that European scientists have been consistently "out-publishing" US researchers, but there has been rapid growth in peer-review publishing by Asian scientists in recent years.
Leshner said the US and EU remain global leaders in science but others are catching up fast. He said the status of science is on the up globally, as governments recognise the role of R&D in building competitive economies. The new US administration has dramatically boosted science funding but scientists will now have to deliver, he added.