Translating biotechnology to knowledge-based innovation, peace, and development? Deploy a science peace corps - An open letter to world leaders
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Scholarship knows no geographical boundaries. This science diplomacy and biotechnology journalism article introduces an original concept and policy petition to innovate the global translational science, a Science Peace Corps. Service at the new Corps could entail volunteer work for a minimum of 6 weeks, and up to a maximum of 2 years, for translational research in any region of the world to build capacity manifestly for development and peace, instead of the narrow bench-to-bedside model of life science translation. Topics for translational research are envisioned to include all fields of life sciences and medicine, as long as they are linked to potential or concrete endpoints in development, foreign policy, conflict management, post-crisis capacity building, and/or peace scholarship domains. As a new instrument in the global science and technology governance toolbox, a Science Peace Corps could work effectively, for example, towards elucidating the emerging concept of "one health" - encompassing human, environmental, plant, microbial, ecosystem, and planet health - thus serving as an innovative crosscutting pillar of 21st century integrative biology. An interdisciplinary program of this caliber for development would link 21st century life sciences to foreign policy and peace, in ways that can benefit many nations despite their ideological differences. We note that a Science Peace Corps is timely. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations released the Fifth Assessment Report on March 31, 2014. Worrisomely, the report underscores that no person or nation will remain untouched by the climate change, highlighting the shared pressing life sciences challenges for global society. To this end, we recall that President John F. Kennedy advocated for volunteer work that has enduring, transgenerational, and global impacts. This culminated in establishment of the Peace Corps in 1961. Earlier, President Abraham Lincoln aptly observed, "nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." We therefore petition President Barack Obama, other world leaders, and international development agencies in positions of power around the globe, to consider deploying a Science Peace Corps to cultivate the essential (and presently missing) ties among life sciences, foreign policy, development, and peace agendas. A Science Peace Corps requires support by a credible and independent intergovernmental organization or development agency for funding, and arbitration in the course of volunteer work when the global versus local (glocal) value-based priorities and human rights intersect in synergy or conflict. In all, Science Peace Corps is an invitation to a new pathway for competence in 21st century science that is locally productive and globally competitive. It can open up scientific institutions to broader considerations and broader inputs, and thus cultivate vital translational science in a world sorely in need of solidarity and sustainable responses to the challenges of 21st century science and society. © Copyright 2014, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2014.