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"Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Life"

Photo of Joseph Bordogna

Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation

Remarks for NSF-DFG Research Conference
April 5, 2004

Thank you Dr. Winnacker. It is a pleasure to be here today to welcome all of you to this workshop sponsored jointly by the DFG and NSF.

Let me begin by congratulating Dr. Winnacker on having been elected President of the DFG for a third term by the members of DFG's governing association. I understand this has occurred only twice before since the DFG's founding in 1951. It is a clear indication of the members' respect for your past leadership and their confidence in your vision for DFG's future.

It is no accident that NSF and the DFG are co-sponsoring today's workshop. Our organizations have a history of working together. Right now we are running a joint call for proposals to research the Arabidopsis genome; we have established close connections with the DFG on our Centers for Research on Learning and Teaching; we are working on a joint review of proposals between our Chemistry Divisions; and we will again be coordinating review of Materials Research proposals. Both of our research communities benefit greatly from access to the expertise, equipment, and infrastructure in these joint endeavors. The research connections offer the possibility for exchange of students—an ever more important part of a student's training in this age of increasing globalization.

I would like to express my thanks to Marina Koch-Krumrei and her predecessor, Walther Klofat, of the DFG Office in Washington, for conceiving today's workshop. Thanks to the efforts of the Program Officers and Division Directors in both DFG and NSF, this workshop was made possible and will advance the role of transnational scientific exchange. I would also like to thank the US and German professors on the workshop organizing committee.

The theme of the workshop, "Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Life," is both timely and important. Many of the areas of study you will discuss today have significance not only for the state of our knowledge, but also for the health of our human habitat. We need to progress in our understanding of earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences individually, while at the same time advancing our ability to model and predict interactions among these systems. From earthquake nucleation to biological evolution, from nanoscale mineral-microbe interactions to core-mantle convection, it is at the earth's interfaces that we will find the revolutionary discoveries. Only through an understanding of the complex processes and interactions on all spatial and temporal scales will we be able to assess humankind's effect on the environment and our place in it.

You are here because of the impact your research has had in one or more of these important topic areas and because you represent the coming generation of researchers that will take us beyond the present frontier. This is an opportunity to discuss the research in which you are engaged and to investigate opportunities for starting new collaborations. We ask you to pay particular attention today to crossing boundaries—disciplinary boundaries, cultural boundaries, organizational boundaries, geographical boundaries. Why do we place special emphasis on crossing boundaries and working together? Aristotle, in his Metaphysics, put it well—well enough, in fact, for it to be engraved, in Greek, on the frieze that runs along the top of the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue here in Washington. Aristotle says,

"The study of Truth is in one sense difficult, in another easy. This is clear because no one person can obtain a complete grasp of it, but we cannot all fail in the attempt. Each thinker makes some statement about the natural world, and as an individual contributes little or nothing to the inquiry; but a combination of all conjectures results in something grand."

We therefore wish you success today and in the future in finding ways to collaborate and to "combine your conjectures." Thank you for your attention and thank you for being here today.

Return to a list of Dr. Bordogna's speeches.


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