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September 29, 2010: News, Research & Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: Nobel laureates to speak; Starr Foundation gives $2.5 million

Nobel laureates pull back the curtain on scientific research

Science needn't be mysterious or inaccessible. In fact, it shouldn't be. That's why the Baker Institute Science and Technology Program launched the Civic Scientist Lecture Series in 2006: to offer the opportunity for leading scientists to talk to the public about their work, and for the public to talk to scientists about its interests and concerns.

This year's Civic Scientist lecture will be delivered on Oct. 13 by two of the men who discovered the carbon 60 molecule that kick-started nanotechnology in the mid-1980s: Nobel Prize laureates Robert Curl and Sir Harold Kroto. The scientists' lectures are part of Rice University's 25th anniversary celebration of the breakthrough.

Curl, Rice University Professor Emeritus and Kenneth S. Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor Emeritus of Natural Sciences, will discuss how scientists and the public differ in their approach to scientific issues such as climate change. Kroto, a professor at the University of Sussex at the time of the carbon molecule find and now the Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry at Florida State University, will focus on the importance of engaging and educating the next generation of scientists.

Curl, Kroto and the late Rice University professor Richard E. Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of the carbon cage molecules known as the fullerenes. The most well-known of these is the buckminsterfullerene, popularly known as the buckyball. This discovery led directly to intense research into the chemistry of elemental carbon. It led indirectly to the creation of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, primarily through the efforts of Smalley and Neal Lane, the institute's senior fellow in science and technology policy, who was then director of the White House Office and Science Technology Policy. This U.S. effort caused many countries to create their own research programs in nanoscale science and technology. The research is beginning to pay off in a variety of areas, including the development of improved computer components and advances in medicine. At Rice, the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology collaborates with several institutes and organizations to advance nanotechnology in a wide range of disciplines.

"The annual Civic Scientist lecture is intended to highlight the importance of scientists reaching out to the public, with the complementary goals of a better-informed public and a better-informed science community about what the public expects from science and technology," Lane said. "Having Bob Curl and Harry Kroto appear together makes this year's Civic Scientist event a very special one."

Lockheed Martin is the primary sponsor of the 25th anniversary events at Rice and the Civic Scientist lecture. The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required.

Starr Foundation establishes $2.5 million endowment to support China research

The Baker Institute has received a $2.5 million gift from the Starr Foundation to endow a fellowship dedicated to transnational research on China. Steven Lewis, the institute's fellow in Asian studies, has been named the C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow and will use the endowment to expand his research at the institute as well as at Rice University's Chao Center for Asian Studies.

"The Starr Foundation's generous gift enables the Baker Institute to broaden our research and collaborations with Chinese institutions to examine new forms of public diplomacy in U.S.-China relations and efforts to increase China's participation in global efforts to solve shared problems," said Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, founding director of the Baker Institute.

Since 1998, Lewis has led pioneering studies of the changes in media and political communication in China as the country opened up to the global economy. Foreign companies, the Chinese government and nongovernmental organizations are using advertising and other forms of communication to ask the previously isolated people of China to "think of themselves as global citizens and consumers, and also as local and national citizens and consumers," Lewis said. "Understanding the range of messages is a critical first step in making policy prescriptions for how we might use advertising in public spaces around the world to develop collective action to address worldwide issues such as the environment, health and education."
The Starr Foundation, based in New York City, is one of the largest private foundations in the United States. It awards grants for education, medicine, health care, human needs, public policy, culture and the environment.

Upcoming Events

  • The Fate of Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Examining the Legal Battle Behind the Science. Experts discuss how recent court rulings could change U.S. policies on embryonic stem cell research. October 4 at 4:00 pm
  • The Rule of Law in World Affairs. At the inaugural lecture in a series organized by the Baker Institute with The University of Texas Law School, The Honorable Bill Richardson, governor of the state of New Mexico, and The Honorable John R. Bolton, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, address the rule of law in world affairs, including key issues such as Iran's nuclear program. October 5 at 6:00 pm
  • How Things Really Work: Lessons from a Life in Politics. Bill Hobby, the longest-serving lieutenant governor in Texas history, speaks on Texas politics and his experiences in state government. October 6 at 6:00 pm
  • Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future. Former U.S. secretary of labor Robert Reich, now a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, discusses what he believes is the real problem with the U.S. economy: a growing concentration of wealth at the top, and a middle class in debt and struggling to maintain a decent standard of living. October 12 at 5:00 pm
  • Civic Scientist Lecture: Robert F. Curl Jr. and Sir Harry W. Kroto. Curl and Kroto, who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry along with the late Rice University professor Richard E. Smalley, will discuss scientific research and touch upon how they and their team found the carbon 60 molecule that kick-started nanotechnology in the mid-1980s. October 13 at 6:00 pm

Events are by invitation only unless otherwise noted. For a complete list, visit our events page.

Research & News

For a complete list of research and commentary, visit our publications page.

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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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