[Congressional Record Volume 150, Number 66 (Wednesday, May 12, 2004)]
[Pages S5368-S5369]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


 Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I rise today to share with my 
colleagues news of a truly historic conference of Middle Eastern 
chemists held December 6 through 11, 2003, in Malta. Chemists from 
Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Palestinian 
Authority, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates gathered in 
Malta to attend the conference, which was entitled: ``Frontiers of 
Chemical Sciences: Research and Education in the Middle East.'' The 
conference was chaired by Dr. Zafra Lerman of Columbia College Chicago. 
The purpose of the conference was to bring scientists from Middle 
Eastern countries together under the same roof to work on different 
issues of common concern.
  The Malta Conference was a phenomenal success. The multinational 
exchange of ideas and information led to the creation of new 
partnerships in the areas of science and education. The conference was 
so effective that all the participants involved agreed upon the need 
for a second conference, tentatively scheduled for 2005.
  The Malta Conference permitted participating scientists to address 
important scientific issues pertinent to the future of the Middle East, 
but it did more than that. All areas within the Middle East were 
represented, demonstrating there are some issues that can bring 
everyone together around a common goal of improving our world and 
society. This meeting reinforced the fact that the advancement of 
scientific research and education are vital forces for all nations of 
the world, and it demonstrated that science and education can help 
nations that are distrustful of each other to reach across borders and 
work cooperatively to address common concerns.
  The conference chairperson, Dr. Lerman, is the distinguished 
Professor of Science and Public Policy and head of the Institute for 
Science Education and Science Communication at Columbia College 
Chicago. Dr. Lerman received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the Weizmann 
Institute of Science in Israel. She founded and chaired the Department 
of Science and Mathematics at Columbia College, where she developed an 
innovative approach to teaching science to non-science majors which 
received international recognition. Dr. Lerman is active professionally 
with national and international associations in the fields of science, 
science education, and scientific freedom and human rights. For 15 
years, she has chaired the national American Chemical Society 
Subcommittee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights. She also serves as 
Vice-Chair for Chemistry for the Board of the Committee of Concerned 
Scientists and chairs the International Activities Committee of the 
American Chemical Society, in addition to numerous other positions.
  Dr. Lerman has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in 
Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring and is a 1998 Kilby 
Award Laureate for extraordinary contributions to society through 
science, technology, invention, innovation, and education. In February 
2001, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the 
Advancement of Science.
  I hope my colleagues will join me in congratulating Dr. Lerman and 
the organizers and delegates of the conference for their superb work. 
This event serves as a shining example of the progress available to 
nations that make the effort to promote understanding and cooperation.
  I ask that Dr. Lerman's summary of the conference be printed in the 
  The summary follows.

                       Summary of Malta Conference

        From 6 to 11 December, 2003, chemists from Egypt, Iran, 
     Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestinian Authorities, 
     Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates gathered in 
     Malta to attend the conference ``Frontiers of Chemical 
     Sciences: Research and Education in the Middle East.''
        The success of this conference tells us that science and 
     scientific research are not just methods of improving the 
     human condition but can also be ways of crossing illusive 
     national and political barriers that bar effective 
     collaboration among neighbors. The invited participants 
     included presidents of universities, members of the 
     respective countries' national academies of science, and a 
     former minister of science. By engaging a stunning array of 
     world-class scientists from the Middle East, as well as 
     selected scientists from England, France, Germany, South 
     Africa, Taiwan, and the U.S., the resulting discussion 
     broadly enriched our understanding of specific scientific 
     issues important to the area's future. The fact that all 
     segments of the Middle East were represented suggests that 
     there are fundamental scientific issues that connect us all.
        Six Nobel Laureates served as working group leaders on 
     subjects of common interest to Middle Eastern countries. The 
     subjects of these working groups included: ``Environment, 
     Water and Renewable Energy,'' ``Research and New 
     Methodologies in Science Education,'' ``Cultural Heritage and 
     Preservation of Antiquities,'' ``The Use of the Synchrotron 
     to Facilitate Research in the Middle East (SESAME Project),'' 
     among others. Participants committed themselves to continue 
     working together after the conference via e-mail and through 
     smaller regional meetings. Among suggestions offered for 
     future topics were: nanotechnology, computational chemistry, 
     and solar energy.
        All participants wrote that the conference organization 
     was excellent, that the conference exceeded their 
     expectations, and that the opportunity to work with the Nobel 
     laureates was especially appreciated and it led to 
     stimulating and informed discussion. 100% of the participants 
     felt that a second conference, probably in 2005, would be 
     needed. All indicated that they would want to attend and that 
     they would recommend it to their colleagues. Most expressed 
     willingness to participate in the organization of such an 
        A joint proposal between Israeli and Palestinian 
     participants in the Malta conference was written on water 
     purification and submitted to USAID-MERC.
        One of the conference working groups, which concentrated 
     on the synchrotron being built in Jordan (supported by 
     UNESCO) for all the Middle East scientists, raised the urgent 
     need for scientists trained in the use of a synchrotron. 
     Dr. Yuan T. Lee, the Nobel Laureate who is science advisor 

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     the President of Taiwan, offered during the conference 
     three full scholarships for scientists from the Middle 
     East to spend a year learning to use the synchrotron in 
     Taiwan. An agreement is already signed, and the selection 
     of the three Middle Eastern scientists is in progress.
       The President of the Technion (Israel Institute of 
     Technology) offered to provide three full Technion 
     scholarships for any interested student from an Arabic 
       A group of Palestinian participants met in February with 
     their Israeli colleagues in the Weizmann Institute of 
     Science. As a result, an agreement was signed for Palestinian 
     students to study for MSc and PhD at the Weizmann Institute 
     of Science; a committee is now working on financial 
     arrangements needed to run the program.
       One of the Israeli participants has been invited to present 
     a lecture in Egypt. All the Egyptian participants expressed 
     their interest in attending his lecture; some extended 
     additional invitations for him to visit and present seminars 
     at their institutions.
       Dr. Roald Hoffmann, one of the American Nobel laureates, 
     offered to run an intensive workshop in a Middle East 
     location for graduate students from all the participating 
     countries. This idea was accepted quite favorably by the 
     participants; the location is now being discussed.
       Ultimately, all the participants agreed that science is, 
     indeed, a shared language between them all, and that the 
     things they have in common are more numerous than the 
     differences that separate them. The desire among the 
     participants to continue the collaborations and to meet again 
     is proof that the conference succeeded in overcoming barriers 
     heretofore perceived as insurmountable.