Texas Tech Researchers Help Iraqi Officials Rebuild Science, Technology Fields

The delegation will include members from Iraq’s Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Electricity, State Board of Agriculture Research and Petroleum Research and Development Center.

For the second year in a row, researchers at Texas Tech University will host a delegation of six Iraqi government officials intent on learning how to fund scientific and technological research and develop science policy in their country as they begin rebuilding its academic infrastructure.

The delegation will include members from Iraq’s Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Electricity, State Board of Agriculture Research and Petroleum Research and Development Center.

The media are invited to interview members of the delegation and Texas Tech University staff beginning at noon Thursday (Sept. 8) in room 120 of the Experimental Sciences Building on the Texas Tech campus.

“The visit to Texas Tech University is intended to assist the Iraqi government with redevelopment of higher education and reconstruction of science, technology and engineering capacities,” said Carl Phillips, a biology professor with Texas Tech’s Center for Environmental Radiation Studies. “The Iraq delegation seeks advice and information concerning university-based strategic research, nuclear dismantlement and decontamination programs, as well as the role of research in enhancing global competitiveness. All of these activities are critical to nation-building, stability, and success as a newly emergent democratic country.”

During their time in the U.S., the delegation members also will meet with researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Science Foundation (NSF), The U.S. Department of State and members of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.

The State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs selected Texas Tech to serve as host to a delegation of Iraqi government because of the university’s lengthy involvement with scientific and educational programs in Iraq.

The meeting is in compliance with the Strategic Framework Agreement, which partly involves helping Iraq redevelop science, engineering and technology, he said. Texas Tech researchers became involved on one of their trips to help train Iraqis to safely dismantle former nuclear facilities and map possible contamination.

“When we were in Baghdad two years ago, we were drawn into this teleconference asking how the U.S. could shepherd scientific and technological growth in Iraq,” Phillips said. “This is really separate from our other projects in Iraq, but it’s also very important for our work, too. We’ve tried to put together a program that shows how a major U.S. research university supports its research and show the infrastructure and the role faculty members play with different funding agencies like the NSF.”

Ron Chesser, also a biology professor with Texas Tech’s Center for Environmental Radiation Studies, said he and other Texas Tech researchers will help the delegation see how researchers at academic institutions in this country find funding to do their research. During the war in Iraq, Iraq lost many of its scientists, who were killed by insurgents or fled the country, Chesser said.

Doing the radiation work in Iraq has been difficult because of the lack of training and availability of scientists, he said.

“Iraq has been out of the scientific development business since 1991,” Chesser said. “That’s a long time. That’s an entire generation of scientists that has been lost. So they’re starting over at a rudimentary stage. They need some expertise and assistance and redirection in new lab facilities and new educational facilities to stimulate rapid development of scientific research and development in Iraq.”

While the delegation is here, Texas Tech researchers also will discuss science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs that encourage children to pursue careers in those fields.

CONTACT: Ron Chesser, director for the Center of Environmental Radiation Studies at Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3722 ext. 245, (806) 742-1737, or ron.chesser@ttu.edu; Carl Phillips, professor of biology, (806) 742-3722 ext. 244 or carl.phillips@ttu.edu