Science has a long history of being multinational and has long been a way to bridge cultures and balance the public good with private gain.    Science, being about excellence, has zero interest in race, creed or religion.  Maybe it has too much concern with politics and policies in some corners but even that is a minor blemish.  The fact is, cooperation works.

Cooperation comes naturally to science, as the big problems science is being called upon to address, like the future of energy, climate change and new pandemics, respect no boundaries. The days of science as a solitary thing are good.  Modern science at its best is now a group effort, inclusive and open.  Social even.

But when there is money involved there will also be competitive forces and as scientists have desired more government funding and less corporate, the competition has become greater, working against collaborative science.  3M may have divisions working together in many countries - they are all 3M, but a lab at a university rarely has the opportunity to share resources in that way.  

Next month the the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will have a Kavli Prize Science Forum aimed at high-level, global discussion of major topics on science and science policy. This year's topic: "The Role of International Cooperation in Science."

Moderating the event will be Charles M. Vest, former president of MIT and now president of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

According to Charles M. Vest, moderator of the event, former president of MIT and now president of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.,  the 2010 Forum will get to the heart of some of the most basic issues facing the world's growing network of scientists. "In isolation, even great scientists don't produce really great science." 

But there are roadblocks to cooperation, as there have always been.   As Vest points out, despite a broad agreement on the importance of cooperation, that consensus starts to fray around issues such as funding and intellectual property. In fact, the draw of the market, especially where intellectual property is involved, increasingly complicates efforts to get nations and institutions to work together and share information openly. Vest cites an example from his days as president of MIT. During the 1990s, MIT invited World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee from Europe to work on the formation of the World Wide Web Consortium, the body that maintains Web standards and protocols. The idea got an enthusiastic reception on both sides of the Atlantic. European officials not only gave Berners-Lee their blessing to relocate, but they sent substantial funding as well. There was no talk of selling Berners-Lee's work, and hence no arguments over who would profit from it. Vest now wonders if anything like this could happen now: "I'm not sure Europe would say, 'Great, we'll send him to the U.S., and by the way here's some start-up funding.' I'm not sure we would now be able to establish the Web as kind a public good, through an international consortium with no profit-making motives. I suspect the tone among all parties might be more bureaucratic, less cooperative."

Nils Chr. Stenseth, president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, has another take. "Science is an international enterprise that opens doors between countries and political systems. We have doors that, as scientists, we can go through and open that ordinary diplomats can't. So a great deal is riding on the future of cooperation, not just in science but in the relations of peoples and governments."

Science 2.0 has always been about bridging gaps but obstacles remain in that also.   Virtually anyone can get NSF funding to do 'science 2.0' by simply making the case to a committee and not asking for much.   A concept originated by non-academics to help fix academic science will never get met with a lot of enthusiasm for similar reasons - competition, funding and intellectual property.   But in some cases the corporate world can do a better job than the academic one because it doesn't take a lot of meetings, much less meetings to decide what to discuss at meetings - it is just getting all ideas and then putting them in a hopper and getting people who care to prioritize them and then building the tools that make it possible.

Getting scientists to use tools is another issue but as obstacles come down, opportunities will arise.  Science marches on.