Peter Zoller

As a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Peter Zoller contributed to a report on the development of atomic, molecular, and optical physics presented this week. The report calls on the U.S. government to foster collaboration and decrease obstacles that can keep foreign physicists from working in the United States.

The federal government should foster collaboration and decrease obstacles that can keep foreign atomic, molecular, and optical physicists from working in the United States, if the nation is to maintain its position as leader in these fields, says a new report from a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chaired by Jun Ye (JILA) und Mavalvala Nergis (MIT). As AMO science increasingly overlaps with different science disciplines, federal agencies and academia should enable cross-disciplinary workforce and educational cooperation among scientists, according to the report.

AMO science studies atoms, molecules, and light at the quantum level. It combines curiosity-driven research with practical applications, connecting scientific discovery and rapidly evolving technological advances, innovation, and commercialization. AMO science played a pivotal role in, for example, the discovery of gravitational waves, and currently, AMO science is vital in fostering a number of emerging scientific areas, such as quantum information, novel approaches to the control and use of light, precise probes of nature’s fundamental principles, and new technologies for biology and medicine.

International collaboration has been, and will continue to be, an essential avenue for progress in AMO science, the report says. While the committee, including leading scientist of the US and Peter Zoller as the only foreign member, recognized the potential security concerns in open, international collaboration, it recommended that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other federal agencies work with the U.S. Department of State to introduce mechanisms to remove excessive visa application delays for international students, collaborators, and speakers at conferences and workshops. OSTP should also standardize mechanisms for joint funding of cooperative projects and introduce agreements for funding agencies in different countries to accept each other’s grant administration regulations.

The study — carried out by the Committee on Decadal Assessment and Outlook Report on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science — was sponsored by the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

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