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Grawemeyer winner says scientists hold key to nuclear weapons success

by Janet Cappiello, communications and marketing last modified Apr 18, 2014 03:43 PM

While the prospect of Iran or North Korea becoming a nuclear nation causes frightening headlines, the only countries that have built successful nuclear programs are those that have allowed scientists to do their jobs without political pressure, according to the winner of the 2014 Grawemeyer Award in world order.

Grawemeyer winner says scientists hold key to nuclear weapons success

Jacques Hymans speaks during the 2014 Grawemeyer Awards dinner and reception.

“One of the keys to maintaining a high level of motivation in these programs is actually to respect the scientists, to respect science, to give them their autonomy, not to continually push them into politics,” Jacques Hymans, associate professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, said during a question-and-answer session Wednesday following a lecture in Ekstrom Library’s Chao Auditorium.

Hymans won the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order for his 2012 book "Achieving Nuclear Ambitions: Scientists, Politicians and Proliferation."

He outlined his research during the lecture, noting that developing countries that failed to build a nuclear program have outspent the developed countries that accomplished the feat.

“You’ve got to think can they buy the hardware, but also can they put it together and make it work?” Hymans asked. “And that has to do with cooperation. That has to do with the motivation that they have to come to work and work hard and work together over a long period of time toward a very difficult objective.”

Most developing states, Hymans contended, are institutionally unable to respect scientific professionalism. Those are places where “the big man gets to choose,” he said.

The early, successful nuclear projects in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the U.S.S.R. had scientists or engineers at the helm rather than a dictator, he said.

Hymans, whose research focuses on international security, also wrote the 2006 book "The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions and Foreign Policy." Currently, he is studying the political implications of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Watch a video of Hymans discussing his work here.

UofL presents four Grawemeyer Awards each year for outstanding works in music composition, world order, psychology and education. The university and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give a fifth award in religion. This year's awards are $100,000 each.

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