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MacArthur Foundation funds three-year $1.35 million grant to ACDIS

Melissa Mitchell, News Editor
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Reductions in the world’s arsenals of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction are the ultimate goals of a new program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign funded by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The university’s Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security has been awarded $1.35 million in support of a three-year program of interdisciplinary research and teaching on science, technology, and security policy.

Illinois is one of nine universities to receive funding through the MacArthur Foundation initiative, which is aimed at strengthening the nation’s scientific and technical expertise on international security policy by training a pool of experts who possess both scientific/technical knowledge and an understanding of international policy issues.

The foundation’s two-phase initiative is aimed at fostering international cooperation among scientists, government policymakers and diplomats on key security issues, such as reductions in nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The first phase of the program is directed at support of university-based programs in science, technology and security policy in the United States. The second phase will be geared toward support of research and training programs in Russia, China and East Asia, India and Pakistan.

ACDIS Director Clifford Singer, a professor of nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering, said the program development grant awarded to Illinois reflects the university’s strengths in science and engineering, as well as the solid foundation in interdisciplinary policy studies ACDIS has established in its 25-year history. He said a recent MacArthur grant on "The New Nuclear Arms Control Environment: A Parallel Bilateral Approach" served as a seed grant for the current program development award.

"This grant will cement our position among the top technology and security programs in the nation for the next quarter of a century," Singer said. "The university will be part of a select group of institutions that will play a significant role in helping to shape security policy that will affect our nation and the world."

Other grant recipients include Carnegie Mellon University; Georgia Institute of Technology; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Cornell, Harvard, Princeton and Stanford universities; and the University of Maryland.

Singer said the Illinois project will be a collaborative effort between ACDIS and the College of Engineering, and will seek to "foster an enduring relationship between core technical disciplines and interdisciplinary policy programs."
A key component of the program is creation of up to three new faculty lines in engineering and chemical and life sciences.

"The faculty hires will be in areas that complement existing strengths on campus and, at the same time, address traditional problems of weapons of mass destruction and emerging security problems," Singer said. Three areas targeted for attention are chemical and biological agents; nuclear materials, delivery vehicles and other aerospace systems; and cyber warfare and security.

In addition to funding new faculty lines, the MacArthur grant will be used to support research associates and visiting scholars, as well as forums for discussion, including an annual conference that will rotate among the university’s three campuses.

ACDIS, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2003, has a long history of conducting interdisciplinary teaching and research related to both the technical and policy aspects of international peace and security. With nearly 40 core and affiliated faculty, ACDIS has developed 25 courses, hosted numerous international conferences for scholars and other security experts, and published research papers and newsletters.