Interacademy workshop Iran, U.S.A., France: food safety/food security, global energy transitions, education and human values

Colloque organisé par Glenn E. Schweitzer et Yves Quéré du 20 au 26 juin 2003


Khosrow Bagheri, Mehdi-Nejad Bahadori, John Boright, Cathy Colglazier, William Colglazier, Seyed Djazayeri, Michael Doyle, Fatemeh Faghihi Ghazvini, Michael Feuer, John Gibbons, Sara Gray, Alimohammad Kardan, Pamela Lucas, Dariush Mazaheri, Ricardo Molins, Yves Quéré, Jocelyne Rocourt, Yadollah Saboohi, Seyed Sadeghzadeh, Glenn Schweitzer, Mohammad Shahedi-Baghe-K, Janice Stoodley, Allison Yates, Mohammad Reza Zali, Hassan Zohoor


For many years, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Iranian Academy of Sciences have been cooperating on a variety of scientific issues at international forums. Both academies have long been active in discussing developments in many scientific disciplines within the framework of the International Council of Scientific Unions. During the past several years, both academies have also participated in the activities of the Inter-Academy Panel which includes representation from about 90 academies world-wide. In the medical field, specialists from both the Institute of Medicine and the Iranian Academy of Medical Sciences contributed papers to the recent report of the first meeting of the Inter-Academy Panel on Medical Sciences in 2001.

In 2000, the leadership of the U.S. National Academies (the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine) accepted an invitation from the leadership of the Iranian Academy of Sciences and the Iranian Academy of Medical Sciences to visit Iran. During the visit, the Americans had the opportunity both to meet with counterparts of the host academies and to consult with other colleagues at a number of Iranian universities and research centers. At the conclusion of the visit, the leaders of the five academies agreed to undertake during the period 2000-2002 an ambitious program of bilateral scientific cooperation, beginning with inter-academy workshops on several topics of mutual interest, and indeed of world-wide interest.

After many months of administrative delays, which to some extent reflected political difficulties in relations between the governments of Iran and the United States, during 2002 the academies conducted four bilateral workshops:

The Experiences and Challenges of Science and Ethics, held in Bellagio, Italy. The workshop considered four topics: research integrity, environmental equity, ethics in medicine, and ethics and education.

Issues concerning Higher Education, held in Tehran, Iran. The topics of interest included integration of education and research, vocational education and training, open and distance education, and the use of information technologies to enhance classroom instruction.

The Ecology of the Caspian Sea, held in Ramsar, Iran. The topics that were discussed included pollution and related monitoring in the southern region of the Caspian Sea, productivity and nutrient biogeochemistry in the north Caspian Basin, bioresources and complex interactions among species, and the status of sturgeon.

Water Conservation, Reuse, and Recycling, held in Tunis, Tunisia. The workshop addressed agricultural, urban, and industrial uses of water with particular attention to treatment technologies, water allocation and pricing, inter-basin water transfers, and microbial and chemical contaminants.

Each of the four workshops included presentations on relevant science, technology, and education interests of the United States and Iran and on opportunities for joint efforts in the future. Proceedings of each workshop are scheduled for publication by the end of 2003.

With experience in successfully carrying out these four workshops, the five academies selected specialists to help set the stage for the next phase of inter-academy bilateral scientific cooperation at a planning meeting at the Fondation des Treilles. The French Academy of Sciences was of great assistance in facilitating arrangements for the meeting, and three French specialists joined 11 Iranian and 11 American participants at the meeting. The staff of the Fondation went to extraordinary measures to ensure a most favorable environment for discussions in this idyllic setting.

The U.S. and Iranian participants decided to emphasize during this planning meeting three themes that are high on the global agendas of international organizations as well as being topics of considerable importance to the United States and Iran. In some respects, the U.S. and Iranian experiences and perspectives are quite different; and the exchanges were intended to broaden international dialogues beyond strictly national considerations for the benefit of the participants and eventually the global community. The themes were food safety/food security, global energy transitions, and education and values—themes of critical importance to all nations. Of course science and technology are central issues in addressing each theme. Also running through each theme is a concern over equity and equality as populations continue their rapid expansion and the gaps between rich and poor grow apace.

The five-day meeting began with a one-half day plenary session where issues that cut across the three themes were of particular interest. A second plenary session was held at the mid-point of the meeting to encourage further cross-fertilization of ideas. A third plenary session was held on the final day to discuss conclusions and next steps to advance each of the three agendas that had evolved during the meeting, with a special emphasis on topics for future cooperative efforts.

Thus, during the course of the meeting six breakout sessions of about three hours each were available for detailed discussions of topics of greatest interest to the participants in the three groups. Most participants had prepared brief presentations concerning recent developments in their countries. These overviews helped set the stage for inquiries into newly unveiled interests and for identification of activities that would help establish appropriate foundations for future U.S.-Iranian scientific cooperation.


Food safety is a major public health issue worldwide, and it is one of WHO’s eleven top priorities. In the United States alone, an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illnesses occur annually with most attributed to contamination by microbiological pathogens. In addition, there are lingering concerns that antibiotics, pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxicants contaminate food supplies of both developed and developing countries.

Food security, defined as meaning the availability of nutritious and safe food for all individuals, is also a major priority of WHO as well as FAO. The ever increasing world population will surely encounter a global food-shortage crisis in the coming years if current rates of production and population growth continue and if the requirements for more efficient and productive farming practices, for reduced food wastage, and for better control of the use of water resources are not promptly addressed. Also of critical importance are economic access of households to food and the public’s awareness of the necessity of nutritionally sound food baskets.

Food Safety Issues in Iran

A goal of Iranian food safety and security specialists is to raise national awareness of the public health implications of unsafe food and, as a top priority of the Iranian national health agenda, to institute a far-reaching prevention program that will promote continuous improvement in reducing the risk of incidences of food-borne illnesses. However, the government’s subsidy plans to help poor and middle class consumers are not always based on sound science and economics.

Science-based national standards and related programs should address the safety of foods–from production to processing to handling by retail food and food-service establishments to preparation and consumption in the home. Appropriate use of fertilizers and manure, pesticides, and irrigation water and the safe handling and storage of foods are needed. An effective national surveillance system should include adequate personnel and facilities for outbreak investigations, epidemiological case control studies, risk assessments, and monitoring of the food chain to detect pathogens that could be linked to food-borne illnesses. Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices, and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points are essential components of an effective national food safety system.

National strategies to distribute wholesome food from both food producers and food processors should emphasize safe production, processing, and handling. In the educational field, training programs in food safety should be expanded. Consumers are largely unaware of the magnitude and serious consequences of consuming unhygienic food and not controlling food-borne illnesses, and many do not even know the basic aspects of safe food handling practices. Thus, broadly based educational programs and public awareness campaigns can be very helpful.

Food Safety Issues in the United States

Although the United States has one of the world’s safest food supplies, many gaps exist in the system from food production to consumption as indicated by the tens of millions of annual cases of food-borne illnesses. Given the many causes of such illnesses, an integrated plan to prioritize resource allocations for reducing diseases based on relative risks to health is needed. It is not possible to eliminate all food-borne illnesses, and a realistic goal is to provide continuous risk reduction. To this end, risk assessments of different diseases are essential; but unfortunately, at present adequate data are not available to carry out sound risk assessments concerning many safety issues.

In those instances when sound risk assessments can serve as a basis for action, appropriate food safety policies can be developed and carried out. As in Iran, implementation of Good Agricultural Practices on farms, Good Manufacturing Practices in food processing, and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point systems throughout the food continuum must be cornerstones to improve the safety of foods.

For such safeguards to be effective, practical and validated strategies for intervention during production must be developed. Because of the increasing interest of American consumers in fresh-like foods as compared to heat-processed foods, processing alternatives that not only effectively kill harmful microorganisms and reduce chemical contamination but also maintain fresh-like sensory characteristics in treated food are needed.

In short, most cases of food-borne illnesses are the result of failures in applying good food handling practices in commercial as well as home preparation of foods. Innovative approaches to education with more emphasis on application of good food handling practices are needed.

Effective surveillance programs are essential for evaluation of the efficacy of intervention strategies designed to reduce food-borne illnesses. While FoodNet, PulseNet, and other surveillance systems are in use in the United States, systematic monitoring that links pathogen and chemical contamination of foods with human food-borne illnesses is lacking in the United States.

Several major deficiencies in U.S. food safety regulations are in part due to outdated inspection laws that are not science-based and do not properly address current food safety issues. Also, the failure to seize food shipments found at U.S. ports of entry to be contaminated is another problem. Indeed, rejected foods are not destroyed or confiscated but are allowed to go to other ports, including U.S. ports, where they may eventually make their way to unwary consumers in the United States or abroad.

Food Security Issues in Iran

Iran’s population of 65 million is currently increasing at a rate of 1.8 percent annually with a population of 90 million anticipated by 2021. Only about 19 percent of the land (31 million hectares) is suitable for crop production, and staple crops are generally of low yield. Also, there is an inadequacy of forage crops for animal production. In addition, soil erosion is reducing crop productivity and is leading to the loss of cropland.

The continuing population movement from an agrarian to a largely urban society also results in lost cropland as housing spreads onto farmland. The total arable land for agricultural production is equivalent to 0.2 hectares per person. Agricultural experts consider that the equivalent of more than 0.6 hectares per person is needed for ensuring a nutritionally balanced diet of plant and animal products. On this basis, Iran will need approximately 55 million hectares of arable land in 2021 to feed its population—an increase of 70 percent from the current situation and a seemingly unreachable target. Unfortunately there is an increasing demand for water resources, and therefore less water is available each year. Also, agricultural use of water is currently very inefficient with poor water management systems in place to reduce current wastage.

Farmers are largely individuals who have inherited land from their forefathers. With the passing of each generation, the land is subdivided into smaller tracts with the recipients of the land not well trained in modern agricultural production practices. Thus, there is little capability among this segment of the agricultural community to substantially increase crop productivity.

At the national level, Iran suffers from inadequate planning and management to meet current and future food and nutrition needs. This nutrient insecurity is due both to a lack of access to appropriate foods and inadequate knowledge of the people about nutrition. Other contributing factors include (a) wastage of food, such as 25 percent wastage of highly subsidized bread, and a lack of societal concern over such wastage, (b) neglect of the importance of preservation and extension of shelf-life, and (c) antiquated processing practices and distribution systems. Unless Iran soon begins more intensive planning and action for food security in the future, predictions indicate that the country will experience significant food shortages and nutritional inadequacies within the next two decades.

Certain measures can help ensure food security at the macro level which is a vital pre-requisite for food security at the household level. There are, however, other preconditions to achieve household food security as well: the household’s economic access to sufficient food; nutritional awareness and sound nutritional behavior including selection of suitable food baskets, and appropriate food preparation methods in the home. Prevention of diseases, which is the responsibility of the health authorities, is also a requirement for household food security. Thus, capacity building should be a major component of government strategies to address food security at both the macro and household levels.

Food Security Issues in the United States

Food availability is not an immediate issue in the United States. However, distribution of food that is nutritionally appropriate to low-income individuals, homeless persons, and others who cannot afford food purchases is a problem. There are gaps in the U.S. food safety net—food stamps for the needy, nutrition programs for children, and supplemental nutritious food for pregnant and postpartum women and young children. There are restrictions on accessibility to these programs that exclude many needy individuals who simply do not qualify.

Among the issues related to food stamps are the trends in increased obesity among persons relying on food stamps. This trend may be due to the use of stamps to obtain high calorie food that isn’t necessarily dense in nutrients although the obesity trend is also noticeable in population groups that are not dependent on food stamps.

Another concern relates to subsidies to farmers for certain crops and commodities (e.g. peanuts, milk). These subsidies often distort production toward certain products that reflect economic motivations for increased income with limited concern over nutritional needs at home or balanced food needs abroad.

Opportunities for Collaboration

Many food safety and food security issues in Iran and in the United States are unique to the particular country, but others are common to both countries. The following topics are of common interest and could serve as important themes for future collaboration carried out through exchanges of individual specialists, inter-academy workshops, or joint consensus studies:

Improvement of the integration of food-borne disease surveillance and food monitoring, with an initial emphasis on assessing the critical components of surveillance systems and developing new methodologies to establish links between outbreaks of human food-borne illnesses and detection of pathogen and chemical contamination of foods.
Development of model food safety curricula for higher education.
Evaluation of the effect on food and nutrient security and on health of food-related subsidies established for economic reasons.
Promotion of nutritional awareness of consumers and improving their behavior related to food and nutrition.
Identification of practical science-based agricultural practices involving the use of fertilizers (e.g. manure, nitrates) that would allow for safer foods, increased food production, and more efficient use of resources.
Increase of crop yields through use of new agronomic technologies in drought areas.
Use of biological controls as an alternative to chemical pesticides and herbicides.


The Critical Role of Energy

Energy is a major driver of economic and social advancement, impacting almost all aspects of human needs. The costs and availability of energy influence business development and job creation. Energy sources undergird transportation and communication networks, and energy is an essential ingredient for technological innovation. Energy supplies are often essential in increasing agricultural productivity while some agricultural crops have become sources of fuel. Energy sources are critical to providing adequate health care although emissions from power plants can adversely affect the health of populations.

Thus, all nations must respond to an ever-changing energy future. On one hand, there has been enormous progress in making energy available at affordable rates to much of the world’s population. There has been steady progress in “decarbonization” of energy sources. A series of transitions are continuing to occur throughout the world from burning traditional fuels, to coal, then to oil, and recently to gas, with important contributions of hydro, nuclear, and renewable energy sources. There are important attendant reductions of adverse health and environmental impacts. There has also been a steady global improvement in the efficiency of energy use.

However, a large part of the world’s population is still not served by modern energy systems, with a consequent heavy burden on society in terms of health impacts from dirty sources, continuing requirements for labor-intensive employment, and difficulties in producing many economic goods and providing social services in deprived areas. At the same time, the projected increases that are needed in energy generation and use to improve the conditions to acceptable levels in many countries are enormous. Also, there is good reason to be concerned about the global warming impact of the present and projected burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal. There are important environmental and health impacts from the use of energy, especially in the transportation sector. Finally, many nations are concerned over their increasing dependence on imported energy resources and over the projected inadequacies in affordable oil in the medium term and gas supplies in the longer term.

These issues were clear to the participants in the discussions as they presented their perspectives on energy challenges, globally and in the two countries. Specialists from both countries underscored the urgency for transitions in current energy production and use patterns toward cleaner sources and more efficient use. The development and deployment of advanced energy technologies will be essential in the future and must be accelerated.

Opportunities for Collaboration

Against this introductory backdrop, the participants focused the discussion on (1) the contributions that the academies in the two countries can make to global studies of energy transitions, and particularly to the forthcoming energy study of the Inter-academy Council (IAC) based in Amsterdam, and (2) the scope of a future Iran-U.S. inter-academy program on energy issues that might begin with individual exchanges and/or a bilateral workshop.

With regard to contributions by the academies to the IAC energy study, the IAC approach is to request individual academies (acting individually or within regional or other groupings) to provide input and perspectives at the beginning of the study. Also the IAC will request individual academies to identify potential panel members and reviewers for the study. Academies will work with their own governments and industries in moving the resulting recommendations forward in their own national energy programs. Thus, the U.S. and Iranian academies can make important contributions to the content of the study and can promote actions to implement its conclusions. Of special interest, American and Iranian contributions which are mutually supportive and which cross-reference each other might be a particularly effective way to emphasize the importance of these contributions.

Turning to bilateral inter-academy activities, an early joint effort might be directed to a workshop with invited papers as was envisaged by the academies three years ago.

The substantive focus of both the contributions of the academies to the IAC study and to a bilateral workshop could very usefully be built around the following themes:

Efficient use of energy, which remains of central importance whatever the development of various sources of energy generation, locally or globally.
Modeling of energy developments and alternatives and their relationship to economic policy, with the conclusions of the modeling focused on identification of effective policy strategies for accelerating important energy transitions.
Strategies and technologies for the efficient use of natural gas and for the role of natural gas in global energy transitions, including the possibility of a future hydrogen economy.
Discussions of these themes addressed a number of related issues. The following topics were among the most important ones that were considered:

A global overview of energy projections, emphasizing the huge anticipated growth in energy services required to meet energy demand over the coming decades.
The energy situation in Iran, including concerns over waste and the continued increase of energy intensity.
The results of a detailed study of potential energy conservation strategies for housing in several cities in Iran which indicate, for example, that a 25 percent in energy savings could be achieved at a modest cost.
The conclusions of a series of energy-related studies carried out by the National Academies, and a discussion of ongoing studies of particular interest, such as an assessment of issues involved in transition to a hydrogen economy.
The importance of ethics and equity in considering global energy futures.
The importance of reflecting real costs and social and environmental impacts of energy options in the price and incentive structures supported by governments, and the feasibility of removing or reducing subsidies and incentives that exacerbate energy impacts and raise other concerns;
The experience in Iran in developing sophisticated energy modeling capabilities.
A Framework for Collaboration on Key Global Energy Transitions

As noted above, a bilateral inter-academy workshop could focus on key global energy transitions that all countries of the world should encourage and manage for the benefit of their people and for contributions to sustainable development of the planet. The goals of such a workshop could include: (1) deepening insights on important global energy transitions, (2) developing interactions among experts that can be sustained in the future through individual exchanges and other mechanisms, (3) developing well organized and easily understandable inputs to the IAC study that focus on key aspects of energy transitions, and (4) publication and dissemination of a workshop report that includes prepared papers and summarizes the discussions. Key themes of the workshop that draw on the strengths of Iranian and American specialists could be:

Strategies and technologies for promoting (a) energy conservation and greater energy efficiency in residential buildings and within households, and (b) use of renewable energy sources to service these buildings and households. The focus might be on topics such as:
More efficient heating and cooling of buildings.
Improved design and use of appliances.
Distributed power production.
Benefits of energy conservation and renewable energy programs for local employment and capacity building, health, and rural development.
Insights from energy and economic modeling that have special relevance for policy planning and for research and development activities in facilitating key energy transitions that are needed in the short and long run, including:
Deregulating energy prices and reducing harmful subsidies while protecting vulnerable groups and minimizing adverse impacts on the cost of living.
Increasing utilization of fuels and energy technologies with positive attributes for economic and social development (including employment and rural development), health, and environmental quality.
Reducing atmospheric emissions of carbon through fuel switching, carbon sequestration, emissions trading, and/or pricing.
Increasing energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy (i.e., increasing energy services per unit of energy input).
Reducing the impact of instabilities in international energy markets and increasing security to help prevent trade disruptions that affect both energy exporting and energy importing countries.
Strategies and technologies for increased and more efficient use and for reduced losses of natural gas in electricity generation, transmission, transportation, heating and cooling, industrial processes, and international exports—in short, in all aspects of the transition to a hydrogen economy.
A possible venue for further discussions of these topics at a workshop would be Trieste, Italy, where the Third World Academy of Sciences should be in a good position to supplement a bilateral gathering of American and Iranian specialists with a few specialists from other countries with complementary interests.

Education and Human Values

Overview of Approaches to Education and Human Values

The American specialists reported on three aspects of character education: current practices, development of schools of character, and philosophical underpinnings.

Some programs in American schools focus on school governance. In one case, students have voting control over aspects of the school handbook, activity budget, and even justice and honor committees. The school has used Kohlberg’s stages of moral development as an assessment tool. At another school, students in their senior year are teamed with at-risk freshmen for one year as mentors in good behavior and values. Another school carries out student-planned activity periods that focus on an important values topic each month such as trust, loyalty, integrity, friendship, and responsibility. Overall, school character programs are most effective when they evolve from groupings of teachers and students, rather than being imposed by another source.

The members of the breakout group participated in a demonstration of interactive character-building lessons with the approach designed to end with a consensus on the importance of values–honesty, responsibility, loyalty, fairness, and compassion. These traits, with only minor modifications, are the same values that rise to the top of any self-assessment exercise in any country, thus indicating that the world shares similar values regardless of history, culture, or religion. Expanding on the core values and on the community-of-caring approach, the group reviewed the 11 principles developed by the Character Education Partnership in the United States and on its awards for outstanding character education programs.

Character education in the United States often embodies ironies and conflicts. There is a strong American belief in pluralism that co-exists with the primacy of individuality. American educators often have an overriding interest in developing good citizens, and the first goal of education is often graduation of citizens who are literate and can cast informed votes in elections. There may be conflict over the need for academic achievement and the need for instilling good values and ethics in children. Inquiry-based learning leads to important ethical systems of values; and therefore methods and procedures may be keys to American education, as much as the curriculum content itself. A major problem in current education is the lack of harmony with regard to family education and school education, and a Venn diagram may highlight concerns over not only what will be taught but also who will teach it–and how it will be taught.

The French participants spoke primarily of science as an ethical discipline and the importance of the delivery method used both in science and in character education. To them, science is the most modest of disciplines, a discipline whereby students report facts as to the character of nature. By contrast, the arts—music, literature, painting, and sculpture–create products that are altogether new, products that never existed before. Thus, when students start with their own questions and have a dialogue as they discover new information (the horizontal method of learning), they can most effectively learn material. They are involved in the act of personal creation as they discover truths. The vertical method—inserting knowledge and then repeating it by rote memory–is much less effective in the long run.

The French problem-solving approach, which assumes that each day the world may change, is an ethically charged approach. Students must think they are exploring science themselves, and they must be honest in their observations and conclusions. Ultimately they can also embrace admiration, the admiration of the world and how it works, as a core value.

French specialists have established a hands-on learning program to mesh the world of science and the world of values: La Main a la Pate. There are world-wide values of honesty, caring, self-discipline, justice, and other traits shared through an Internet website. It is not a band-aid behavioral modification program, but rather a philosophical approach that acknowledges the development of man as a moral, inquisitive being. Similar to Americans viewing education, French specialists believe that to be effective, education must be student-centered and student-run. Education will not be effective if it is authoritarian. This approach also acknowledges the importance of making mistakes and the difficulties of cooperative work, believing both aspects to be ultimately positive and necessary to good learning.

The Iranian participants based their remarks on philosophy, noting that if Socrates wrote that virtue is a science, then [virtue] can be taught. The pressing need, therefore, is to teach values in an effective way so that virtues are internalized and behavior is non-destructive and contributes to the community’s well being. Analyzing the causes or emotional reasons behind the behavior of a diverse student population will allow the administrators and teachers to create the best methods of instruction, but serving as role models to their students is a the key learning strategy. Affection must always be used but not to the detriment of fairness or justice.

Discussions within the Iranian population have acknowledged the troubled state of secondary education because of sharp differences between the old and new generations. There needs to be, therefore, a clarification of values so there is a metaphysical base for both groups. There needs to be acknowledgement that the teacher is an exemplification of ethics (or a lack thereof), and thus becomes a powerful observable lesson on values in the classroom. Finally, there needs to be active involvement by the students, a learn-by-doing method, in order for values to be internalized and practiced by the students.

Teacher training is an important aspect of infusing more effective character education in schools. Young people desiring to be teachers must have awareness of the core human values, such as values articulated by UNESCO experts. Workshops should be held so there are discussions and comparative studies of different cultures in the world, as it is important for students to realize that core human values challenge all people. The teacher-training institution itself, of course, must model an ethical institution so that aspiring teachers are learning in an atmosphere of honesty, respect, fairness, responsibility, and other key values of all cultures.

The Iranian participants also made brief presentations on the importance of the full support of school administrators for teacher efforts to promote human values. Further, the Ministry of Education must also become an active advocate of emphasizing human values in education, and scientists should bring this issue to their attention.

Two additional topics were raised in the plenary session and in the breakout group that were considered very important although time was not available to explore them it detail. First, television and other forms of mass media surely have a significant impact on the values and behavior of students. Secondly, the manner in which punishment of misbehavior of students deserves priority attention at all schools.

Following the general discussions, the breakout group arrived at a number of conclusions and recommendations and developed suggestions for next steps in inter-academy scientific cooperation.

Findings and Conclusions

1. Cultivating core ethical values involves both explicit (direct) and implicit (indirect) means. Explicit means involve focused efforts to teach students to understand, care about, and act upon core ethical values—e.g., religious instruction in Iran and special ethical curricula in the West. Implicit means touch many aspects of the school curriculum and the environment for learning. This approach may involve teachers and other staff members modeling core values; the formation of caring relationships between students and teachers, among students, and among teachers; the creation of a still broader caring school community; and the design of instructional models that convey ethical norms indirectly through such routes as inquiry-based teaching of science.

2. Direct instruction of core values is probably less effective than a pedagogy that involves a combination of explicit and implicit means.

3. There is an important linkage between religious teachings and the definition of core ethical values. The linkage is different in western countries such as the United States and France and in Iran where religion plays a fundamentally different role in public education. In Iran, religion is viewed as the source of ethical principles and is explicitly taught as such in schools. In the United States and France, religion is viewed as primarily a personal matter and is generally not present in public school programs other than in a scholarly sense. Nevertheless, the resulting set of core values – such as tolerance, justice, fairness, responsibility, and caring – seems quite similar in all three countries.

4. Agreement within a society on a basic set of core values does not necessarily or easily translate to a clear system of implementation, or even to an agreed-upon priority ranking of values. For example, although there may be agreement intuitively as to the concept of “tolerance, ” this agreement may have operational significance through quite different means in the United States and Iran because of the respective role of religion in their cultures.

5. Internal contradictions or conflicts are likely to exist within any system of values. Different societies treat core conflicts in different ways, both conceptually and operationally, as reflected in the following examples: equality of opportunity and the preferences related to socioeconomic and other background differences; intrinsic and extrinsic values of learning; equality and quality of education for all elements of society; and cooperation and community interests vs. individualism and concern for personal growth.

Recommendations for Education Policy and Research

1. Education to foster core ethical values should be given a higher priority in the public school curricula in Iran, the United States, and probably all countries.

2. Greater attention should be given to the importance of combined efforts of faculty members and administrators in creating a caring community that fosters an environment for understanding and embracing core values.

3. Professional development should focus specifically on preparation of teachers for introducing values through both explicit and implicit means.

4. Investigations of available scientific evidence on the relative effectiveness of strategies adopted in the United States for promoting core ethical values and an assessment of their applicability in other countries would be useful.

5. Exploration of mechanisms used in different societies such as Iran and the United States for reconciling concepts of “tolerance” with the teaching and practice of religion, ideally reducing anxieties and increasing acceptance associated with concepts of tolerance, should provide valuable insights for educators.

Next Steps for Inter-Academy Cooperation

Exchanges of ethical experts and inter-academy workshops could usefully address the following topics:

“Inquiry-based Learning and the Practice of Science: What Ethical System is Embedded?” The focus should first be on science in the primary grades (K-6). Participants would explore the relationship between specific designs for hands-on teaching and learning and the development or cultivation of values. Subsequent cooperative activity would focus on the middle and higher grades (7-12) and on the college level.
“Cultivating Core Values: What Works?” The focus should be on empirical evidence of the effectiveness of various strategies. Participants would explore the availability of useful data and/or the need to collect new data; analytical models and the need to define outcome measures; and the design of a more comprehensive research agenda to be supported by various government agencies in the United States, France, Iran, and other countries.
“Core Values and Core Conflicts: Understanding and Resolution.” The objective should be to understand at a deeper level than current understanding why and how various systems of ethics have internal contradictions such as conflicts between caring and justice and conflicts between cooperation and personal achievement. Participants should explore how such conflicts are transformed into acceptable compromises in the United States, Iran, France, and other countries.


In conclusion, all participants from the United States and Iran extend their deep appreciation to the French Academy of Sciences for the substantive contributions to the working group deliberations of their specialists and to the Fondation des Treilles for the excellent administrative arrangements and warm hospitality during this meeting in southern France. The participants are convinced that the meeting will enhance the prospects for international scientific cooperation.

Citer ce billet
Fondation des Treilles (2003, 20 juin). Interacademy workshop Iran, U.S.A., France: food safety/food security, global energy transitions, education and human values. Les carnets de la Fondation des Treilles. Consulté le 29 mai 2024, à l’adresse

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