Rebuilding Iraqi science

A conversation with the US official in Baghdad trying to help Iraqi scientists pick up the pieces

Sam Jaffe(sam.jaffe@verizon.net)
May 28, 2003

The post-war reconstruction of Iraq is barely a month along, and most science departments in Iraqi universities have only begun to clean up the charred wreckage left by looters. They are getting help from the American Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), a newly established office within the US Department of Defense, staffed mostly by civilians drawn from a variety of agencies.

ORHA's principal advisor to Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Andrew Erdman, is a long-time US State Department employee with a PhD in History. He does have some knowledge of the sciences thanks to his wife, Washington University microbiologist Petra Levin. "I know what it takes to stock a lab," says Erdman. "And I haven't seen a lab in Iraq that is anything more than empty benches with at most a microscope. We have a long way to go."

The Scientist's reporter Sam Jaffe...

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