Meet Cathy Campbell –
Bringing 40 Years of Science and Technology Expertise to the Board of Governors
When Cathy Campbell was growing up in western Pennsylvania, she was taught that there’s a “big world out there.” Most kids learn that, but she took it to heart. Even as a kid, she knew she wanted a career that involved working with other countries. She has certainly fulfilled those dreams. One of America’s top experts in science and technology, she has been involved with major science diplomacy initiatives all over the world. Earlier this year, she added a new role to her already extensive bio when she became a member of BSF’s Board of Governors.
Campbell is one of the Board’s newest members, but she brings four decades of experience in international science and technology programs, policies, and management. She recently served as a Visiting Scholar in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Center for Science Diplomacy, where she is researching national approaches to science diplomacy among Arab countries.
Her familiarity with the Middle East was one of the main reasons that U.S. State Department representatives thought she would be an ideal choice for a seat on the BOG. She gladly accepted the offer and is excited to have a platform highlighting Israel’s ever-increasing role in science and technology.
“Quite simply, Israel is a top-notch nation when it comes to science, and it’s influence has grown, both in quality and in quantity, over the years,” she said.
Campbell believes BSF has played a key role in this growth.
“The record of success among U.S. and Israeli scientists who have received grants from BSF speaks for itself,” Campbell said. “Many of these scientists continue working together even after their BSF funding period ends. To me, that says a lot about the scientists, and about BSF. This is an organization that is dedicated to helping scientific teams with the potential to learn from one another, and to make important advances in science and technology.”
Prior to AAAS, Campbell was President and Chief Executive Officer of CRDF Global, an independent non-profit organization established by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote international scientific and technological collaborations. At CRDF, she led science diplomacy initiatives and oversaw science cooperation with more than 40 countries. Previously, Campbell served as director of the Office of International Technology Policy and Programs at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Clinton administration. She was the U.S. State Department’s program officer for Soviet/Russia science and technology affairs. Before joining the State Department, Campbell held research positions at the Library of Congress, the Rand Corporation, and Presearch Incorporated.
Though the idea of an international career always appealed to her (she has a Master’s in Russian and East European Affairs from George Washington University), her interest in science came later.
“I think there were a couple of reasons why I was drawn to science, but one of the main reasons is that I liked the way most scientists approached cooperation,” she said. “When scientists work together on a project, they are interested in the same things and are open to new knowledge. There are scientific questions they are trying to answer, and things like cultural differences or international differences are secondary issues that scientists are comfortable working through.”
The focus on cooperation has served Campbell throughout her career, as she has often worked with scientists from nations engulfed in war and conflict. At CRDF Global, she helped launch an emergency fund to help scientists and researchers in the Eastern Ukraine who became refugees in their own country when that region faced bloody battles against Russian-backed separatists in 2015. This helped Ukrainian scientists to continue their work, even as their lives were disrupted. Through her current research on Arab nations, she has learned that, despite the region’s history of conflict, there is growing interest in creating what she calls “an ecosystem for scientific advice.”
“One of the most rewarding things about science diplomacy is that it’s about knowledge and discovery, and not about cultural or political differences,” Campbell said. “It’s about scientists working with some of the best people in their respective fields, no matter where they live.”
Already during her brief time on the board, she has seen for herself how Israeli and U.S. scientists are working together successfully. She visited Israel recently for a BOG meeting, and though she had been to Israel several times before, she was impressed with the nation’s growing influence in science and technology.
“There are so many major companies and start-ups there now, and there is a culture where science is very much an important part of Israel’s growth,” she said.
She believes BSF continues to play an important role – not only by offering grants, but also by providing guidance to scientists on everything from partnership opportunities to funding sources.
“Scientists have a lot on their plates, and BSF is there to help them reach out to fellow scientists, to find partners, and to help them get innovative projects started,” Campbell said.
When she’s not on the job, she has many hobbies. There’s exercise, reading, attending theater and ballet, doing genealogy research, spending time with her family (she and husband Skip Horvath have three children: Mark, Sean, and Kelly) gardening – and taking master gardening classes to “learn what I’m doing wrong and then teach others not to make the same mistakes.”
That speaks to her innate sense of discovery – and her quest to find answers.
“I certainly like to keep busy,” she said, laughing. “I’ve always been like that. There are always things to learn and to understand, and I enjoy that process very much.”