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author: Katharina Höne

Science diplomacy capacity development: Reflections on Diplo’s 2021 course and the road ahead


Diplo has a track record of more than 20 years of capacity development in diplomacy. Given the increasing relevance of science diplomacy, expanding our program to include aspects of its theory and practice felt like an organic development. We offered our ten-week Science Diplomacy course for the first time in October 2021.

The publication’ Science Diplomacy Capacity Development: Reflections on Diplo’s 2021 course and the road ahead’ contains  30 reflections and testimonials from lecturers and students attending 9 week long online course on science diplomacy.

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Knowledge management and international development – the role of diplomacy

In this chapter, Walter Fust talks about the role of knowledge management, and knowledge for development, in diplomacy. He describes various methods to assess what knowledge should be stocked, and explains the need for managers who are assigned the task of deciding what should be stocked. These decisions need to be guided by principles, or guidelines - referred to as value management.

Boundary Spanning at the American Association for the Advancement of Science

There are risks of oversimplifying and idolizing Science Diplomacy, particularly when confusing what Science Diplomacy should be with what it is able to achieve in practice.

Knowledge management and diplomatic training – new approaches for training institutions

Dietrich Kappeler analyses the new approaches for training institutions in knowledge management and diplomatic training, departing from the premise that a distinction is important between personal characteristics and qualities of the diplomat on one hand, and the knowledge and skills he needs to do his job on the other.

Science as a game-changer for the African continent

Science is a game changer for nations today, as more and more countries are adopting science as a tool for modernizing their economies and a means to monitor their development. It contributes to the formulation of well elaborated, evidence based and transversal policies that rely on relevant data and research, knowledge, appropriate methodologies, and monitoring systems to build certainty and trust around the policies themselves, as well as around the expected outcomes and socio-economic impact. 

Science & Diplomacy: How countries interact with the Boston innovation ecosystem

Crucial global topics are becoming increasingly dependent on the world’s rapidly changing scientific knowledge and technological capabilities: from global health to digital society, sustainability to development, and beyond. To tackle this growing complexity, countries increasingly seek to engage with international science and technology hubs like Boston, so as to accelerate their ability to innovate and spark collaborative efforts with other nations.

An enormous learning experience

I was introduced to Science Diplomacy through the National Science Policy Network (NSPN) and realized that my scientific expertise could be used in several other ways, such as to frame or inform the policymaking process or to advise diplomatic decisions.

Science diplomacy and the SDGs

Environmental challenges, health, food security, and water safety all benefit from greater Science Diplomacy engagement. The same is true about achieving foreign policy goals.

How do you know what you think you know?

In his paper, J. Thomas Converse focuses on four records-related areas where the issues of knowledge management and diplomacy come together and provide the greatest challenges to archivists, diplomats, historians and technology providers: validation, trustworthiness, context and longevity. He also explores some of the changes and challenges brought about by technology, and urges for a continued embrace of technology, while at the same time demanding the validating and relational functions which give archives their trustworthiness.

Science diplomacy at work: UNESCO, Latin America, and the Caribbean

Science Diplomacy could be defined as the art of using scientific knowledge and evidence to deal with complex social, economic and environmental issues of importance to human societies, as well as promoting agreements and cooperation within and among countries.

Science Diplomacy opportunities to address infectious disease

In the field of infectious diseases research, Science Diplomacy is applied widely and plays a pivotal role globally on a macroscale, as well as in the day-to-day work of individual scientists.

Knowledge management: experience from international organisations

In this chapter, John Pace decribes the three-phase evolution of knowledge management in the human rights program of the United Nations. The realisation that knowledge management is a necessity came during the third phase. The author also describes the complex system of monitoring bodies and ad hoc mechanisms, and the developments that took place following four decisions taken in the mid-eighties.

Interdisciplinarity and collaboration to address global problems

Science Diplomacy is a very interdisciplinary field of human activity. Different scientific disciplines help to understand the complex world, but as such they also have an impact on different parts of society and human work. Science has always been global, but it is no longer global only in a closed scientific community. It affects different countries, regardless of whether they themselves are part of certain research processes.

Developing as a Boundary Spanner

Boundary spanning’ plays a valuable role in the current EU legislative landscape:  the Digital market strategy and agenda with the GDPR, Digital Markets Act, Digital Services Act and AI Act, or the EU Green Deal with the recently first Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act. The aim is to reconcile evidence-based approaches with regulatory perspectives on the policy side (precautionary, do no harm).

Science Diplomacy for Open Science

This question carries the three dimensions of Science Diplomacy. First, introducing this new element within the NCP system would have a very important impact on ‘science in diplomacy’. Especially with the advent of the UNESCO Open Science recommendation, such a measure would allow the strengthening of the involvement of the scientific community in developing national policies in response to these recommendations. 

Open Science and Science Diplomacy

My role as a ‘boundary spanner’ involves bridging the different stakeholders for Open Science to become the norm, and this indeed involves a clear focus on Science in Diplomacy. Busting OA myths and educating policymakers on the benefits and significance of Open access is important. This surely involves a collaborative effort between the public, private and governmental sectors.

Science Diplomacy for Diplomats: the journey of a Cambodian diplomat

Science Diplomacy is incredibly valuable and essential for the future of the world. As a diplomat, one should at least be able to grasp the concept and the practice of Science Diplomacy, even if not directly involved.

Beyond diplomatic – the unravelling of history

In his paper, Robert Alston travels through time to rekindle an important highlight – as well as a personal highlight – in the history of knowledge management. His journey takes him back to the 1850s, which saw Antonio Panizzi’s efforts in creating a universal repository of knowledge in the British Museum; and to the 1990s, a time in which he acquired first-hand experience at the same museum, drawing conclusions on the various available ways of navigating large bibliographical and archival databases.

Representing the EU in China

The international character of science also brings the opportunity to have open dialogues between the EU and China involving the research communities in science and research, especially in fundamental research, where common ground can be found more easily.

Reflections on Science Diplomacy: Putting training into practice

Active involvement of governments in science programmes, as is advocated under ‘diplomacy for science’, would further strengthen and broaden understanding of the dynamic role of science and technology in decision making, and inspire scientific contribution outside academia. 

Climate change through the Science Diplomacy lens

While weaving my atmospheric and climate knowledge together with the history of international environmental efforts for this module, I was able to gain and share new insights into the history of science-diplomacy including its successes and set-backs.

Science Diplomacy’s Potential for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and the Prevention of Illicit Trade

Cultural heritage safeguarding is a common issue that is gaining increasing attention in foreign policy agendas. It has become a priority for the European Union, and the European External Action Service recently included it in the EU foreign policy toolbox

Science diplomacy and health

Science gives us explanations of natural phenomena, describing interrelationships, and aiding understanding of processes in nature. We are currently living in a world where science is not just a human activity which gives us knowledge and a basis for education. Today the development of science and technology influences every person and every country in the world.

Delivering Diplo’s 2021 Science Diplomacy online course 

Diplo has a track record of more than 20 years of capacity development in diplomacy. Given the increasing relevance of science diplomacy, expanding our program to include aspOur Science Diplomacy course builds on a number of conversations in our Diplo WebDebate format (DiploFoundation, 2022a, 2022b) and research conducted in conversation with practitioners at CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research), which led to reflections on suitable institutional frameworks and effective capacity development for Science Diplomacy (Höne and Kurbalija, 2018). At its core, our 2021 course is a c...

Science Diplomacy and planetary health: A medical practitioners’ perspective

In general, ‘science in diplomacy’ is most relevant in my working context. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some ‘diplomacy for science’ (cooperation between otherwise independent and occasionally competing structures for scientific needs). 

On dealing with uncertainty

What is Science Diplomacy? This was the fundamental question I was hoping to answer, and then help answer for others, by volunteering to be part of this initiative. I’ve got some bad news because I still don’t have an answer, but this bad news is actually a good thing! In teaching complex subjects I feel that it is only natural that the teacher learns from reviewing and presenting the material and expands their understanding from there based on discussions and feedback from their students. In that sense this experience totally delivered!

Reflections on teaching science-policy engagement

Our module teaches participants how to navigate the interface between science and policy. We aim to give a realistic view of the challenge and ground participants' reflections on their realities.

Knowledge management in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malta

In this paper, Maltese diplomat Gaetan Naudi explains how the Maltese MFA embraced the changes introduced by the informatics era. He looks at such changes from a business management perspective, to show how ICTs were introduced to such a fairly large organisation, the concerns raised by the changes, and the progress on computerised knowledge management. He concludes that despite the positive changes introduced thanks to ICTs, this would not have been possible without human involvement.

Knowledge and Diplomacy

Knowledge and Diplomacy presents papers on knowledge and knowledge management from the January 1999 Conference on Knowledge and Diplomacy in Malta. The papers in this book, examining the topic from a variety of backgrounds, academic interests and orientations, reflect the multidisciplinary character of knowledge management. This publication is only available online.

Boundary spanning successes and challenges

The techniques I learned during the course helped me to use scientific facts in negotiation. Despite the fact that in traditional societies even scientific facts are not accepted science can still help to open the conversation.

Science Education in Colombian Diplomacy

We want Science Diplomacy as a structural pillar of Colombian foreign policy, and we want to put science at the core of the policymaking and negotiation processes, and thus the recent development of a national strategy is fundamental for building state policy in Science Diplomacy.

Relevance of Science Diplomacy in the Caribbean

The power of Science Diplomacy at work – a collaborative mechanism in which CAS demonstrated ‘science in diplomacy’, through its provision of technical guidance and successfully informed foreign policy objectives with science.  UNESCO’s Cluster Office for the Caribbean demonstrated ‘diplomacy for science’, facilitating international science cooperation”

Science as a process

Science is a systematic process for understanding the world. Diplomacy is a process of interaction and negotiation between states. Both are necessary for addressing sustainable development, but how?

Traversing biomedical science, technology & innovation, policy, and diplomacy

Traversing biomedical science, technology & innovation, policy, and diplomacy.

A perspective from Jordan

I find it easier and more logical for a scientist to learn the world of diplomacy, which already exists, acquiring the needed skills to bring science into the spot-light, rather than a diplomat doing it the other way around.

Anticipation of future science policy interactions

As the world is experiencing breakthroughs in science and technology, such as advanced AI, genome editing, quantum computing, or synthetic biology, at an unprecedented pace, the mandate of Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) is to accelerate the use of the opportunities and avoid their undesirable consequences.

Using Science Diplomacy to achieve health goal

Engaging scientists, diplomats, and policy-makers in the development of science-informed policies through exchanges and joint construction of knowledge is crucial for addressing current and future challenges. This highlights the importance of a science-policy interface in supporting this process. I also found out that it is possible to use artificial intelligence to support diplomatic negotiation processes. Developing countries should use the opportunity to improve their regional and international negotiations on issues such as health, climate, peace, security, economy and energy. 

Knowledge management and diplomacy

In this paper we aim to provide a comprehensive introduction to the topic of knowledge management in diplomacy. First we provide working definitions of knowledge and knowledge management, and examine the evolution of the concepts. Next, we consider specific features of diplomacy that affect and limit the way knowledge management can be implemented. Then we look at specific techniques which diplomacy can adapt from the business sector in the field of knowledge management. Finally, we consider some important questions related to human resources and knowledge management.

Science diplomacy capacity development: Reflections on Diplo’s 2021 course and the road ahead

Diplo has a track record of more than 20 years of capacity development in diplomacy. Given the increasing relevance of science diplomacy, expanding our program to include aspects of its theory and practice felt like an organic development. We offered our ten-week Science Diplomacy course for the first time in October 2021.

The role of knowledge in the cyber-age of globalisation

In his paper, Richard Falk reflects on the application of information technology on diplomacy, and discusses the challenge of converting information technology to ‘knowledge technology’, and subsequently to ‘wisdom technology’. Yet, the ‘crossroads in human experience’ brings many challenges and dangers which the author analyses.

Science Diplomacy and Internet Governance

Disinformation and rumors are critical issues in internet governance and related areas. Those issues also relate to fair competition in the market.

Science Diplomacy in Geneva and Switzerland

Switzerland, as a Host-State of international organizations, supports a number of platforms, which offer a neutral space for collective brainstorming and exchanges outside of formal settings, where stakeholders explore and test new ideas, share good practices, or discuss emerging issues. There are currently seventeen platforms of various sizes, covering issues ranging from human rights to the environment.

Knowledge management and change in international organisations: Learning from the private sector

In this paper, John Harper and Jennifer Cassingena Harper talk about knowledge as a vital resource, and the necessity of building competencies and establishing new skills. Analysing the theories by Ernst B. Haas in When Knowledge is Power: Three Models of Change in International Organisation, the authors trace the development of knowledge-oriented activities in the private sector, and its implications for organisations in the public and international domain.

Knowledge and Diplomacy – Alex Sceberras Trigona

In his paper, Alex Sceberras Trigona stresses the importance of the diplomatic document as a primary source of diplomatic knowledge, in the light of the distinction between ‘information’ (can be recorded) and knowledge (not easily recorded), the flow of knowledge as information. He then explains the need for dissecting diplomatic documents, and the various level of analysis which are possible, and the effects of digitalisation on knowledge, information and diplomacy.