architecture, Diplomacy

Science diplomacy in 2021

 

Graph explaining definition of science diplomacy

Science diplomacy covers three main aspects as illustrated above: science in diplomacy, science for diplomacy, and diplomacy for science.

Stay up to date!

Subscribe to DiploNews and stay up to date with upcoming events, new publications and research, and Diplo courses and training.

What is science diplomacy?

Graph explaining definition of science diplomacy

There are three types of science diplomacy (AAAS and Royal Society, 2010): 

  • Science in diplomacy is about the use of scientific advice for foreign policy decision-making. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations is an important example. Established in 1988, the IPCC brings together the latest scientific advice on climate change.
  • Diplomacy for science often include large-scale research facilities, which given their cost and resource intensity can only be built through collaboration among a number of countries. The most  example of diplomacy for science is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which was established in 1954 after negotiations between 12 founding member states.  
  • Science for diplomacy is the promotion of a more peaceful world through scientific cooperation. CERN is also an example of science for diplomacy. A commonly cited recent example of science for diplomacy is the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME), a research facility based in Jordan. It’s members are Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine, and Turkey. This is very notable as the diplomatic relationships between some of the members are very strained. Iran54 and Israel, for example, have not had direct diplomatic relationships since 1979.

 

Why does science diplomacy matter?

Science diplomacy mirrors the importance of science for modern society from the fight against pandemics to nuclear non-proliferation and the fight against climate change. Science for diplomacy can also contribute towards more international cooperation and, ultimately, more peaceful international relations.

 

How is science diplomacy conducted?

Science diplomacy includes:

  • Development and management of international cooperation
  • Negotiations
  • Diplomatic reporting

Who are science diplomats?

States and their representatives

The main actors are states. According to Flink and Schreiterer (2010) they are motivated to participate in science diplomacy by the following main goals:

  • Access: Ensure access to ‘researchers, research findings and research facilities natural resources and capital’ (Flink and Schreiterer, 2010, p. 669)
  • Promotion: Promote the country’s research and development achievements
  • Influence: Impact public opinions abroad and the opinion of foreign decisionmakers
  • Research cooperation: Support participation in large-scale research efforts that would otherwise not be realistic or possible
  • Addressing global challenges: Work towards addressing global challenges such as climate change

When it comes to putting these goals into practice, diplomats and official representatives are called upon.

Scientists serving as science attachés

Some of the first science attachés were scientists who were sent abroad to represent their country. We already mentioned the zoologist Charles Wardell Stiles, the US science attaché in the 19th century. The USA maintained one of the biggest networks of science attachés, including 24 attachés at the height of the science attachés programme in 1987 (Linkov et al., 2014).

The appointment of science attachés often follows broader strategic interests.77 In 2009, former US president Obama appointed three science attachés to Muslim-majority countries following his outreach efforts to the Muslim world (El-Baz, 2010).

Many examples of science attachés come from the Global North.78 However, looking more closely, we can identify cases of scientists acting as state representatives from the Global South. The term ‘science attaché’ is often not used in these cases, and does not strictly apply, but parts of the practice of these individuals do fit within a broader understanding of the work of science attachés. Hornsby and Parshotam (2018) looked at the participation of states from sub-Saharan Africa in international food standard-setting. They found that some ‘scientists act as state representatives, advancing an interest-based position in negotiations around scientifically based international standards’.

Scientists who serve in this role need to have a good understanding of diplomacy and international relations. More often than not, their science communication skills are called upon. They also need to navigate a fine line between their role as scientists and their role as envoys. Science advisors working with foreign ministries have a global network called the  Foreign Ministries S&T Advice Network (FMSTAN).

Officials from other ministries and national institutions

If we look at current case studies, we see that some science attachés are seconded from other ministries, national scientific institutions, and other relevant domestic stakeholders. Looking at the case of France, for example, Flink and Schreiterer (2010) found that science attachés ‘are seconded from different institutional stakeholders according to their individual agenda with respect to the region’ that they are sent to.

It is also worth noting that in some cases, other ministries, such as the ministry for the economy or science and innovation, take the lead on science diplomacy efforts. For example, South Africa created the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, which became the Department of Science and Technology in 2002, and was later renamed the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). It aims to pursue a ‘concerted science diplomacy strategy’ (Pandor, 2012). Different institutional cultures and perspectives on the main goals of science diplomacy can, in these cases, complicate finding a coherent and sustained approach.

Diplomats with a portfolio that includes science and technology

Diplomats who serve as official representatives of their countries also practice science diplomacy. Some simply touch upon science diplomacy practices as part of their work. For example, trade negotiators might need to liaise and collaborate with scientists back home on specialised questions. Diplomats based in Geneva might find themself in meetings at CERN regarding their countries’ membership.

In addition, career diplomats are also appointed to specific roles that give their practice a clear focus on science diplomacy. These include: special ambassadors or envoys for science diplomacy, scientific counsellors, and tech ambassadors.

Networks abroad

There are also outreach posts of states or groups of states for diplomatic and scientific interactions. They engage in science diplomacy, but do not have the status of an embassy. Sometimes they have the status of a consulate85, but only perform consular work in major emergency situations. Examples include:

Where is science diplomacy performed?

International organisations are the main multilateral venue for science diplomacy. The include:

FAQs on Science Diplomacy

Science and technology are both considered the foundations of modern society. These terms are often used in modern parlance. The fundamental difference between science and technology is that it can be viewed as “disinterested knowledge and research” but not necessarily aimed at solving a practical problems. Technology is commonly referred to in this way as “applied science”.

But, it’s difficult to discern such clear distinctions in practice. Technology and science are often interconnected. It is not easy to tell the difference between scientific discoveries in mathematics, and the development of computers. Science and technology have been complementing one another. This distinction has become more blurred in the last ten years.

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs up icon 0
Thumbs down icon 0

 

From our blog

[WebDebate #29 summary] Science Diplomacy: Preparing the next generation

DiploFoundation

In our May WebDebate, we discussed science diplomacy, focusing on the question of preparing the future generation of diplomats for this emerging field. We unpacked the concept of science diplomacy and discussed its gr...

Boston science diplomacy report maps another tech and innovation hub

Pavlina Ittelson

The practice of diplomacy is changing. Unlike some years ago, it now involves new actors and subjects. These changes have necessarily created new ways of interactions. Governments, the private sector, academia, and th...

[WebDebate #24 summary] Space diplomacy: Old geopolitics or new frontier for collaboration?

Andrijana Gavrilović

In our September WebDebate, we looked at space diplomacy. While space diplomacy is a hotly debated issue of geopolitical dimensions, it also reminds us of the need for multilateral efforts and pooling resources togeth...

[WebDebate #9 summary] Science diplomacy: approaches and skills for diplomats and scientists to work together effectively

Ana Andrijevic

The WebDebate on ‘Science diplomacy: approaches and skills for diplomats and scientists to work together effectively’ was organised by DiploFoundation within the framework of the International Forum on Diplomatic ...

Training and courses

Resources

2002

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 Int... Read more...

book, Font

2002

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 knowl... Read more...

book, Font

2002

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 ... Read more...

book, Font

2002

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 e... Read more...

kapiti college, Kapiti College

2002

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, c... Read more...

kapiti college, Kapiti College

2002

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 re... Read more...

kapiti college, Kapiti College

2002

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 o... Read more...

book, Font

2002

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 ... Read more...

Knowledge and diplomacy