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Science Diplomacy is Gaining “Soft Power”

 

On February 21, in the framework of the HSE ISSEK Master's Programme "Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation" Professor Pierre-Bruno Ruffini of the University of Le Havre (France) delivered a public lecture on the key aspects of ''sicence diplomacy" which is truning into an increasingly importatn element of states' influence strategies and the main "sofr power" tool for peoples' "hearts and mindes".

Between the internationalism and patriotism poles

Having started with defining the “science diplomacy” concept, Professor Ruffini noted the radical difference between diplomacy’s and science’s objectives and values. Scientists, as “neutral” representatives of their countries, try to find answers to present day’s global challenges common to the whole humankind. The speaker supported this premise with Anton Chekhov’s words: “there is no national science, just as there’s no national multiplication table. What is national is no longer scientific”. Meanwhile diplomats’ main objective is promoting interests and values of their country in the world. Science diplomacy always reflects interests of a particular country, which makes it different from international academic cooperation.

At the same time, science and diplomacy have a lot in common. Diplomats have an interest in key values of science — universal, neutral knowledge, and in turn can support scientists’ activities. There are numerous historical examples when academic issues became the subject of diplomatic relations, or even acted as their catalysts. The opposite is also true: diplomats frequently promoted countries’ cooperation in research, science, and technology areas.

These examples include CERN, and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) established during the Cold War following the proposal by Mikhail Gorbachev and the US president Ronald Reagan, which has significantly contributed to achieving detente between the two opposing powers. Another similar example is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which brings together scientists from all over the world to find solutions for environmental problems (the IPCC representative Mr Rae Kwon Chung has delivered several lectures at HSE ISSEK, in particular to students enrolled at the ISSEK Master’s programme).

Professor Ruffini defines science diplomacy by bringing together three aspects: diplomacy for science, science for diplomacy, and science in diplomacy. All three imply promoting specific countries’ interests on the international arena, all are connected with internationalisation of research, but each of them has specific objectives.

Diplomacy can help science, for example, by supporting research and technology development communities, or promoting general collaboration of scientists through formal international agreements. When diplomats improve and maintain international relations it certainly helps launching joint international research projects.

Science for diplomacy: research results help to shape more valid and efficient foreign policies, prepare the ground for international negotiations, improve and maintain international relations using academic cooperation tools.

Finally, science in diplomacy takes the form of interconnected scientific and political objectives, when, e.g., global challenges agendas are drafted for international discussions on the basis of latest research results.

Exerting international influence through science

Science definitely serves as an element of countries’ foreign policy, an important “soft power” factor, since it helps to achieve important to diplomats results just through mutual sympathy and voluntary participation in, e.g., research collaboration. Just as Hollywood improves the USA’s image, the leading British universities make a powerful impact on the country’s “cultural brand”, its positions in international politics, and development of business relations. According to Professor Ruffini, science is at the top of “soft power” rating, ahead of other ways to exert cultural influence in the course of competing for “hearts and minds”.

Science diplomacy received a powerful impulse after the Cold War, due to several reasons:

· countries started to increasingly rely on “soft power” in their competition with each other;

· global challenges particularly the ones related to climate, security, and health;

· increasing role of non-governmental actors in foreign and domestic policy;

· science-related issues nowdays get wider coverage in media.

Science attaches’ mission

Science diplomacy is currently on the rise, both in the government policy and academic domains: the number of relevant publications in scientific journals is growing, universities offer relevant courses, science diplomacy-related issues are increasingly often discussed at international conferences, etc.

Various countries’ diplomatic missions have science attaches among their personnel, and their departments employ scientific consultants.

Usually their responsibilities include gathering information, establishing contacts between relevant countries’ scientists, disseminating their country’s intellectual activity results, and participating in international events. The UK and US were the first to create science attaches positions; today France has the largest number of them (50), followed by China (46), US (33), UK (29), Canada (25), and Japan (25).

Development of science diplomacy mechanisms, as a form of public diplomacy, is an element of Russian national S&T policy whose importance was underlined in the Science and Technology Development Strategy for the Russian Federation approved by the RF Presidential Decree in December, 2016.

By Karina Zagitova