Science diplomacy can be described, in its broadest sense, as all those activities that span the spheres of science, on the one hand, and diplomacy, on the other. Science advice to multilateral climate negotiations is one example, seeing international research infrastructures as a bridge for foreign relations is another. Activities and research around the topic of science diplomacy have increased since the seminal 2010 AAAS/Royal Society Report “New frontiers in science diplomacy“. The European Union is interested in finding its own way and style of science diplomacy.
The needs, stakes and opportunities pertaining to science diplomacy have increased while communication between the scientific and diplomatic communities is not straightforward. There is still potential for better harnessing European science and science cooperation for European science diplomacy and foreign policy goals, both at EU and EU Member State-level. Not only can new approaches to scientific advice in EU foreign policy benefit from advances in research, but science diplomats can also harness new ways of carrying out research that offers opportunities for foreign policy impact.
This is why the EU funded three projects looking into the subject. The first, EL-CSID, ended in early 2019. It collected evidence on EU science diplomacy and provided conceptual groundwork investigating EU actors in science diplomacy. Since the beginning of 2018, two additional projects have supported the development of an EU science diplomacy: InsSciDE, coordinated by Sorbonne University (until 2022), and S4D4C, coordinated by the Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) – which ended April 2021.
The overall objective of S4D4C was to support current and future European science diplomacy for the benefit of European capacities, EU foreign policy goals and especially the development of solutions for global challenges. S4D4C had shaped its partnership so that it can effectively address this objective from an academic as well as a practitioners‘ perspective. In S4D4C, we made use of case-based research (here) to develop a governance framework for EU science diplomacy (here), publish scientific articles and policy briefs (here), develop training and capacity-building measures (here) as well as online knowledge resources for science diplomats (here).
The S4D4C project started in January 2018 and ended in April 2021.
European societies face a number of increasingly urgent and complex challenges. These challenges are becoming more interdependent and global in nature. The EU plays a leading role in addressing these global challenges.
Global challenges require coordinated international efforts, which makes them central to foreign policy. In addition to diplomatic skills needed to balance interests and capacities of actors, there is also a need for greater expertise and, more concretely, scientific knowledge. Diplomats cannot be expected to have or to easily obtain this knowledge, even less so in today’s dynamic research and innovation systems. For the most part, they have to rely on scientific advice. However, communication between the scientific and diplomatic communities is not straightforward. The models, processes and resources for this sort of scientific advice are also not yet systematically available.
There is potential for better harnessing European science and science cooperation for European science diplomacy and foreign policy goals, both at EU and MS level. Not only can new approaches for scientific advice in EU foreign policy benefit from advances in research (e.g. new climate models), but novel ways of carrying out research can also offer opportunities for foreign policy impact. Science diplomacy can make use of these opportunities, including aspects of open science, internationalisation, and Responsible Research and Innovation. In the current political and societal landscape, the needs, interests and opportunities pertaining to science diplomacy have increased. The S4D4C project aims to ensure that the needs are understood and that the opportunities are effectively communicated into EU policies to address future challenges.
S4D4C and stakeholders have outlined a vision, key benefits and principles for Science Diplomacy in the Madrid Declaration and in the “Calling for a Systemic Change” report.
The overall aim of S4D4C was, as mentioned, to support current and future European science diplomacy for the benefit of European capacities, EU foreign policy goals and especially the development of solutions for global challenges. The overall objective translated into the following specific objectives:
- Providing new insights and a better understanding of the contributions of science and science collaborations to foreign policy goals, especially in the context of European models and experiences
- Facilitation of effective and efficient interfaces for European science diplomacy to take better advantage of European science and science cooperation
- Provision of policy guidance on where and how EU and EU Member State (MS) science diplomacy can be active in the future
- Better preparation, clearer mandate and stronger identity of European science diplomacy
- Increased capacities and knowledge resources for EU and MS science diplomacy
- Expanding global reach and visibility for EU science diplomacy
In order to meet our S4D4C objectives, both academic and practical expertise are a necessity. S4D4C had shaped its partnerships so that it can effectively address both of these perspectives. S4D4C’s approach is also characterised by the conviction that recent changes in both science (mission orientation, internationalisation, openness, etc.) and diplomacy (changes in the role of diplomatic knowledge, multiplication of diplomatic actors, etc.) should not only be taken into account when developing science diplomacy interventions and training science diplomats. They can also be constructively used for new and more impactful types of science diplomacy.
The backbone of our research and public sector innovation activities was interdisciplinary social science research on the needs and experiences of EU and MS science diplomats, as well as on cases of science diplomacy. The S4D4C cases were chosen and structured according to three essential angles on science diplomacy:
- foreign policy and diplomacy challenges as a driver for science diplomacy
- European science and science cooperation as an opportunity for science diplomacy
- EU instruments as options for coordination and science diplomacy
Building on the research work, we supported current and future European science diplomacy and decision-making by:
- mobilising knowledge and networks
- co-creating a governance framework with a focus on interfaces
- training science diplomats
- providing decision-making support
- linking up actors globally
Our pathways to impact focused in particular on
- facilitating governance interfaces
- providing decision-making support
- training European science diplomats
S4D4C employed a co-creation approach characterised by early and consistent stakeholder inclusion. This helped us to produce effective outputs and to maximise opportunities for impact.
Please see the dedicated page and report where we estimate the contributions of the S4D4C project to the desired impacts which we set out to contribute to: https://www.s4d4c.eu/impact/