Multinational research-performing organisations

Several research centres are established as part of the UN-system or in other ways as explicitly multinational (i.e. they are intergovernmental research performing organisations). They also include research infrastructures, but their focus is less on the fact that there are large-scale, big-science investments being done (see knowledge resource on large-scale research infrastructures). Some research-performing organisations have science diplomacy in their establishment history and further the approach through different geographical sites or by explicitly promoting exchange in geopolitically complex environments.


The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international research organisation located in Laxenburg, near Vienna, in Austria. IIASA conducts interdisciplinary scientific studies on environmental, economic, technological and social issues in the context of human dimensions of global change. IIASA’s mission is “to provide insights and guidance to policymakers worldwide by finding solutions to global and universal problems through applied systems analysis in order to improve human and social wellbeing and to protect the environment.” IIASA also aims to take a leading role in promoting science diplomacy and fostering debates about how science can help build trust between nations and support foreign policies. Also, its founding history is used as an example of science diplomacy: It was established in 1972 with the aim to use scientific cooperation to build bridges across the Cold War divide and to jointly confront growing problems on an international scale. After several years of negotiations, twelve founding national member organizations jointly established IIASA (Bulgaria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, UK, USA, USSR and West Germany). When the Cold War ended, IIASA broadened its mandate to achieve a greater global mandate. IIASA strengthens bilateral and multilateral relations and provides scientific input to international negotiations.”With global problems becoming more complex and the world more divided, the concept of science diplomacy gained new traction. Science diplomacy is seen as a tool to foster relations between nations and as scientific support to foreign policies. Science diplomacy helps to ensure that foreign policies, as well as global policy efforts, remain informed by scientific evidence.”

The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) is an intergovernmental organisation initially established as a special project of UNIDO. Fully autonomous since 1994, it runs 46 state-of-the-art laboratories, in Trieste (Italy), New Delhi (India) and Cape Town (South Africa) and forms an interactive network with over 65 Member States. It plays a key role in biotechnology and promotes worldwide excellence in research, training and technology transfer to industry. ICGB contributes in concrete terms to the achievement of sustainable global development and its operations are aligned to those of the United Nations System.

The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) has been a driving force behind global efforts to advance scientific expertise in the developing world for more than 50 years. Founded in 1964 by the late Nobel Laureate Abdus Sala, ICTP seeks a accomplish its mandate by providing scientists from developing countries with the continuing education and skills that they need to enjoy long and productive careers. ICTP has been a major force in stemming the scientific brain drain from the developing world. It is based in Italy and operates under a tripartite agreement between the Italian Government, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and ratified by an act of the Italian Parliament in January 1995.

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Keywords: Explicit science diplomacy, Tools, Cooperation, Scientific community, Research infrastructure, Developing Countries, Programmes, Fellowships, Technology Transfer, Complexity, Systems, Sustainability, Resilience, Natural Sciences

Laure-Anne Plumhans

Posted by Laure-Anne Plumhans