National, regional or thematic approaches to science diplomacy can be identified by scrutinizing documents from national and international diplomatic contexts in which diplomacy meets science and vice versa. You may find policy guidelines or even just short sections that point to a specific understanding of science diplomacy. One may suppose that such an understanding has a political underpinning, which was set in a country’s foreign policy deployment and which is now implemented by its diplomats. The following paragraphs will mainly focus on this approach, by interpreting science diplomacy strategies as representations of national – or regional – policy making.
However, a specific approach to science diplomacy is not only expressed in the official announcements of public diplomacy. It is also reflected in the behaviour of diplomats and of scientists who interact with one another. We could therefore base our political understanding of science diplomacy on a perspective that goes hand in hand with the attention we pay to the individual behaviour of statesmen and scientists. It quickly becomes clear that the communicative style of an individual is not only and necessarily based on a certain selected political strategy. In some situations, personal and socio-cultural factors may also have a considerable influence. However, the experience shows us, a need to respect such differences in fields of international relations, foreign policy, and diplomacy. For more information on this, please look again at the individual experiences of our experts (videos), and on chapter 6.3 Skills in practice, in which communication and negotiation skills are described.
The national, regional, and thematic access to science diplomacy is marked by current political dynamics, interests, and sometimes, of course, by tensions. Against this background, it is important to look at current situations and to recognize and use the strategic possibilities of science diplomacy. In addition, historical and cultural contexts can play an extremely important role. The historical and cultural dynamics of global diplomatic relations and the role that science plays in them are complex. However, the better you understand it, the more useful science diplomacy can be.
Due to the different strategic approaches we have chosen three European (Germany, France and Spain) and three non-EU countries (China, Japan and USA). These countries are leading in science, technology and innovation, but they have different cultural identities and different political and scientific structures. As regards science diplomacy, all of them follow more or less explicit strategies, while China is following a more implicit line. Therefore and in sum, this selection gives us the chance to present a comprehensive overview. Please have a look at the specification of the similarities and differences that we describe in the following sections. For more detailed information, please feel free to check the information in the “Read more” boxes.