Complementarity & Manoeuvrability

Science Diplomacy relies on the interplay between the domains of international affairs and science. Stakeholders – be they countries, non-governmental organizations, research institutes, universities, etc. – have their own specialisms and, in turn, need to collaborate with others in areas where they are weaker. Such specialisms may refer to specific scientific fields, infrastructures or diplomatic skills and networks. The ideal Science Diplomacy activity makes use of the distribution of specialisms among participating stakeholders. Furthermore, the agreed process needs to give stakeholders sufficient room to play to their strengths without being forced into a straitjacket. For example, this may happen in case of too high levels of bureaucracy. In the worst case, a lack of awareness about others’ strengths and potential contributions results in high transaction and opportunity costs. This may be the case, if stakeholders in a Science Diplomacy activity are responsible for an aspect that they are not an expert in or that is not one of their strengths.

This leads to the following principle:

Complementarity & Manoeuvrability
Science diplomatic activities should build on stakeholders’ strengths to balance out others’ weaknesses and embed them in governance arrangements that leave enough room to manoeuvre for these strengths to flourish.

To ensure this principle is considered, ask yourself: Who is who in the planned activity’s landscape?  What are each stakeholder’s strengths and weaknesses? How can stakeholder’s strengths and weaknesses be balanced, overcome, harnessed or mobilized in the benefit of others?

Fictive Case

Tim Flink (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)

In an international joint programming initiative, science policymakers, managers and academics of two states aim at setting up a bilateral funding mechanism based on a common pot system (each party paying a share), joint calls for proposals for bi-national consortia and a joint evaluation procedure. Country A in this setting features one of the most advanced industrial and scientific systems next to being among the richest countries in the world. The other, Country B, can be considered a threshold country under a conversion process with low governance standards, but with a longstanding cultural tradition including academic institutions, an enthusiastic population of young scientists, and great natural resources as well as many challenges to overcome, such as desertification, agricultural misgovernment, pollution, health and nutrition problems.The joint programming setting is asymmetrical concerning the question how many and which resources each country should contribute. While Country A has more financial resources and more advanced management systems to provide, Country B also contributes its considerable regional expertise. Although their levels of scientific quality are similar, the areas of expertise of the participating countries are by design supposed to differ and complement each other – and so do the interests of involved actors as to the purpose of the joint undertaking. Country A’s researchers show more interest in basic research, while country B’s researchers are – unsurprisingly – more interested in applications and solution-oriented knowledge to ameliorate their country’s situation.The art of science diplomacy in such an initiative is to create an atmosphere allowing each country’s actors (policymakers, funding managers and scientific evaluators) to play to their strengths and pursue their interests without either side feeling less respected or unqualified. Even joint scientific evaluations and management selections of scientific proposals will need to be treated with great care and sensitivity due to their political conflict potential. In other words, the more actors invest into complementary undertakings, the less potential for rivalry will occur, while manoeuvrability must be ensured by sticking to jointly agreed management procedures.

Other relevant principles involved: Sensitivity, Inclusiveness, Deliberation.

Relation to S4D4C Transversal Case Study Analysis: This principle is derived from the ‘Values’ Matter. Read more on the matter and on all other matters by clicking on the images below.