The urgency of many grand challenges means addressing them cannot afford to be bogged down by distrust between stakeholders caused by perceptions of opportunism, selfishness or manipulativeness. Such behaviour may be counterproductive and lead to the feeling that one’s contribution to the process is not equivalently matched by others. Productive Science Diplomacy requires empathic and cooperative attitudes and actions resulting in equivalent contributions to the process on behalf of all stakeholders involved.

This leads to the following principle:

Science diplomatic activities should foster an attitude of understanding and cooperativeness leading stakeholders to trust that each actor participating in the activity contributes to addressing grand challenges in roughly equivalent ways according to their abilities, be it through knowledge or other resources.

To ensure this principle is considered, ask yourself:

  • What are you willing to contribute to the activity and how does it measure up to what your peers contribute?
  • What do you expect your peers to contribute to the activity?
  • What are the potential consequences of an imbalance in the contributions to the activity by each stakeholder?

Mitchell Young (Charles University)

In an inter-ministerial government meeting, the topic of research cooperation with a country in the global south arises. The foreign ministry representative asks, “what, really, do we get in return for all the funding we put into research cooperation with this country?”. The officer from the science ministry is somewhat caught off guard by the question but asks for clarification. “Well,”, the foreign ministry representative continues, “it seems to me that this is basically just foreign aid money, after all, we’re not seeing major scientific breakthroughs coming out of it. I think we should be able to use it as leverage to push this country on security issues like migration and anti-terrorism measures, maybe also firm up their climate change commitments”.

Thinking through what such an approach would mean for the two countries’ relations, the officer from the science ministry responds: “First off, let’s not forget that they also invest financially into this research. But more importantly, taking such a blunt transactional approach will likely harm our overall relationship by undermining our trustworthiness and their willingness to cooperate. I fear that they would sooner discontinue the scientific cooperation than be forced into a policy they don’t want. And even if it did work this one time, it wouldn’t be a sustainable basis for our long-term relationship. The issues you mention can better be addressed with open communication channels and a set of shared values which build an overall level of trust that transcends scientific efforts. I think we should focus on improving the capacity building and the conditions for enhanced scientific reciprocity so that these countries can be better partners in our efforts on global challenges. Maybe we can also promote more research cooperation on topics like migration and climate change as a way to draw more attention to them.”

Other relevant principles involved: Trust, Capabilities.

Relation to S4D4C Transversal Case Study Analysis: This principle is derived from the Interests Matter. Read more on the matters by clicking on the images below.