Science Diplomacy is context-dependent. This means that what works in some contexts may not work in others. As a result, Science Diplomacy practices need to be adapted or redesigned to align with new situations to prevent them from becoming irrelevant, unresponsive or even counterproductive. Furthermore, contextual circumstances, such as expectations, goals or procedures may change rapidly due to developments outside of the initial scope, which can lead to misalignments or deadlocks, if not dealt with accordingly.

This leads to the following principle:

Science diplomatic activities should respect the specific political, socio-economic and environmental context they are designed for and be able to adapt to changes in them.

To ensure this principle is considered, ask yourself:

  • Who are the main stakeholders both at the national and international context? What are their main interests and goals?
  • What do they expect (a) from their international interaction or peers and (b) from you as a science diplomat in the specific situation involved?
  • What is the specific (geo-)political and scientific context in which the Science Diplomacy activity is being performed? What could enable/block it and why?
  • Which specific circumstances in the natural environment does the activity need to take into account?

Fictive Case

Elke Dall (Center for Social Innovation)

Country A has a rather elaborate science diplomacy scheme running that supports brain circulation and capacity building with a focus on biomedical and health sciences. This scheme has been running successfully over many years in a stable albeit complex context as the political realities in the countries are rather diverse. Country A is a stable liberal democracy with a market economy and open society. Some countries participating in the scheme have more authoritarian governments. More and more reports show that in Country B human rights abuses happen and weak signals appear that the scheme is also used improperly to promote favourable attitudes towards the policy goals of country B’s government. Country A monitored the political, economic and cultural context closely, carefully evaluating decisions. It finally decided to continue the scheme, but reinforced its means to speak up against human rights violations. The management of the programme, an independent agency, involved experts informed about country B’s context as well as language skills so that the risks for participants in the project could be assessed better. They prepared an analysis of the interests of the different stakeholders.While the programme was never discontinued, the management commented publicly on infringements of academic freedom, expressed solidarity and ensured dialogue with peers expressing opposition and dissidents in the partner country. Preparatory and follow-up interview exchanges were offered to country A’s researchers and support was provided to find the right tone in exchanges. Lastly, guidelines were drawn up for participating researchers, regularly adapted based on continuous monitoring of the situation.

Other relevant principles involved: Capacities, Capabilities, Alignment, Evaluation.

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