National-interest-based politics, the possibility of hidden agendas and the existence of transnational networks beyond democratic oversight can feed suspicion towards international policy processes, including those targeting grand challenges (Stone 2020). In some readings, transnational networks, in which national governments mingle with all kinds of interest groups jeopardise the former’s autonomy (Fagerberg 2018). Besides, observing communities cannot evaluate a process’s legitimacy, if they know neither about the functioning of the process nor about its outputs (French 2019; cf. Deliberation and Legitimacy; Ewert and Maggetti 2017; Van Assche et al. 2017). Thus, Science Diplomacy’s reputation as a means of soft power positions it as a contender to mitigate that suspicion and prevents those stakeholders uninvolved in those networks to become democratically marginalized (Stone 2020). On the one hand, it builds on the effect of increasing transparency of diplomatic interactions through scientific exchange and technical cooperation. On the other hand, the emergence of Open Science promises the unfettered access of all stakeholders to scientific results, evidence and arguments. Besides access to relevant knowledge, transparent Science S4D4C
Diplomacy activities should entail clear communication about mandates and missions with stakeholders within as well as outside the activity (cf. Deliberation); the availability and simple accessibility of appropriate communication and information channels – for communication among stakeholders as well as with third parties (cf. Capacities); or codes of conduct as a means of stating what can be expected of a process (Stone 2020).
Transparency is by no means a simple principle, but comes as a trade-off with others. First, extreme transparency may harm intellectual property (Picot and Hopf 2018). Second, the more inclusive a Science Diplomacy process becomes, the more complex relations, processes, and checks and balances revealed by transparency mechanisms become, as well (Van Assche et al. 2017). Hence, transparency mechanisms are crucial, but to be designed responsibly and conscientiously.
This leads to the following principle:
Science diplomatic activities should be appropriately visible to enable monitoring and accountability activities by observing communities, thereby increasing the legitimacy of the activity.
To ensure this principle is considered, ask yourself:
- Which level of detail about aspects and stakeholders of the activity need to be visible and accessible? To whom should they be visible and accessible?
- What are the benefits and costs involved in not being transparent?
- How much are you willing to accept intransparency from your peers?
- Which aspects of the activity need to be accessible to enable monitoring and accountability by observing communities?
- How does transparency about aspects and stakeholders of the activity need to be designed for the activity to be constructive and productive without risking the overarching goals in the short and the long term?
Tim Flink (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
Actors in international joint programming situations report that transparency is key – and related to questions of accountability. Especially in relations that are asymmetrical in terms of socio-economic and governance performance, constructing a stable, accountable quality management system for jointly setting up, evaluating and managing international research projects, takes great efforts in terms of science diplomacy. Each policy and management culture needs to be understood and optimized, an infrastructure has to be set up, and every step of running a program (agreeing on research topics, funding schemes, the amount of funding, eligibility criteria, evaluation procedures, voting principles for decisions etc.), has to be agreed upon, documented and tracked transparently for each involved party. Transparent, permanent and thorough documentation can not only help alleviate conflicts over decisions but also ensure sustainability of programs despite political upheavals and management changes.