S4D4C’s Considerations on ‘How to Include Science Diplomacy Aspects in Horizon Europe?’

One of the main goals of the S4D4C project is to support current and future European science diplomacy for the benefit of European capacities, EU foreign policy goals and especially the development of solutions for global challenges. The new framework programme Horizon Europe brings in an excellent opportunity to support these objectives.

In this post, we feel inspired to share some reflections on how this support could be realised. The work is a result of several brainstorming sessions within the project partners, and several stakeholders, including the European Science Diplomacy Cluster (i.e. involving the sister project InsSciDE).

One of the first outcomes of the S4D4C project has been the Madrid Declaration on Science Diplomacy: a statement currently supported by over 120 international experts identifying their vision for science diplomacy (SD), its benefits and principles to address global challenges. The declaration acknowledged SD as a means to support universal scientific and democratic values and to support multilateral decisions on shared global concerns. However, it called attention on the need to facilitate collaboration and inclusion of different stakeholders through innovative governance models and to continue building capacity and raising awareness of the benefits of science diplomacy. More recently, the project is working on a Roadmap for European Science Diplomacy addressing different stakeholders that will hopefully bring new ideas also for Horizon Europe. Both the declaration and the roadmap are good starting points to identify those areas where Horizon Europe can contribute in the development of a vibrant European science diplomacy.

Fitting science diplomacy activities in Horizon Europe: Where SD currently features in the Horizon Europe proposal

S4D4C is happy to see that a number of aspects on international cooperation are described in Horizon Europe and, specifically for each cluster as a generally important notion. However, SD could be acknowledged as a much more important aspect of the programme. Implicitly, it is obvious that many identified challenges need SD and international cooperation to succeed. Furthermore, processes of association to the programme are discussed with international partners – a SD activity in itself.

The orientations for Horizon Europe cover different aspects of SD such as cultural, water and climate diplomacy. Furthermore, “A stronger Europe in the world” highlights the need to build upon the openness of European research and to pursue strategic partnerships, promoting international cooperation based on mutual benefits, EU interests, international commitments and, where appropriate, reciprocity. SD shall foster mutual understanding, stability and progress (see page 18).

In relation to the partnerships and multilateral initiatives addressing global challenges requires the EU to strengthen its role in multilateral and bilateral setups while asserting EU values and interests. A wide range of impacts are targeted: i) strengthened S&T links with key countries through policy dialogues and strategic partnerships; ii) supporting multilateral alliances addressing key challenges such as climate and environmental observation, pollution, global health (e.g. AMR, infectious diseases, etc.); iii) promoting level playing fields and reciprocity internationally (safety standards, assessments of materials, regulatory contexts in manufacturing, digitalisation, consumer products and services); iv) promoting commonly accepted ethical approaches for scientific knowledge and technology development (in fields such as Artificial Intelligence), promoting guidelines and principles for research ethics and integrity.

More broadly, SD can be seen as supporting the implementation of the SDGs and in itself it also relates to SDG 17 –’Partnerships for the Goals’.

Where SD should be featured

In our view, the SD dimension should be embedded in Horizon Europe at different levels:

1. Supporting SD as an integral part of the programming.

Using the setting up of the new programme as an opportunity to including partnerships and missions strategically and use the science diplomacy perspective when negotiating association and features of international cooperation in Horizon Europe.

2. Supporting dedicated SD initiatives and their coordination.

Providing support to SD explicitly, in particular in Cluster 2 “CULTURE, CREATIVITY AND INCLUSIVE SOCIETY” addressing “the EU as an international and regional actor in multilateral governance, including new approaches to science diplomacy” needs to be reinforced and specific calls can be launched.

3. Mainstreaming and encouraging SD in all areas of Horizon Europe.

It is important to make the need for SD for the “pathways to impact” explicit and support the implementation in a transparent and coordinated manner. Thus, each cluster needs to address its potential and needs for SD. In particular, the missions, aiming at global impact, as well as the large-scale partnerships and research infrastructures have huge potential to be more successful in and with SD.

4. Promoting SD initiatives that strengthen the EU internal bodies.

European Framework Programmes themselves are a perfect example of SD and how member states can join forces to have a common strategy towards science, technology and development. At the same time, they contribute to the construction of the European Research Area and Europe itself and the mainstreaming of common scientific values and strong cooperation among researchers from all over the continent. Discussions around the future of the European Research Area (ERA) bring European research and development policies to the next level: How ERA can exploit the significant contribution that Research and Innovation (R&I) plays in achieving Europe’s wider policy goals? And we ask: In order to do so, how can Horizon Europe foster the necessary transformations so that European R&I better connects with wider policy goals, foreign policy included?

Here in some more details to 1-4:

1.  Supporting SD as an integral part of the programming

For the programming of Horizon Europe, it should first be acknowledged that the entire framework programme is itself a core platform for Europe’s SD, via its association agreements. Particular foreign policy objectives feed into its association negotiations and to ongoing debates over the future of the ERA – e.g. what is the position of the United Kingdom in Horizon Europe after Brexit? Switzerland? Norway? The Western Balkan countries? Turkey? The Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood? Canada? Australia? The US? Russia? China? The outcome of current negotiations towards different countries, their conditions and rules for participation will crucially determine how the EU is perceived. Which values (openness? inclusiveness? diversity? sustainability? Europe first?) are emphasised? And where are the red lines (and for whom)?

Based on strategies of a “geopolitical Commission”, different foreign policy aspects shall be taken into account, involving external actions, enlargement, neighbourhood, development policies, etc.

Horizon Europe also addresses different sectoral policies and the “European Green Deal”, and clearly in order to achieve change and impacts addressing global challenges, SD is needed in areas such as climate change, health, water, agriculture, food, energy, transport, etc.

Many different aspects need to be considered (e.g. policies related to security/defence, competitiveness) and consolidated in negotiation positions. These activities need EU-funding in order to coordinate also the approaches taken by the EU Member States.

An update to the international scientific cooperation strategy (from 2012) could be called for and pro-actively address foreign policy needs within international cooperation (e.g. providing support for triangular cooperation in certain world regions, South-South-North cooperation opportunities, etc.). Such a strategy would also strengthen links within the European Commission (DG RTD towards EEAS, DG NEAR, DG DEVCO, etc.), providing visions for the cooperation with specific countries and regions and the cooperation roadmaps.

It is vital to be transparent about these processes, and create interfaces for partner countries to remain flexible, allow for reflection points and provide support structures. Furthermore, it is important to create governance models and simple rules for participation and funding for dedicated SD capacity building (e.g. to National Contact Point systems in third countries) to optimise the participation of non-EU nationals and organisations.

2.  Supporting dedicated SD initiatives and their coordination

It is important to acknowledge that there are plenty of SD activities ongoing and bring these together, in particular research-related activities implemented in different countries need active coordination (e.g. the EURAXESS activities, the promotion of smart specialisation strategies or of specific promotion of specific parts of Horizon Europe outside Europe such as the ERC or COST, research and innovation projects addressing specific country or regional priorities, etc.). There is a wealth of activities that can be regarded or reframed with a “science diplomacy lens”, and thus be added to the set of success stories, currently only a handful of initiatives are highlighted as “SD poster children” (SESAME and PRIMA for example).

Furthermore, de-facto SD, e.g. through the relationships built up by large-scale infrastructures or mega-projects, such as missions and partnerships, is often not reflected upon by the stakeholders. It might sometimes be dysfunctional to label initiatives as “science diplomacy” even if in fact they are. A dedicated SD coordination and support action could provide coordination and use the opportunities of SD positively without overburdening the respective initiatives.

A strategic focus on specific values (e.g. openness, responsible research, equality, ethics, etc.) in international cooperation is a “brand building” activity for the EU in the global research area. In addition to opportunities related to specific missions, the EU can demonstrate higher level forms of SD by shaping and influencing the governance, rules and direction of European and global science. Policies for open data and open access (incl. Plan S) are a good example here.[1] Similarly, new technologies developed in Europe should be trust-worthy and respect privacy and ethical standards. Being a reliable partner in international science endeavours where other countries back out due to policy decisions (e.g. on climate change) is also important for the soft power of Europe.

Specific calls could be launched as part of “Reinforcing Research and Innovation Systems”; as part of Cluster 2 with special emphasis in “democracy”, “transformations” and “relations with 3rd countries”; by acknowledging that certain topics have a distinct SD potential, for example to pre-emptively prevent conflicts (e.g. in the case of water diplomacy) or by providing adequate results and interfaces to technological developments that are specifically relevant for international relations (e.g. in the case of cyber security or artificial intelligence); and as part of “international cooperation” with specific calls addressing cooperation with dedicated cooperation partners.

Coordination and support actions are very useful tools to increase coordination and build capacity among the different and diverse stakeholders working at this interface and grounding SD practices in Europe and beyond. Dedicated activities focusing on coordination, networking, mutual learning and training activities are important, reflecting also the increasing number of stakeholders dealing with the topic. This will contribute to the development of a multi-actor, multi-level SD ecosystem in the EU and beyond, strengthening also the relationship with third countries.

Furthermore, the “science of science diplomacy” is still a young discipline that requires keeping a support stream. In recent years, the global leadership in SD research as well as in SD policy support has been shifted from the US to the EU. This has allowed nurturing a thriving community that gathers scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers, from across the EU and beyond. The “science of science diplomacy” is still required to further our understanding of the complex nature of the relationships between science and diplomacy, to delve on the different SD approaches of nations and other stakeholders, and to analyse specific case studies that can illustrate the benefits and trade-offs of SD itself, among many other research questions.

3.  Mainstream and encourage SD in all areas of Horizon Europe

European research projects may include the SD dimension in their implementation in particular if SD impacts are highlighted in impact pathways, but also that potential risks are taken into account. SD aspects could also be highlighted in review processes (e.g. when third countries participate). Such projects might require support structures such as a “Common Exploitation Booster” which could offer well-structured and specialised interfaces to specific target groups, including also foreign policy stakeholders or international and supranational stakeholders – then a dedicated and specialised team could help scientists to understand how to tailor their message for the target group of “diplomats” or foreign policy actors and support their outreach. This would avoid reinventing the wheel and diluting resources from research towards often unsuccessful (and unprofessional) “dissemination activities” that are an add-on to research and innovation actions.

SD needs high flexibility and fast decision making, for example in the case of infectious diseases (Ebola, Zika and Coronavirus COVID-19, for example). Horizon Europe needs to be fit for purpose to provide input to discussions that cannot be planned (e.g. developments in health or food security). A support mechanism that provides e.g. explicit top-up funding for well-running and relevant projects could be considered to explore SD activities as adequate (e.g. a project on earthquake research or infectious diseases could receive additional funds in case of an emergency where the project’s outputs are relevant or where field access for the researchers allows additional relevant inputs to the projects).

We currently collect and co-design a series of ideas. Even if they are not taken up for the programming of Horizon Europe, it is an interesting challenge to consider in our endeavours for a “Roadmap for European Science Diplomacy” and our proposals for governance frameworks “Towards effective science diplomacy practice”. We continue exploring the possibilities to bring research into practice and providing policy recommendations.

4.  Promoting SD initiatives that strengthen the EU internal bodies

Connections between science and other policy departments are essential to better integrate scientific knowledge in public policies. Also, better connecting scientists with societal and policy challenges will also render to a more comprehensive, co-created research.

Currently, for example the opportunity to use the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) instrument for transdisciplinary exchange between science and policy is still under-used. Raising awareness of the opportunity that MSCA fellows can spend part of their fellowship in a policy environment (government, NGO, international organisation, etc.) is fundamental to make use of this valuable science-policy nexus mechanism. Several existing instruments, which we hope to be continued in Horizon Europe, deserve further and more targeted promotion as means to strengthen the SD capacity of European institutions.

Mutual learning exercises and policy support facilities have huge potentials to be efficient and effective instruments bringing science into policy making of the national stakeholders. Structured instruments such as “Science in Parliament” have huge success in some EU Member States, while others still have to catch up. We believe that the establishment of science advisory bodies is an important means to improve policy making addressing global challenges.

Tailored training activities for different groups are also an important aspect of capacity building in SD.

Finally, the European universities initiative as well as widening projects could also be strengthened by Horizon Europe supporting the necessary institutional transformation in universities’ research and innovation required to better connect scientific knowledge with wider European knowledge.

[1] for more on this point, see Wilsdon, J & de Rijcke, S (2019) Europe the rule-maker. Nature 569 479-481, 23 May 2019 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01568-x

  • Please see also the position of the Strategic Forum on International Cooperation following their recent meeting on science diplomacy in Horizon Europe, which took place in Brussels on March 2, 2020, HERE and our article about it: HERE.

Article prepared by Elke Dall. For questions please write to contact@s4d4c.eu.

S4D4C Team

Posted by S4D4C Team