On the fourth day of our #SciDipNet2021 conference, we shared our breakfast with Jan Marco Müller, Science and Technology Advisor at the European External Action Service who presented some of his lessons learnt and discussed with the audience. The discussion was moderated by Peter McGrath, Coordinator of the Science Policy/Science Diplomacy Programme at The World Academy of Science (TWAS) and finished at 10.00.
The plenary of the conference started at 13.00 (CET) with a 15-minute keynote entitled “Opening doors worldwide through science” given by Peter Agre, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Director, Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland USA.
Peter Agre walked us through his career and told stories of how often science played a role in bringing countries together and how it is never separated from the diplomatic context of a country. He shared with the audience the experiences he had working in several countries.
- Zambia: His experience there was highlighted by the work of Philipp Tuma who understood that to provide effective Malaria treatment, he had to communicate and connect with the local populations and leaders.
- Zimbabwe: Peter experienced a different setting in Zimbabwe, that was particularly characterized by the dictatorship of the time. The political rule drastically undercut health funding scientists had to be rather diplomatic to conduct their work and effectively try to stop the advancement of Malaria.
- Cuba: During his time in Cuba, the country’s relation with the US was rather terrible due to the embargo. While many things in Cuba suffered from this situation, its government had heavily invested in Health and Science and produced brilliant scientists. Peter discussed his encounter with Fidel Castro and mentioned that while they could not agree on many things they had one joint conviction: that investment in science was absolutely primordial.
- Iran: The relationship between Iran and the US is one that is often characterized by conflict. When he visited Iran, Peter was invited to give lectures, and there he met brilliant scientists and created great friendships, despite the difficult diplomatic situation. Those friendships were important to instigate the nuclear accord of 2015. This shows how important friendships among scientists can be.
- South Korea: Peter led a scientific delegation in North Korea, and despite the extremely complicated situation there which might set scientists apart he made great encounters with the youth of the country and fellow scientists. He got to spend some time with north Korean students and while their world might seem very different, he realized that the spirit of the youth is the same everywhere.
He ended his presentation on this note: The friendship made with other scientists around the world is one of the most rewarding experience that a career in science can offer.
In another room, our S4D4C colleague Tim Flink, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and German Center of Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) moderated a roundtable starting at 13.15 entitled “Strengthening Science Diplomacy Transboundary Institutions“. He met with Edvard Hviding, SDG Bergen, University of Bergen, Anindita Bhadra, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata and Global Young Academy as well as Franklin Carrero, US National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
- She presented the work carried out by the Global Young Academy (GYA) in the respect and to bring out the voice of young researchers. GYA has created a network of young researchers from across the globe through their national academies to work towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda, In recent years, GYA has been able to engage with partners like the InterAcademy Partnership and International Science Council. It has been quite successful in bringing open access to the agenda and providing input for a framework of qualitative assessment of research.
- Anindita Bhadra stressed that transnational organizations like the World Science Forum and WEF have been the most receptive to the GYA contributions. Meaningful partnerships are currently underway with intergovernmental and multilateral institutions. But politicians and governments have been the most difficult to engage in its work. Most of the positive responses seem to come from international and transnational institutions. The idea of building Science-Society interfaces, inclusive of local or marginalized forms of knowledge would definitely be a useful tool in reaching governmental authorities at the national level. To make waves, science diplomacy and transboundary institutions have to engage with the diversity of cultural backgrounds and forms of knowledge.
- Edvard detailed how a mid-sized European university has managed to build connections at the United Nations through the SDG Bergen Initiative. It has developed channels to project research into external arenas « simply by testing it out ». SDG Bergen is also a channel of connection for Norwegian universities to interact with the MFA and the multilateral institutions. The government picked up on the initiative to organize side-events at the 2019 UN High-Level Political Forum and COP-24. The transboundary perspective is also addressed through the University’s engagement with local forms of knowledge, in the Southern Pacific and the Caribbean for example, that can inform the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
- Edvard Hviding elaborated on how transboundary institutions can be more influential in terms of evidence-based policy-making: the global alliances of universities, with their clusters on SDGs, allow transboundary institutions to be both localized and still have a global outlook. They can generate new channels, but should also invest in those that are existing and, for some, have unparalleled access to decision-makers. The European Green Deal offers a lot of possibilities for relating more concretely and consistently with the 2030 Agenda. To this day, nothing quite compares with the UNFCCC Science-Policy Nexus.
- Franklin shared his experience with providing evidence to political figures and suggests that scientific evidence can be mobilized for policy-making. In this perspective, the various National Academies of the United States have provided independent scientific advice to policy-makers for decades. They provide a source of expertise that can be lacking in government circles on certain issue-areas. Boundaries are fluid in the U.S., and making politicians understand issues is only part of the NAS mandate. The Science-Society Nexus is another crucial aspect in making scientific knowledge accessible for policy-making. Efforts can be taken in this respect by providing access to scientific knowledge, in particular to vulnerable groups. The contribution of transboundary institutions has to be useful and relevant to all parts of society.
- For Franklin, measuring the influence of transboundary institutions and the effectiveness of their action depends on the metrics that we use. Academies provide materials that are consensual within themselves. Making sure that different voices and perspectives are heard through an established process is how the potential influence of scientific advice is increased and its impact can be strengthened.
Then we put “S4D4C ON THE SPOTLIGHT” with a focus on “Training the Next Generation of Science Diplomats and Providing Opportunities for Boundary Organisations”. Susanne Keppler-Schlesinger, our S4D4C partner at the Diplomatische Akademie Wien – Vienna School of International Studies discussed with Maria Josten, German Aerospace Center/ Project Management Agency (DLR-PT) and Izaskun Lacunza, Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT).
Here are a few takeaways:
- Via the S4D4C Open Doors Programme, workshops and the MOOC on science diplomacy, the project has reached over 6000 trainees from all over the world, this has surpassed all expectations.
- Building on diversity is crucial. We have combined knowledge from different backgrounds and different perspectives, and I think, this was decisive for our success.
- Looking at our S4D4C training activities, we are especially proud of how we combined trainings with the networking aspect, have used an innovative mindset and made an impressive impact.
- We want to use this momentum and build on this with further activities, for a better science-informed policy-making.
At 14.30, our S4D4C partners from DLR, Maria Josten and Nadia Meyer brought together a set of speakers to discuss “Training the Future Science Diplomats“, in particular: Alma Cristal Hernández Mondragón, Secretaria de Educación, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, Mexico City, Lene Topp, JRC, Knowledge management for policy impact and transferable skills, Emil Brix, Director of Diplomatische Akademie Wien and Meredith Gore, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland. They also shared two slides with recommendations from the project: Roundtable People S4D4C Recommendations.
Alma Cristal Hernández Mondragón, Director of Science, Centres and Knowledge Transfer, Secretaria de Educación, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, Mexico City
- It is a challenge to provide certainty about the professional future for science diplomats.
- Also building trust is challenging, and cultural aspects have to play a central role in SD trainings.
Lene Topp, JRC, Knowledge management for policy impact and transferable skills
- If trainings should have an impact, the follow-up is crucial, as training is continuous process! In the JRC, we ask in the evaluation of our trainings for 3 actions that the trainee will change in the future. We then follow-up monthly, thus building a community.
- A trainer duo could be crucial for successful trainings, one expert in science diplomacy and one facilitator, who is skilled in facilitating discussions and create safe space for participants to also share failures.
Emil Brix, Director of Diplomatische Akademie Wien (DA)
- We have to make sure all stakeholders understand that science and diplomacy are two different worlds, with their own rules and languages. In this process, values should be strongly considered as a key aspect.
- COVID-19 pandemic is a great chance for science diplomacy, as there is a huge interest in facts, and an increasing awareness that science can be challenged all the time. For a better understanding, diplomats should have made their own research experience.
- Let us be more multidisciplinary! Also, we should convince every university in the world that science diplomacy is an issue, also in their own interest.
Meredith Gore, Associate Professor, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland
- When training activities are successful, scientists are able to expand their scientific research outside the world of their academy and diplomats are better able to infer from scientific evidence in their day to day work.
- We need to save spaces for failure, Meredith calls it “fail forward”, it can be done via mentoring.
- Diversification is key, and a huge challenge in both worlds.
We then moved to a high-paced “flash talk” format, chaired by Elke Dall, Centre for Social Innovation. Based on an open call, the following speakers were selected to provide 5-minute Science Diplomacy Community Flash Talks (S4D4C_FinalMeeting_Flashtalks):
- Ronit Prawer, Director of Eastern USA, UK Science and Innovation Network (UK-SIN) speaking about “Soft Power, Hard Data: Measurements and Metrics for Effective Science Diplomacy Practice”
- Walaa Mahmoud, Physician and Researcher, National Research Center NRC, Medical Research Division, Egypt speaking about “Science Diplomacy as an Important Practice to Overcome Global Pandemic“
- Amrita Banerjee, Science Diplomacy Exchange and Learning (SciDEAL) Program Coordinator, National Science Policy Network (NSPN) focusing on “SciDEAL: A New Model to Train the Next Generation of Scientist-diplomats”
- Andrei Polejack, PhD student, World Maritime University on “Ocean science diplomacy in action: the All Atlantic Alliance”
- Derya Buyuktanir Karacan, Visiting Researcher, The Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University on “Is Antarctica a new region for practicing science diplomacy for developing countries: The case of Turkey”
- Almas Taj Awan, Executive Committee Member, Global Young Academy (GYA) with a presentation entitled “Improving the current state of science diplomacy in South Asia”
- Kleinsy Bonilla, Founding Member, Science Diplomacy Network in Latin America discussing “Contribution to the Science Diplomacy Literature: Perspectives from Latin America”
- Johanna Ketola, PhD Researcher, The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters discussing “Science Diplomacy – The Curious Case of Finland”
- Zane Šime, Member of the Latvian Association of Political Scientists informs about “Diplomacies Intertwined: The Future of European Science Diplomacy“
- Tatyana Bajenova, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Lausanne provides “Role of universities and their transnational networks in Science Diplomacy: Case of Switzerland”
- Elisabeth Epping, PhD student, University of Luxembourg discusses “Unfolding the Science Diplomacy Toolbox: Science and Innovation Centres”
- Joanna Siekiera, Postdoctoral Fellow, SDG Bergen, University of Bergen highlights “Water Diplomacy – Understanding the Urgency of Legal Solutions to Ocean Change“
At 17.30 we relaxed together for an hour of organised networking animated by Maria Gual Soler, Scidipglobal and Maddalena J. Lamura, Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) ending the day at 18.30.