S4D4C results presented at two academic conferences in Sept

S4D4C contribution at the 13th General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) in Wrocław, Poland.

On 5 September 2019, Pauline Ravinet (University of Lille) and Mitchell Young (Charles University) took part in the European Consortium for Political Research General Conference at the University of Wrocław. They chaired two panels related to science diplomacy issues : Not-So-Traditional Actors and Issues in Knowledge Politics and Policies and Science Diplomacy: Interfaces of Knowledge and Foreign Policy and presented their paper « Knowledge Power Europe : Inviting Knowledge in the Europe as a power ».

Very stimulating research on science diplomacy from political scientists from all over Europe was discussed.
A first series of papers brought important insights on new or sometimes overlooked actors and instruments of science diplomacy.

Tatyana Bajenova (Westminster International University in Tashkent) presented a paper on European Think Tanks as Instruments of Public Diplomacy, using the theory of field to question how these hybrid organisations constitute bridges between Knowledge and European Foreign Policy. Emmanuelle Hébet (Université Catholique de Louvain) focused on historical commissions, an object so far understudied in science diplomacy research. Looking at the cases of the « Polish-German Schoolbook Commission », and the « Polish-Russian Group for Difficult Matters », she argued that these commissions are an important meeting point for diplomats and scientist. Elisabeth Epping (University of Luxembourg) introduced her very timely comparative analysis of the ‘Science and Innovation Centres’ of Germany and Switzerland as a Novel Policy Instrument of science diplomacy. Monika Szkarlat (Maria Curie-Sklodowska University) presented a very interesting mapping of the configuration of science diplomacy actors in map, which is part of an ambitious comparative project on science diplomacy configurations in different European countries.

A second series of papers introduced new conceptualisations of science diplomacy. Que Anh Dang (University of Bristol) discussed the question of values in the articulation between soft power and science diplomacy. Pauline Ravinet and Mitchell Young, relying upon their research in the S4D4C project, proposed the new concept of “Knowledge power Europe”, which opens new perspectives for the  reconceptualisation of science diplomacy as one of ways through which Europe mobilises its knowledge.

In short: great occasions to exchange and network for researchers studying science diplomacy, great debates, as well as plenty of new ideas for future collaborations between S4D4C and colleagues all over Europe.


Tim Flink discusses science diplomacy at 4S 2019 in New Orleans.

S4D4C’s Tim Flink (DZHW) travelled to New Orleans last week to contribute to the discussions at the 4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) annual meeting reconstructing the discourse on science diplomacy of the past 10 years.

In his contribution, Tim reflected with scholars at 4S upon the functionality of science diplomacy as a language concept in policy making, how ‘science diplomacy’ has been employed by various actors and, thereby, what underlying interpretive schemas of their worldviews can be revealed. Tims argues that ‘science diplomacy’ with its different means and ends overstretches social expectations of what science can cater for society. Rhetorical strategies, techniques and forms of media include recursion and repetition, ambiguation via pseudo-definitions as well as the constant need to substantiate and fortify science diplomacy as an “essential” matter by provision of dubious evidence, mixed with enormous emotional calls to engage. Over the last decades, new concepts in science, technology and innovation have proliferated that call for a different relation between science and the political system. Next to e.g. ‘frontier research’, ‘grand challenges’, ‘responsible research and innovation’ and ‘disruptive innovations’, ‘science diplomacy’ has drawn the attention from actors in the lifeworld of foreign affairs and science policy as well as from scholarly communities.

While at the beginning of this new discourse emphasis was laid on novelty, now social scientists and historians get also instrumentalised to stabilise the concept giving “evidence” of the historicity of this concept. While science, technology and international affairs do share a longstanding and in fact coevolving history, it was not until the mid-2000 years when the concept was intentionally employed and made explicit in foreign policy as a tool of soft power. After the concept of ‘science diplomacy’ had been especially embraced by the US administration, e.g. to reach out to the Muslim community worldwide by alluding to the virtues of science, it did not only proliferate worldwide but its purposes and meanings have grown for more than a decade, almost to turn into an all-inclusive concept. Yet, there are problems with science diplomacy if it is used as a do-gooder-concept: not only would science diplomacy lose its distinction — as  a catch-all-phrase for almost all aspects that relate international affairs with science and technology. There are also enough examples that show how the promises of science diplomacy can greatly fail and, thus, disenthrall high expectations of actors.

(Foto at the top: Barbara Maliszewska)

Posted by Marie Croce