The ‘Matters’ of Science Diplomacy: Scale

What matters in science diplomacy? That is the question that “The ‘Matters’ of Science Diplomacy: Transversal Analysis of the S4D4C Case Studies” aims to answer. To do so, the transversal analysis critically analyses the content of our nine case studies and identifies insights to foster and advance the understanding and the practice of science diplomacy. Each matter addresses a piece from the larger picture; together they form a mosaic depicting the complex and wide-ranging concept of science diplomacy. 

On this page, you find the matter ‘Values’, authored by Charlotte Rungius.

Scales matter profoundly for the conceptualization of science diplomacy: they are central to framing the means (solutions) and ends (problems) of science diplomacy. Generally speaking, science diplomacy targets issues on a transnational scale (global challenges) and aspires to address these ends by means of strengthening or redesigning the interplay between scientific activity, science policy and foreign policy at potentially all governance levels (Aukes et al., 2019; Berkman, 2011; Melchor et al., 2020; Stone, 2020). In that sense, scale seems to be ubiquitous for what we think of as science diplomacy. But how does scale specifically matter for science diplomacy? How does it play a role in the individual science diplomacy cases? Can it help us make sense of science diplomacy? Looking at the case studies, scale appears to matter in various ways. In this section, we examine science diplomacy as a policymaking arena that is largely based on scale framing. Borrowing from (Van Lieshout et al., 2012; 2014) scale is regarded as a dimension that is raised to constitute a policy problem and scale framing as a “powerful mechanism in shaping the meaning of policy issues” (Van Lieshout et al., 2014: p.550), with scale being defined as the “spatial, temporal or administrative dimensions used to describe a phenomenon, and levels are the different locations on a scale” (Van Lieshout et al., 2014: p.551). This perspective builds on the understanding that policymaking is a constant struggle over ideas, and specifically, “a struggle over the criteria for classification, the boundaries of categories and the definition of ideas that guide the way people behave”(Stone, 1988: p.11 from Van Lieshout et al., 2012). Based on that understanding, scale provides an elucidating, almost heuristic perspective on science diplomacy.

Science diplomacy can be conceptualized as a matter of scale framing on the grounds of the following three dimensions: spatial, administrative and epistemic. Additionally, science diplomacy may distinguish between problem and solution framing. Science diplomacy-specific problem framing largely resorts to the spatial scale, ranging from the sub-national to the global level. The administrative scale refers to different governance levels from the organizational and national, to the supranational and the international level. The administrative scale is usually referred to in terms of science diplomacy solution framing, including calls for improved governance frameworks to tackle global scaled challenges. The administrative scale may also be addressed as part of the problem framing. This may occur when science diplomacy becomes a synonym for enacting towards changes in administrative procedures, usually towards more collaboration and knowledge-based decision-making. The epistemic scale refers to different levels of knowledge specialization: specialized epistemic communities, disciplinarily specialized, functionally/professionally specialized and unspecialized epistemic communities. We borrow the notion of epistemic communities as a “network of professionals with recognized expertise and competence in a particular domain” from Peter Haas (1992: p.3), though we do not confine it to expert networks exclusively concerned with science advice, but broaden it to professional communities sharing a “commitment to the application and production of knowledge” based on “shared patterns of reasoning” (Haas, 1992: p.3). This includes diplomats and scientists. The insufficiency of ‘standard science´ (Gibbons et al., 1994) and traditional diplomacy to tackle global challenges is a principal and characteristic claim of science diplomacy (Aukes et al., 2019: p.9). It is central to the problem framing behind science diplomacy, which depicts the formal separation, institutional disconnection and functional differentiation of the two professional communities – scientists and diplomats – as a fundamentally epistemic problem:

“The complexity of grand societal challenges requires a deep understanding of the scientific dimension as well as the geopolitical dimension of the issue at hand. It requires both ‘transformative science’ and a ‘knowledge-based’ diplomacy. It is probable that neither of the communities can solve the challenges we face on their own” (Aukes et al., 2019: p.9).

This epistemic problem framing is reflected on the administrative scale by identifying a lack of coordination between science and foreign ministries, and the EU between EEAS and science and innovation related Director Generals (DGs) respectively.

In terms of solution framing, the most prominent declaration brought forth in the name of science diplomacy, The Madrid Declaration on Science Diplomacy, calls to better integrate science into foreign policy on all governance levels (S4D4C, 2019a). Yet, behind this claim stands another epistemic scale framing: It is the claim that academia, with its highly specialized organization of research (into scientific disciplines), is ill-suited to grasping and responding to the genuine complexity of grand societal challenges (Aukes et al., 2019). Science must be open to the inclusion of different perspectives and experiences of stakeholders from outside academia. Science advice, effective knowledge transfer and the “necessity of collaboration between the diplomatic, scientific and policy community” (Aukes et al., 2019: p.6) are another set of remedies suggested by science diplomacy that locate the problem/solution framing on the epistemic scale. Finally, science diplomacy frames global challenges as a problem of collective action between nation states. The transnational nature of global challenges is framed on the level of international actors (administrative scale) as a problem of nationalism and protectionism, lacking international cooperation, trust and willingness to act in shared interest by state decision-makers (Melchor et al., 2020; S4D4Ca, 2019).

The case studies on infectious diseases and on water diplomacy highlight this point. Viruses transcend national borders and pose an even greater threat in a highly interconnected and globalized world, which merits concerted efforts: “The fight against infectious diseases has frequently outreached national borders and provided a platform for deepening of international cooperation as well as for the formation of global governance in the field of medicine” (Šlosarík et al., 2020: p.7). The problem is spatially located at the global level, while the solution logic to this problem is located on the administrative scale, calling for better governance on all levels. The case study on infectious diseases reveals a wide variety of policy actors and legislative frameworks that are part of public health strategies and that address fighting infectious diseases on national, EU and international levels with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) and Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI). At the same time, while the administrative scale generally serves as a solution frame, the case studies also reveal scale related difficulties that are becoming relevant in terms of proposed solution framing, with the number of actors and administrative levels increasing. The study lists ten different government and government-related actors for global health in the UK alone, including ministries, research organizations and research funding organizations (9 for Germany, 8 for the Czech Republic), with a similarly diverse landscape at the EU level and internationally. Science diplomacy rhetoric often seeks to raise awareness for more cooperation and inclusion of all actors in a policy field on the basis of an administrative scale logic. However, this does not provide a clear approach to a solution. The case study on infectious diseases identifies an “institutional mix” and claims that “a preferential institutional pattern cannot be identified. Instead, the reaction resembles an evolving nebulous structure” (Šlosarík et al., 2020: p.25).

A similar multitude of stakeholders, policy agendas and understandings was identified in the water diplomacy case (Tomalová et al., 2020) and in the food case (Ravinet et al., 2020). While the perspective of science diplomacy highlights the importance of various relevant stakeholders to interact more closely due to its scale-based problem framing, the difficulty of specific suggestions or prescriptions apart from a general call for more cooperation in light of the identified complexities becomes apparent. This difficulty seems itself to be scale related; the more science diplomacy is understood as a matter of inclusion and bridging actors from all administrative levels, the more the original distinction between levels is questioned and would have to be reorganised. In light of the various understanding of policy areas, multiple de facto governance practices and nation-specific approaches identified within each country, whether or not policy recommendations can be “scaled-up”, both spatially and administratively, within and across different topics in the name of science diplomacy is questionable.

In terms of problem framing, science diplomacy strongly relates to a spatial and epistemic scale. To a lesser extent, this is also the case for the administrative scale. In terms of solution framing, science diplomacy relates largely to the administrative and the epistemic scale. In that sense, science diplomacy is a matter of inferring the spatial and the epistemic with the administrative scale. As a result, science diplomacy points to a number of problem constellations while highlighting the complexity of the interactions involved. With regards to scale, we may draw from the cases that “consistency and boundaries of ‘science diplomacy’ shouldnt be overstated because of remaining vague and unclear” (Ravinet et al., 2020: p.112). This should not only be viewed as a weakness. Rather, it is a result of the complex, scale-based problem framing behind science diplomacy. At the same time, the specific scale-framing logic of science diplomacy allows us to perceive the “raising concerns over global challenges in science funding”, “the emergence of the dedicated science diplomat role” (Ravinet et al., 2020: p.112), the institutionalization of science advice mechanisms, joint programming or the setting up of large research infrastructures as elements of one theme.Scales matter profoundly for the conceptualization of science diplomacy: they are central to framing the means (solutions) and ends (problems) of science diplomacy. Generally speaking, science diplomacy targets issues on a transnational scale (global challenges) and aspires to address these ends by means of strengthening or redesigning the interplay between scientific activity, science policy and foreign policy at potentially all governance levels (Aukes et al., 2019; Berkman, 2011; Melchor et al., 2020; Stone, 2020). In that sense, scale seems to be ubiquitous for what we think of as science diplomacy. But how does scale specifically matter for science diplomacy? How does it play a role in the individual science diplomacy cases? Can it help us make sense of science diplomacy? Looking at the case studies, scale appears to matter in various ways. In this section, we examine science diplomacy as a policymaking arena that is largely based on scale framing. Borrowing from (Van Lieshout et al., 2012; 2014) scale is regarded as a dimension that is raised to constitute a policy problem and scale framing as a “powerful mechanism in shaping the meaning of policy issues” (Van Lieshout et al., 2014: p.550), with scale being defined as the “spatial, temporal or administrative dimensions used to describe a phenomenon, and levels are the different locations on a scale” (Van Lieshout et al., 2014: p.551). This perspective builds on the understanding that policymaking is a constant struggle over ideas, and specifically, “a struggle over the criteria for classification, the boundaries of categories and the definition of ideas that guide the way people behave”(Stone, 1988: p.11 from Van Lieshout et al., 2012). Based on that understanding, scale provides an elucidating, almost heuristic perspective on science diplomacy.

Science diplomacy can be conceptualized as a matter of scale framing on the grounds of the following three dimensions: spatial, administrative and epistemic. Additionally, science diplomacy may distinguish between problem and solution framing. Science diplomacy-specific problem framing largely resorts to the spatial scale, ranging from the sub-national to the global level. The administrative scale refers to different governance levels from the organizational and national, to the supranational and the international level. The administrative scale is usually referred to in terms of science diplomacy solution framing, including calls for improved governance frameworks to tackle global scaled challenges. The administrative scale may also be addressed as part of the problem framing. This may occur when science diplomacy becomes a synonym for enacting towards changes in administrative procedures, usually towards more collaboration and knowledge-based decision-making. The epistemic scale refers to different levels of knowledge specialization: specialized epistemic communities, disciplinarily specialized, functionally/professionally specialized and unspecialized epistemic communities. We borrow the notion of epistemic communities as a “network of professionals with recognized expertise and competence in a particular domain” from Peter Haas (1992: p.3), though we do not confine it to expert networks exclusively concerned with science advice, but broaden it to professional communities sharing a “commitment to the application and production of knowledge” based on “shared patterns of reasoning” (Haas, 1992: p.3). This includes diplomats and scientists. The insufficiency of ‘standard science´ (Gibbons et al., 1994) and traditional diplomacy to tackle global challenges is a principal and characteristic claim of science diplomacy (Aukes et al., 2019: p.9). It is central to the problem framing behind science diplomacy, which depicts the formal separation, institutional disconnection and functional differentiation of the two professional communities – scientists and diplomats – as a fundamentally epistemic problem:

“The complexity of grand societal challenges requires a deep understanding of the scientific dimension as well as the geopolitical dimension of the issue at hand. It requires both ‘transformative science’ and a ‘knowledge-based’ diplomacy. It is probable that neither of the communities can solve the challenges we face on their own” (Aukes et al., 2019: p.9).

This epistemic problem framing is reflected on the administrative scale by identifying a lack of coordination between science and foreign ministries, and the EU between EEAS and science and innovation related Director Generals (DGs) respectively.

In terms of solution framing, the most prominent declaration brought forth in the name of science diplomacy, The Madrid Declaration on Science Diplomacy, calls to better integrate science into foreign policy on all governance levels (S4D4C, 2019a). Yet, behind this claim stands another epistemic scale framing: It is the claim that academia, with its highly specialized organization of research (into scientific disciplines), is ill-suited to grasping and responding to the genuine complexity of grand societal challenges (Aukes et al., 2019). Science must be open to the inclusion of different perspectives and experiences of stakeholders from outside academia. Science advice, effective knowledge transfer and the “necessity of collaboration between the diplomatic, scientific and policy community” (Aukes et al., 2019: p.6) are another set of remedies suggested by science diplomacy that locate the problem/solution framing on the epistemic scale. Finally, science diplomacy frames global challenges as a problem of collective action between nation states. The transnational nature of global challenges is framed on the level of international actors (administrative scale) as a problem of nationalism and protectionism, lacking international cooperation, trust and willingness to act in shared interest by state decision-makers (Melchor et al., 2020; S4D4Ca, 2019). The case studies on infectious diseases and on water diplomacy highlight this point. Viruses transcend national borders and pose an even greater threat in a highly interconnected and globalized world, which merits concerted efforts: “The fight against infectious diseases has frequently outreached national borders and provided a platform for deepening of international cooperation as well as for the formation of global governance in the field of medicine” (Šlosarík et al., 2020: p.7). The problem is spatially located at the global level, while the solution logic to this problem is located on the administrative scale, calling for better governance on all levels.

The case study on infectious diseases reveals a wide variety of policy actors and legislative frameworks that are part of public health strategies and that address fighting infectious diseases on national, EU and international levels with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) and Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI). At the same time, while the administrative scale generally serves as a solution frame, the case studies also reveal scale related difficulties that are becoming relevant in terms of proposed solution framing, with the number of actors and administrative levels increasing. The study lists ten different government and government-related actors for global health in the UK alone, including ministries, research organizations and research funding organizations (9 for Germany, 8 for the Czech Republic), with a similarly diverse landscape at the EU level and internationally. Science diplomacy rhetoric often seeks to raise awareness for more cooperation and inclusion of all actors in a policy field on the basis of an administrative scale logic. However, this does not provide a clear approach to a solution. The case study on infectious diseases identifies an “institutional mix” and claims that “a preferential institutional pattern cannot be identified. Instead, the reaction resembles an evolving nebulous structure” (Šlosarík et al., 2020: p.25).

A similar multitude of stakeholders, policy agendas and understandings was identified in the water diplomacy case (Tomalová et al., 2020) and in the food case (Ravinet et al., 2020). While the perspective of science diplomacy highlights the importance of various relevant stakeholders to interact more closely due to its scale-based problem framing, the difficulty of specific suggestions or prescriptions apart from a general call for more cooperation in light of the identified complexities becomes apparent. This difficulty seems itself to be scale related; the more science diplomacy is understood as a matter of inclusion and bridging actors from all administrative levels, the more the original distinction between levels is questioned and would have to be reorganised. In light of the various understanding of policy areas, multiple de facto governance practices and nation-specific approaches identified within each country, whether or not policy recommendations can be “scaled-up”, both spatially and administratively, within and across different topics in the name of science diplomacy is questionable.

In terms of problem framing, science diplomacy strongly relates to a spatial and epistemic scale. To a lesser extent, this is also the case for the administrative scale. In terms of solution framing, science diplomacy relates largely to the administrative and the epistemic scale. In that sense, science diplomacy is a matter of inferring the spatial and the epistemic with the administrative scale. As a result, science diplomacy points to a number of problem constellations while highlighting the complexity of the interactions involved. With regards to scale, we may draw from the cases that “consistency and boundaries of ‘science diplomacy’ shouldn’t be overstated because of remaining vague and unclear” (Ravinet et al., 2020: p.112). This should not only be viewed as a weakness. Rather, it is a result of the complex, scale-based problem framing behind science diplomacy. At the same time, the specific scale-framing logic of science diplomacy allows us to perceive the “raising concerns over global challenges in science funding”, “the emergence of the dedicated science diplomat role” (Ravinet et al., 2020: p.112), the institutionalization of science advice mechanisms, joint programming or the setting up of large research infrastructures as elements of one theme.

References: 

Aukes, E., Ordóñez-Matamoros G., Kuhlmann, S. (2019). Meta-Governance for Science Diplomacy towards a European Framework. Twente: University of Twente, Department of Science, Technology, and Policy Studies (STePS).

Berkman, P.A. (2011). Science Diplomacy: Antarctica, and the Governance of International Spaces. Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.

Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., Trow, M. (1994). The New Production of Knowledge. The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. London: SAGE.

Haas, P.M. (1992). Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination. International Organization, 46(1): pp.1-35.

Melchor, L., Elorza, A., Lacunza, I. (2020). Calling for a Systemic Change: Towards a European Union Science Diplomacy for Addressing Global Challenges. Madrid: S4D4C. S4D4C Policy Report.

Šlosarčík, I., Meyer, N., Chubb, J. (2020). Science diplomacy as a means to tackle infectious diseases. In: Young, M., Flink T., Dall, E. (eds.) (2020). Science Diplomacy in the Making: Case-based insights from the S4D4C project.

Stone, D.A. (1988). Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. New York: Norton.

Stone, D. (2020). Elements in Public Policy Making Global Policy. Cambridge University Press.

Ravinet, P., Cos, R., Young, M. (2020). The science and diplomacy of global challenges: Food security in EU-Africa relations. In: Young, M., Flink T., Dall, E. (eds.) (2020). Science Diplomacy in the Making: Case-based insights from the S4D4C project.

Tomalová, E., Černovská, E., Aukes, E., Montana, J., Dall, E. (2020). Water Diplomacy and its Future in the National, Regional, European and Global Environments. Young, M., Flink T., Dall, E. (eds.) (2020). Science Diplomacy in the Making: Case-based insights from the S4D4C project.

Van Lieshout, M., Dewulf, A., Aarts, N., Termeer, C. (2012). Doing Scalar Politics: Interactive Scale Framing for Managing Accountability in Complex Policy Processes. Critical Policy Studies, 6(2): pp.16381.