1. How to Get Started?
2. What Is Science Diplomacy?
3. Who Are the Science Diplomacy Stakeholders?
4. How Does the EU Practice Science Diplomacy?
5. What Are the National, Regional and Thematic Approaches of Science Diplomacy?
6. What Set of Skills Do I Need to Be a Good Science Diplomat?
7. Hands On! Case Studies
8. How Can You Dive Deeper into Science Diplomacy?
Satisfaction Survey

2.3.4 The Pragmatic Approach

Four renowned chief scientific advisers to Foreign Ministries have postulated an alternative classification based on a pragmatic reframing. The authors argue that while the Royal Society and AAAS’s approach has been useful for academic and theoretical discussions, the concept proves fairly imprecise in real-life scenarios: neither does it capture all relevant elements nor does it provide clear political responsibilities.

In their experience, a focus on why a country might invest efforts and resources in science diplomacy and international science could be the basis for a more utilitarian framing of science diplomacy, and one that better resonates with government agencies.

Therefore, they suggest a more utilitarian science diplomacy framework based on three categories:

  • Actions designed to directly advance a country’s national needs. This group would comprise the exercise of soft power to increase the impact of a country worldwide, to become more strategic in identifying how science relationships can promote trade and advance broader diplomatic interests, or to assist in development with science information and building science partnerships between donor and recipient countries. It would include national security and emergency response too, as science and technology can inform transnational scientific responses and assistance, or be engaged in arms control treaties on scientific verification. The economic dimensions also fall within this category as more and more scientific and health parameters are included in trade regulations, intellectual properties and manufacturing products among different countries, etc. Lastly, national Science, Technology, and Innovation systems benefit from these approaches as they engage globally with other research and innovation agencies, with their own scientific diasporas, or access large research infrastructures not present in their own systems.
  • Actions designed to address cross-border interests. These involve bilateral or cross-boundary issues, the use or access to shared resources (such as gas fields, fish stocks, etc.), and the exploitation of shared technical services (pharmaceutical regulation, food safety assessment, etc.).
  • Actions primarily designed to meet global needs and challenges. In this group, we would include the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs), which comprise a global context for development and partnership where both developed and developing countries can have measurable goals for increasing their international and domestic development activities. The SDGs provide an excellent meeting point for global interests and national priorities. These actions would also involve the access to and scientific exploitation of Ungoverned Spaces (such as the Antarctic, the digital world, or space).

What the experts think

Watch video a science diplomacy expert talking about the way this practice can help to tackle global challenges.

Chagun Basha

DST-Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Fellow, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India – Centre for Policy Research (DST-CPR), the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.

How do you think science diplomacy can be instrumental to face global challenges?


Read more about this pragmatic approach in the reference below:
– Gluckman, P.D., V. Turekian, R.W. Grimes, and T. Kishi (2017): “Science Diplomacy: A Pragmatic Perspective from the Inside.” Science Diplomacy, Vol. 6, No. 4 (December 2017) (Link).

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