In the last two topics we have covered the role of scientists working part-time or full-time in any job directly related to science diplomacy. However, scientists who work full-time in academia performing their research duties can actively engage with members of the general public, policy-makers and diplomats to make their knowledge and research results have a direct impact on society, public policies, or international relations. These are active and activist researchers who engage, either on an individual level or via any expert advisory committee or both, in public or policy discussions to make science present outside the traditional academic ivory tower.
This endeavour may be more difficult to undertake when the scientist is involved in basic or blue-sky research, as transferring their research into a direct policy application may be indeed a challenge. However, these scientists could provide other transferable skills to the public discussion that would be of great social benefit such as critical thinking, the scientific method, an open-minded approach, or their usual ability to build up international collaborations and partnerships.
Having said this, scientists who are directly involved in doing research that can be fitted into any of the 17 Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) will likely have many opportunities to interact with policy-makers, politicians, diplomats and national and international government organisations, as well as with media and/or industry. Traditional examples of these figures would be the role played by many scientists to contribute to an understanding of the ozone problem or the active advisory role of scientists included in the International Panel for Climate Change (Moomaw 2018).
Regardless of their scientific expertise, these scientists embody a special category of scientists that we will call here the organic science diplomat researcher. Although they may not recognise their actions as science diplomacy, and their daily routine is within an academic environment, they also need to be considered here as active agents of science diplomacy.
It is also important to note the growing trend from governments and public research funding agencies to not only implement policies that make scientists more involved in public debate and society, but also to recognise these actions as fundamental parts of their research outputs. Some policies are listed below:
All in all, the trend points to the need for active engagement between citizens, scientists and policy makers in a public dialogue about the benefits and risks associated with research, but also in the need for scientists to provide the latest scientific evidence for better policy-making processes. The idea is to establish and maintain citizens‘ confidence in science and technology, to make these more participatory, and also reinforce democracy with better-informed policies and increased public trust (See Dudnik 2017; Holford 2018; Nature 2019; to get an idea of this global trend).
Watch the videos below to understand how broad science diplomacy can be. As a full-time researcher, one may engage in international discussions with national governments and multilateral organisations around topics such as nuclear diplomacy, water diplomacy, health diplomacy, etc. all of which may be covered by the umbrella term “science diplomacy”.
Head of the International Projects Unit, Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)
How should the scientific community be more involved in science diplomacy?
Marga Gual Soler
Senior project director in the Center for Science Diplomacy at the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS)
What are the skills and competences a science diplomat should have? Can you give us some example of jobs?
– Dudnik, Nina (2017): “Why Scientists Should All Be Diplomats.” Time, 22 April. (Link)
– Holford, Mandë (2018): “Diplomacy for Scientists.” Scientific American, 4 January. (Link)
– Moomaw, William R (2018): “Scientist Diplomats or Diplomat Scientists: Who Makes Science Diplomacy Effective?” Global Policy Vol 9, Suppl 3, November, pp 78-80. (Link).
– Nature Editorial (2019): “Scientists must rise above politics — and restate their value to society.” Nature 572, 153. (Link)
– Responsible Research and Innovation. (Link)
– Science with and for society (SwafS). (Link) and (Link)
– Open innovation, open science and open to the world. (Link)
The material provided under this course is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.