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

3.2.1 Governmental Stakeholders

Nation states are one clearly identifiable type of stakeholder in science diplomacy. More and more, national governments in the world are developing and deploying science diplomacy strategies. Usually, these strategies are the product of joint efforts of different ministries or government departments with experience in either science and technology policies and/or foreign affairs, but the variety of formulas is vast.

Having said this, globalisation with its complex and interrelated flow of people, information, technologies, ideas, resources and media has changed the way diplomacy is being undertaken. These processes are contributing to elevate the role of subnational government stakeholders in the global scene. As a consequence, different levels of the public administration (from the regional to the local level) may also play an interesting role in science diplomacy through a wide array of executive actions and implementation channels.

Explore the next tabs to learn more about these governmental stakeholders!

National Governments

Nation states are traditionally the most important stakeholder in the system of international relations. They are characterised by being granted sovereignty, international recognition, and legal equality status. In their efforts to engage, compete or cooperate with other nation states, they may harness their elements of hard power (military, economic, etc.) or elements of soft power (the use of culture, science, tourism, etc.) to influence societies abroad.

Indeed, as seen in Lesson 2.3 Science Diplomacy in the World Today, science diplomacy has many different conceptual approaches, some of which focus on how Nation states use science diplomacy as a soft-power tool trying to promote core values and to influence the opinions and behaviour of other nation states in a non-coercive manner (Nye 2004).

Having said this, nation states face the challenge of a changing world where diplomacy and international relations are no longer their unique realm. The contemporary changing international scene welcomes many diverse new stakeholders and challenges nation states to seek coordination among all their national and subnational government departments.

Main interests

Nation state governments usually deploy science diplomacy strategies that aim to raise the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) in the country’s foreign policy affairs.

The most common objectives of these strategies are:

  • Strengthening bilateral scientific collaborations and the support of countries’ STI interests
  • Facilitating evidence-informed positions of the country in multilateral endeavours and global challenges
  • Bringing new scientific opportunities and scientific talent to the country
  • Using scientific collaborations as a tool for improving bilateral relations with strategic countries
  • Acknowledging STI as a key asset of the country in its image abroad
  • Facilitating country companies to have a good place in the international innovation market as well as in the research and development international arena

Although these strategies are government-led, the importance of other government bodies, third sector organisations, research funding and performing organisations, industry and the research community are commonly acknowledged as key elements of these strategies and their eventual success.

How they operate

Governments deploy their strategies at different layers: from high-level coordination among ministries or governmental departments to the deployment of scientific counsellors or attachés in strategic Embassies abroad and/or the appointment of high-level science advisors to Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

Budget-wise, there are again a number of formulas: cooperation among ministries, one ministry taking full responsibility, etc. As many of our countries are facing unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 the strain on our governments is extreme, departments with different portfolios are obliged to collaborate and better coordinate. As a result, different approaches are used depending on the country (van Langenhoven 2017).

Main challenges

For all countries, the coordination among different ministries is a challenge. In addition, training of the diplomatic corps in science and technology matters, and training of STI officials with regard to diplomatic issues and the creation of interfaces, administrative processes and trust -building among different stakeholders are examples of common challenges.

Also, acknowledging the diversity of the science diplomacy ecosystem and learning how to make the most out of it is very important. Moreover, this must be done whilst respecting different stakeholders’ independence and a country’s self-interests.

What the experts think

In the videos below, you will get an overview of the national science diplomacy strategy of a specific country: Spain. You will be introduced not only to the need for a close coordination between different governmental departments, but also to the responsibilities that a diplomat or a STI official have when deployed to Spanish embassies abroad. Lastly, you will explore an alternative perspective, that of a STI official in the British Embassy in Spain who aims at strengthening bilateral STI collaborations.

For detailed analysis of different national strategies on science diplomacy, check the links in the box below and additional information in Lesson 5.2 Regional and National Science Diplomacy Strategies.

Izaskun Lacunza

Izaskun Lacunza

Head of the International Projects Unit, Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)

What makes the Spanish science diplomacy strategy different from other models?

Miguel Oliveros

Miguel Oliveros

Minister Counsellor of Cultural and Scientific Affairs at the Spanish Embassy in London

What are the competences and skills a good diplomat needs to have in order to embed themselves in a big Embassy as the Spanish one in the UK?

Ana Elorza

Ana Elorza

Science advice coordinator, International Projects Unit, Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT). Former science coordinator in the Spanish Embassy in Washington DC

What were your main responsibilities at the Embassy of Spain in Washington DC? What are the competences and skills necessary for a science diplomat to work at an embassy?

Sara Cebrián

Sara Cebrián

UK Science and Innovation Network Delegate in Spain & Portugal, British Embassy in Madrid

What were your main responsibilities at the British Embassy in Madrid?

Read more!
A few examples of national governmental science diplomacy strategies are listed below:

Science diplomacy strategies from national government stakeholders
–      Flink, Tim, and Ullrich Schreiterer (2010): “Science diplomacy at the intersection of S&T policies and foreign affairs: toward a typology of national approaches.” Science and Public Policy, Volume 37, Issue 9, November 2010, Pages 665–677, https://doi.org/10.3152/030234210X12778118264530.
–      Van Langenhoven, Luk (2017): Tools for an EU science diplomacy. European Commission. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017. (Link)
–      Ruffini, Pierre-Bruno (2017). Science and Diplomacy. A New Dimension of International Relations. Science, Technology and Innovation Studies. Cham: Springer International Publishing. (Link)
–      Sunami, Atsushi; Tomoko Hamachi, and Shigeru Kitaba (2013): “The Rise of Science and Technology Diplomacy in Japan.” Science & Diplomacy, Vol. 2, No. 1 (March 2013) (Link).
–      Report on science, technology and innovation diplomacy in Spain (Link)
–      Science diplomacy for France (in French) (Link)
–      Gluckman, Peter D.; Stephen L. Goldson, and Alan S. Beedle (2012): “How a Small Country Can Use Science Diplomacy: A View from New Zealand.” Science & Diplomacy, Vol. 1, No. 2 (June 2012) (Link).
–      Epping, Elisabeth (2020): “Lifting the smokescreen of science diplomacy: comparing the political instrumentation of science and innovation centres”. In: Humanit Soc Sci Commun, Vol. 7, 111 (September 2020). (Link)
More about soft power
–      Nye, Joseph (2004): Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. New York: PublicAffairs.

Subnational Government Stakeholders

Increasingly, subnational levels of public administration are key stakeholders in the global scene. These subnational administrative divisions receive different names depending on the country (see link).

States, regions, districts, cantons, provinces, comunidades autónomas, are just some of the names that refer to the first few administrative levels of subnational governments. They usually engage internationally to raise the profile of these regions for cultural and economic purposes. Some may deploy regional STI policies to promote research and development as well as talent attraction. Recently, some are even exploring ways to engage with other stakeholders in order to deploy a joint science diplomacy strategy .

Large metropolitan areas have always had a global impact. Increasingly, some are starting to design and execute science diplomacy strategies both to increase their presence worldwide and project an image of a friendly ecosystem for STI actors and potential investments. For instance, Mexico DF is experimenting with new ways to include science into different local government departments. Other cities rely on partnerships with other key stakeholders to design a science diplomacy strategy, this is the case of the Barcelona SciTech DiploHub, which will be further developed on the Topic 3.3.1 Sub-national Networks as an example of a network bringing together civil society, research and academia, industry, and local government stakeholders.

So, although we are mostly addressing national governments strategies under this topic, it is worth being aware of new sub-national governmental layers that are raising their science diplomacy profiles.

Main interests

As said above, among the main interests for these subnational government stakeholders you may find the following:

  • Promotion of the regional/local STI ecosystem to attract foreign investments and scientific talent
  • Fostering STI collaboration between institutions from different regions and cities
  • Facilitating regional/local companies to have a good place in the international innovation market as well as in the research and development international arena
  • Increasing the importance and impact of STI policies in the governance of their own region/city
  • Increasing their role in international summits and organisations throught the use of their STI systems
  • Networking with other cities for addressing common challenges, such as climate change

Main challenges

The main challenge for coordination in a multi-actor-network is the sorting out of delegation competences. In democratic states, political actors as the rightful custodians of societal interests (these are often only opaquely expressed), have little steering competences over scientific actors (both individuals and their representing institutions) and need to resort to soft governance approaches (incentivising mechanisms, competition, networked information flows, sensitive use of language). But to gain impact on the global scene, to tap into international markets, to attract investment and talent to regions, it is essential for all these actors to find a common ground and coherence first.

It is also important to recognise that these actors and specially research and innovation networks also bring different standards to the conduct of international S&T co-operation that may not be common across countries, generating scientific and societal challenges.

What the experts think

Learn from an initiative that is trying to put Barcelona on the global map as a city for science, technology, and innovation!

Alexis Roig

Barcelona SciTech Diplo Hub CEO

What role can a global city play in science diplomacy?

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