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

4.4.1 The EU Science Diplomacy Ecosystem I: EU Level

As we are describing throughout this module, the European Science Diplomacy Ecosystem enshrines the already complex ecosystem of stakeholders this area has worldwide with the multi-layered governance system of the European Union. In the current and following topics, we are going to identify the main stakeholders with a say in the European Science diplomacy at the EU and the MS level (see 4.4.2 The EU Science Diplomacy Ecosystem II: Member States Level).

We will mainly focus on the governmental actors, but keep in mind that the science diplomacy ecosystem cannot be understood without other relevant stakeholders coming from the research and academic sector, international organisations, industry, civil society and other NGO actors (see Module 3. Who Are the Science Diplomacy Stakeholders?). In the current analysis, we have not considered subnational levels of governance such as regions and cities, whose importance in the field is also growing (as noted in Topics 3.2.1 Governmental Stakeholders – Sub-national Government Stakeholders or 3.3.1 Sub-national Networks).

At the EU level ecosystem, these are the key stakeholders that need to be considered when analysing EU science diplomacy responsibilities. Browse the tabs below to read their information.

The European External Action Service (EEAS)

As mentioned in Topic 4.2.3 The European Union Institutional Framework II, the EEAS is the European Union’s diplomatic service. It helps the EU’s foreign affairs chief – the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – carry out the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. The service needs to work closely with the foreign and defence ministries of the Member States of the EU and other EU institutions, such as the European Commission, Council and Parliament.

The EEAS has its headquarters in Brussels and over 140 delegations all over the world. It is headed by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP), Josep Borrell (2019-2024). The EEAS is divided into both geographical and thematic directorates:

  • Five large departments cover different areas of the world – Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe and Central Asia, the Greater Middle East and the Americas. 
  • Separate departments cover global and multilateral issues which include, for example, human rights, democracy support, migration, development, response to crises and administrative and financial matters.
  • The EEAS also has important Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) planning and crisis response departments. The EU Military Staff is the source of collective military expertise within the EEAS and also advises the High Representative/Vice-President on military and security issues. 

Following the Treaty of Lisbon, the EEAS is responsible for the running of EU Delegations and Offices around the world. Their main role is to represent the EU in the country where they are based and to promote the values and interests of the EU. They are responsible for all policy areas of the relationship between the EU and the host country – be they political, economic, trade, science or on human rights and in building relationships with partners in civil society. In addition they analyse and report on political developments in their host country. They also fund development cooperation through projects and grants. A fundamental aspect of Delegations is their public diplomatic role which consists of increasing the visibility, awareness and understanding of the EU.

The EU is also represented in international organisations (UNESCO, OECD, African Union, ASEAN – Association of Southeast Asian Nations, World Trade Organisation and United Nations).

The European External Action Service plays a crucial role in deploying the European Union science diplomacy strategy worldwide.

Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD)

As mentioned in Topic 4.3.2 European Scientific and Innovation Organisations, this Directorate General currently falls under the responsibility of the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. The department is in charge of EU policy on research, science and innovation, with a view to help create growth and jobs and tackle our biggest societal challenges.

The fostering of international cooperation has a number of strands such as:

  • Horizon 2020, the EU´s framework programme for research and innovation to be fully open to participants from across the world
  • The EC is leading the expansion of global research partnerships
  • Finally, the EC is also contributing to the construction of the so called “Global Research Area”, a worldwide research space where researchers all over the world can work together smoothly despite geographical borders. This is done by ensuring fair and equitable framework conditions (reciprocal access to programmes, mechanisms for co-funding, mutual access to resources and efficient and fair intellectual property rights systems).

DG RTD plays a crucial role in deploying the European Union science diplomacy strategy worldwide through its International Cooperation Unit.

Strategic Forum for International Cooperation (SFIC)

SFIC is an advisory forum where international scientific cooperation is discussed among the European Commission, all EU Member States and several non-EU countries as observers. The Secretariat is provided by the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU and is chaired by an EU Member State, designated for a period of 2 years.

These are its main tasks:

  • Systematically sharing and structuring information on science and technology (S&T) cooperation activities and objectives (whether ongoing or planned) of the various partners
  • Pooling relevant knowledge concerning third countries, in particular analyses of their S&T resources and capabilities
  • Ensuring regular consultation between partners in order to identify their respective objectives and common priorities in terms of S&T cooperation with third countries (“what and with whom?”)
  • Where appropriate, coordinating activities of a similar nature implemented by Member States and the European Union (with variable geometry)
  • If necessary, proposing initiatives to be implemented with appropriate processes
  • Networking of Member States’ and the Commission’s scientific advisors in key third countries

SFIC plays a crucial role by discussing how EU science diplomacy could be advanced with targeted actions and improved coordination. In fact, SFIC established a Task Force on Science Diplomacy from 2019 to 2021. In early 2020, an input paper was adopted on Science Diplomacy, entitled “Advancing the impact of Science Diplomacy at EU and Member States level through targeted support and improved coordination” (SFIC 2020a).

Among the rationale to foster European Science Diplomacy, this paper highlights:

  • Making Europe stronger in the world: one of six priorities of the European Commission
  • Great capital for EU: science diplomacy is not fully exploited
  • EU Science diplomacy approach with new actors beyond the governmental level
  • SDGs: addressing complex transnational matters

Also, among the SFIC proposals, it is worth nothing the following:

  • Inclusion of Science Diplomacy in the new EU STI International Cooperation Strategy
  • Creation of a EU Platform for Science Diplomacy
  • Supporting the development of training activities in the area of Science Diplomacy / Science Advice as well as the creation of Science Diplomacy networks
  • Development of an overall Science Diplomacy Roadmap including EU Commission, the EEAS and the Member States
  • Organisation of an Annual European Science Diplomacy Conference including a European Science Diplomacy Award
  • Fostering the integration of Science Diplomacy aspects in national STI strategies

Finally, in September 2020 another working paper entitled “Anchoring science diplomacy in Horizon Europe developing specific subjects and activities“ (SFIC 2020b), in which current topics on Science Diplomacy that could also be relevant for integration in the Work Programmes of Horizon Europe are outlined.

Following the structure proposed for Horizon Europe, activities for different pillars and clusters are outlined as well as key objectives such as supporting dialogue between scientists, diplomats and policy-makers, engagement of civil society in science advice.

SFIC Task Force Science Diplomacy also launched in 2021 a “Survey Analysis On Science Diplomacy Strategies, Activities And Actors Of EU Member States And Associated Countries” (SFIC 2021a) to further work on deepening our understanding on how Science Diplomacy strategies, actions, plans and practises at sub-national and national levels in the Member States / Associated Countries work. Such an analysis allowed for a more effective alignment of interests and a more efficient coordination of resources.

Finally, the recently adopted Council Conclusions on the “Global approach to research and innovation” (12301/21) underlined the importance of Science Diplomacy and “call on the Commission and the European External Action Service to develop a European Science Diplomacy Agenda and to present it to the Council”. In addition, the Council Conclusions on the “Future governance of the European Research Area (ERA)” repeated this call to develop a European Science Diplomacy Agenda.

SFIC Science Diplomacy Task Force provided a concrete input to the task developing a brainstorming exercise to develop a “European Union Science Diplomacy Agenda” along a roadmap and impact pathway. The richness of the method is that the stakeholders (scientific community, policymakers, diplomats, civil society, etc.) have a strong influence on the impact pathway. It is important to mention, that this exercise was based on the co-creation, dynamic and join process coming from different spheres of influence (SFIC 2021b).

The strategic objectives are to 1) reinforce understanding and respect for EU values and principles in the world, 2) connect research, innovation, diplomacy and policy 3) provide interdisciplinary scientific and technological evidence for diplomacy and policymaking in support of tackling global challenges 4) improve integration and cooperation between Member States (MS) and the EU.

What the experts think

Learn more about SFIC by watching the following video.

Martina Hartl

Martina Hartl

Deputy Head of Unit for International Research Cooperation, Ministry of Education, Science and Research, Austria; and Member of the Strategic Forum for International Research Cooperation (SFIC)

What is SFIC?


Read more about SFIC and science diplomacy:
– SFIC (2020a). Advancing the impact of Science Diplomacy at EU and Member States level through targeted support and improved coordination. Input paper by the SFIC Science Diplomacy Task Force. ERAC-SFIC 1352/20, Brussels 3 March 2020. (Link)
– SFIC (2020b). Working paper by the SFIC Science Diplomacy Task Force. ERAC-SFIC 1357/20. Brussels, 21 September 2020. Available on: https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-1357-2020-INIT/en/pdf
– SFIC (2021a). SFIC Task Force Science Diplomacy: “Survey Analysis On Science Diplomacy Strategies, Activities And Actors Of EU Member States And Associated Countries. ERAC-SFIC 1354/21, Brussels, 27 May 2021. Available on: SFIC Africa Task Force Strategic Report (europa.eu)
– SFIC (2021b). Roadmap and impact pathways for a EU Science Diplomacy Agenda (Link).

Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM)

The Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) to the European Commission has the mandate to give independent scientific advice to the European Commission to inform policy making. Although SAM’s mandate goes beyond the science diplomacy realm, we understand science advice to diplomacy and foreign affairs as a fundamental dimension of science diplomacy.

SAM consists of:

  • The Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) consortium, which gathers expertise in engineering, humanities, medicine, natural and social sciences from over 100 academies and societies across Europe.
  • A secretariat in the Commission’s research and innovation department

SAM was established in 2015 and it provides independent, high-quality, timely scientific advice to the European Commission for a variety of complex challenges so that policy making and legislation can be better informed with scientific evidence. The process is expected to render better policy outcomes for European citizens.

The European Commmision Joint Research Centre (JRC)

As already described in Topic 4.3.2 European Scientific and Innovation Organisations, the Joint Research Centre is the European Commission’s science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy throughout the whole policy cycle.

The JRC has six sites: Brussels, Geel, Ispra, Karlsruhe, Petten, and Seville.

The JRC employs over 3000 people from EU countries and candidate countries to EU membership.

Both their research capacity and their expertise in bridging the gap between research, knowledge and policies put them in a privileged place to be part of a lively European Science Diplomacy ecosystem.

EURAXESS Worldwide

EURAXESS-Researchers is a pan-European initiative delivering information and support services to researchers and supports the European Research Area, which enables free circulation of researchers, scientific knowledge and technology. Backed by the European Union, Member States and Associated countries, it supports researcher mobility and career development, while enhancing scientific collaboration between Europe and the world.

As part of this service, EURAXESS offers EURAXESS worldwide, with dedicated teams in the following countries and regions: ASEAN (focus on Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC, focus on Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia), China, India, Japan, North America (US and Canada). Additionally, a EURAXESS information website for Australia and New Zealand went online in June 2018.

EURAXESS worldwide offers the chance to interact on a global scale and it is a networking tool to support researchers working outside Europe who wish to connect or stay connected with Europe. The researchers themselves also become a fundamental stakeholder in European science diplomacy.

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