On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We’ll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitise records, clean water, grow new crops.”
Remarks by President Obama, “On a new beginning”, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009 (19.12.2019)
The US-American understanding of science is an important orientation for many states and societies worldwide. An advanced educational model, highly developed science and technology, and liberal traditions of public diplomacy are the essential elements of America’s national style in science diplomacy. For a long time there was broad consensus on the US dominance in this area. Krasnyak (2018) points out that American science diplomacy was well suited to weakening the very assertive communicative style of US diplomats under certain circumstances. For instance, during the Cold War, the foreign policy goals of the two superpowers required diplomatic multitasking. Both America and the Soviet Union practiced science diplomacy to achieve the goal of spreading influence in the Third World. Such was the case for vaccine diplomacy. Reinforcing bilateral relations with each other, both adversaries went through at least a decade-long project of space diplomacy. Today, the International Space Station (ISS) is considered a flagship of science diplomacy.
The USA played a leading role in the development of science diplomacy. Many of today’s standards that apply to the intermeshing of science and diplomacy can be traced back to US initiatives. Since the 1950s, there has been a Science Adviser’s Office at the Department of State. Particularly president Obama contributed to the significance of science diplomacy in international politics, when he announced in 2009 a bundle of actions in S&T cooperation with the Middle East and other regions of the world. Among others, a science attaché’s program was initiated in order to establish long-term partnerships built on scientific cooperation and trust.
Science diplomacy is led by several US institutions and is located close to the highest decision making powers in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an important forum where the role of science in international relations and scientific cooperation in foreign policy is enhanced and strengthened. However, critics of President Trump accuse him of neglecting facts that are widely accepted by the scientific community, such as the origins of climate change, in his decision making (NY Times, 2018).
As in other countries, development cooperation and foreign aid play a crucial part in science diplomacy. Critics have lamented the supposedly politicised role of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the country’s foreign policy. Due to its generous funding, American non-governmental institutions, such as the Carnegie Foundation or the Bill Gates Foundation, have a significant impact in the beneficiary countries.
They enhance frugal innovation in Africa, for example, and provide funds for scientists who work in international cooperation. Some places in the USA itself have become an important breeding ground for science diplomacy, where other countries establish and maintain diplomatic representations (Ittelson & Mauduit 2019).
The Trump administration has changed the framework conditions for the appearance of diplomats as well as the role that science plays in diplomacy. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (December 2017) has focused on the task of making diplomacy more competitive.
On 1 January 2019, the United States withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took effect. The withdrawal of the USA, together with Israel, was seen as a major setback to one of the most important forums for science diplomacy and has challenged the funding of the majority of the agencies’ projects.
President Joe Biden has already used the opportunity to regain a perspective for policies that are evidence-based and make use of the results of science and research. His “Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking” (January 27, 2021) reaffirms and builds on the Presidential Memorandum of March 9, 2009 (Scientific Integrity), and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Memorandum of December 17, 2010 (Scientific Integrity).
Read more about the USA in the references below:
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