For several decades, science diplomacy has been an important strategic tool in the context of German international engagements. German science diplomacy is closely linked with institutions that have initiated and maintained a particularly high degree of scientific and diplomatic interlocking. Probably you have heard of the DAAD, the German organisation for academic exchange. After the war, for example, there was already a DAAD office in London before the UK established diplomatic relations with Germany. The German Max-Planck Society (MPG) and the Israeli Weizman Institute (WIS) also signed their first “Minerva Agreement” on scientific cooperation in 1964, one year before diplomatic relations between the two states began. Another institution, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, had already been founded in the 19th century. The foundation is an important advocate for strengthening global science diplomatic networks and explicitly focuses on science diplomacy. Leopoldina, a scientific academy that was founded in the 17th century, is considered the oldest continuously existing science academy in the world. In 2008, Leopoldina was named the first German National Academy of Sciences. It represents the German scientific community abroad and advises the German government.
Scientific institutions are increasingly embracing the concept of science diplomacy. The German Research Foundation (DFG) adopted the concept in their guidelines for international action. The German Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres acknowledges the importance of science diplomacy and named it as one of the central four strategic goals of their internationalisation strategy 2017-2022.
A further structure abroad are “The German Houses for Science and Innovation” (Deutsches Wissenschafts und Innovationshaus – DWIH) in selected cities such as New York, Sao Paulo, Moscow, New Delhi and Tokyo. They aim at gathering the offices of different German research institutions under one roof. The Houses are considered to showcase the German research landscape. The staff of these Houses are responsible for organising networking events as well as the communication with politicians and scientists: This is the way science diplomacy works. The German government puts increasing emphasis on the role of science in foreign policy. In the 2010s, the first strategic documents that clearly pointed in that direction were published by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Federal Foreign Office (AA). In 2017, the Federal Cabinet published the new Strategy of the Federal Government for the Internationalization of Education, Science and Research. The strategy includes, among other measures, the enhancement and strengthening of international cooperation, the facilitation of knowledge and competencies, and the support of German industries in the markets of future technologies. Science diplomacy is part of the Internationalisation Strategy. In this context, the BMBF has defined three main pillars of education and science diplomacy:
In December 2020, the AA published a new strategy for foreign policy dedicated on Science Diplomacy.
Additionally, there are more than 50 German science diplomats at German Embassies in the world in order to support scientific collaboration. The system of Science Counsellors is a shared responsibility of the AA and the BMBF.
Read more about Germany’s approaches in the reference below:
– BMBF Website on Education and Science Diplomacy (Link)
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