SESAME’s reputation as a unique science collaboration and science diplomacy effort in the Middle East would not have been possible without both the commitment of a small number of recognised physicists, and the financial and diplomatic contribution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as the European Union (EU). In addition to the political commitment of today’s member countries Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey and Jordan, science associations and synchrotron facilities from Europe also played a crucial part in the establishment of SESAME, both at a national and supranational level, namely CERN, ESFR, the Helmholtz Foundation (with DESY and BESSY), SOLEIL and many others.
Similar to the goals of CERN, SESAME’s primary goal is to serve a scientific purpose in the form of a users’ synchrotron facility and in doing so it involves international actors and requires unique forms of international cooperation. Being the first synchrotron in the Middle East region, it maintains enormous potential with regards to furthering individual disciplines and research fields as well as strengthening the community of researchers in the region as a whole. Furthermore, the project’s second aim to prevent brain drain and enable “brain circulation” appears to be showing its first results, according to the author.
In addition to CERN, SESAME is frequently mentioned as an example for successful science diplomacy in action. However, paradoxically, the author argues that SESAME will be most effective in its science diplomacy effort if it does not try to be a science diplomacy effort at all. It should continue to focus on its scientific core purpose: providing a research facility and advancing the researchers community in the region. The public narrative and expectation for SESAME as an instrument for purposefully bringing people together and building bridges has been interpreted at times as a political agenda. This is sometimes perceived as standing in opposition to SESAME’s scientific objectives.
Learn from the case study author about SESAME.
Research Associate, the German Centre for Higher Education and Science Research (DZHW)
What are your main findings? Could science diplomacy be better embedded in the project?
You may get all the information about this S4D4C case study in the following references:
– Rungius C. (2020): SESAME -a synchrotron light source in the Middle East: an international research infrastructure in the making. In: Young, M., T. Flink, E.Dall (eds.) (2020): Science Diplomacy in the Making: Case-based insights from the S4D4C project (Link)
– Poster Report “SESAME – An international research infrastructure in the Middle East” (Link)
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