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

7.7.1 The Science Diplomacy Dimension

Ocean-centred science diplomacy in the 1960s-70s was driven by the concept of the ocean as a new frontier filled with abundant non-living resources. These ideas implied to the public, industry, politicians and military leaders that the oceans held great potential for humankind, to be unlocked by new scientific knowledge and emergent technological capabilities. This new technology-driven oceanic age had implications for national security, freedom of marine scientific research, new economic development, and protection of the marine environment.Emerging submarine military capabilities in the oceans were facilitated by the latest discoveries of marine scientific research, whose centralization in the hands of the powerful industrialised nations and their formidable nuclear navies further stoked north- south conflict. This power disparity became particularly clear with seabed mining, where the potential extraction of manganese nodules drove a perception of technological advance far beyond actual capability.

Emerging submarine military capabilities in the oceans were facilitated by the latest discoveries of marine scientific research, whose centralization in the hands of the powerful industrialised nations and their formidable nuclear navies further stoked north-south conflict. This power disparity became particularly clear with seabed mining, where the potential extraction of manganese nodules drove a perception of technological advance far beyond actual capability.

During the 1960s renewed interest in the oceans and new knowledge simultaneously evolved into a serious diplomatic challenge for the United States, and ultimately, through debates at the United Nations, for the entire globe. Edward Wenk Jr, the ocean science advisor to the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations, encapsulated the impact:

[I]n an unwitting scramble for riches, Pandora’s Box was opened in terms of such questions as who owns the sea and seabed.”

This scramble was based on the idea that exploiting deep-sea marine resources would use anticipated, rather than actual new technologies. Developing nations, often newly independent of colonial rule and desperate to attract foreign currency through resource-based industries, had not previously been focused on marine issues, but the idea of immense ocean riches provided them with powerful images. In an era when the superpowers sought rare minerals such as cobalt to use in the high technologies of the Cold War, caches of minerals took on geostrategic implications.

In this turbulent atmosphere the international community worked throughout the 1970s to co-produce international law, resolve diplomatic tensions, and utilise both science & technology to define ocean space so that it could be governed in new more expansive and potentially equitable ways. As a case study it therefore provides a useful example of science diplomacy at both the global scale and in all of its various modes: science for diplomacy, science in diplomacy, and diplomacy for science.

What the experts think

Learn from Sam Robinson, the author of this InsSciDe case study.

Sam Robinson

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (CHSTM), University of Manchester

Why does science diplomacy on the global ocean matter?


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