Diplomacy a must for inter-disciplinary science

April 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

Building international relationships is important for peace, and scientific progress

Science diplomacy is the sharing of scientific information and establishing scientific collaborations with nations in which (insert your country here) has limited political relations. It’s not a new concept, at least not the collaborative sense. Projects such as the International Space Station and the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn involved the scientific efforts of multiple countries. The concept of science diplomacy has also been advocated by President Barack Obama, when earlier this year his speech in Cairo mentioned the importance of increased scientific collaboration between the United States and the Arab world.

Granted, science diplomacy can never replace political initiatives. However, science diplomacy can prove to be a powerful diplomatic tool. After all, it was the scientists that were instrumental in keeping the Cold War from warming up by maintaining a relationship between the United States and the USSR. Daryl Copeland, author of Guerilla Diplomacy, describes science diplomacy as “soft power… as a way to liberate scientific and technological knowledge from its rigid national and institutional enclosures and to unleash its progressive potential through collaboration and sharing with interested partners world-wide.”

The key point about science diplomacy is that it doesn’t start at the top with government leaders and lawmakers. This type of diplomacy starts with the scientists and researchers who have an interest in working with other countries on global innovation, technology and solutions. As Nina Federoff, former science adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, put it on NPR in February, “Science is about collaborating and exchanging data, and that’s something we can do now.” In order for scientists all over the world to participate in, well, science, all we need to do is communicate with each other about what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what he plan to do.

Ali Douraghy, a 2010-11 AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, said in a September 2010 column on SciDev.net that “the challenge is to put people — scientists and researchers — at the forefront of engagement…. Science and policy communities across the globe must work together to create new initiatives and re-visit existing instruments to sustain collaboration and exchange between scientists.” One of the ways to begin collaborating and exchanging data is to talk to the folks at iAMscientist. With over 20,000 members spanning four continents, the researchers that are part of this social network of scientific leaders have had their research published in over 300,000 publications. Even if you may not need to add a new colleague to the team or need international help on your research, get networking for the sake of networking!

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