the world academy of sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries
Science Diplomacy
Humanity's greatest challenges – and some of its most promising opportunities – are regional and global. Increasingly, the world requires effective partnerships between scientists, policymakers and diplomats.

Science diplomacy takes many forms: When nations come together to negotiate cooperative agreements on fisheries management or infectious disease monitoring, they need scientific expertise. When scientists come together for complex multi-national projects in astronomy or physics, their nations devise diplomatic agreements on management and financing. And when political relations between two nations are strained or broken, joint research efforts can give them a way to keep talking – and to build trust. Today, the need for science diplomacy is growing. In collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), TWAS is leading a programme that includes lectures, workshops, courses and prizes to build a bridge between the worlds of science and diplomacy.


Held from 11 to 16 July 2016 in Trieste, Italy, the annual science diplomacy course featured a complex simulation of a high-stakes diplomatic negotiation, challenging participants to reconcile one fictional nation's interest in economic growth with another's desire for environmental conservation. It brought together about 30 participants from 22 nations, and included a high-profile list of speakers, including Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, the president of the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, and Vaughan Turekian, science and technology adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State, and science communicator Liz Neeley, the executive director at The Story Collider.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, or ICIMOD, is the combined creation of eight countries in the Hindu Kush Himalayas – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. With more than 300 employees, it represents the power of international collaboration and science diplomacy, building extensive and detailed knowledge of the Himalayas and the rivers that flow thousands of kilometers from high-mountain glaciers to the Indian and Pacific Ocean. ICIMOD's far-reaching impact is captured in a new monograph – the latest in the TWAS Excellence in Science series


The 4-5-day course took place in Trieste, Italy, from 30 November to 4 December 2015. It exposed participants to some key contemporary international policy issues relating to science diplomacy and sustainable water management, including the use of shared rivers and underground aquifers, cross-border pollution issues, safe drinking water and more. 

Scientists and policy experts from 30 nations met in Trieste to explore how science and diplomacy can solve issues that press all nations, such as disease and water use. Working in groups, participants developed their own science diplomacy projects. There were also several panels by science diplomacy experts, such as one that discussed how to use science diplomacy to influence policy.

Sir Peter Gluckman is chief science adviser to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and head of the International Network for Science Advice to Governments. In his lecture, titled 'Science Diplomacy: Opportunities and Challenges as seen through a Small-Country Lens', he discussed how New Zealand achieving global influence at the interface of S&T and diplomacy – and other small nations can do the same. You can find a video of the lecture here.


Manju Sharma, former Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology within the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology, discussed 'Biotechnology development and applications for developing countries'. Watch the video.

This AAAS-TWAS workshop took place on 8-12 December 2014 in Trieste, Italy. Experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, India and the United States discussed how climate change will affect agriculture, water and health in south and central Asia. They also explored how to monitor and measure the impacts, how biotechnology and other scientific fields can aid in lessening the impacts, and what policies and mechanisms can help. 

The USD3,000 prize, offered every four years starting in 2014, recognizes teams who have collaborated on a transboundary research project. The aim is to begin to bring principles and applications of science diplomacy to the attention of both the research and diplomatic communities in developing countries. Winners are nominated for the AAAS Science Diplomacy Prize.

TWAS and the US-based Environmental Defense Fund collaborated to host a workshop called "Tools & Techniques for Sustainable Fisheries Management in Latin America". The event, designed to help build effective fisheries management, was in Merida, Mexico from 27 September to 2 October 2014. Participants included young scientists, government officials and representatives of fishing communities or non-governmental organizatons from Latin American countries (see Helping small fisheries prosper).

How can nations join to protect the world's oceans or collaborate on pioneering megaprojects? During a week at TWAS, representatives of 32 nations learned that science diplomacy may be the key.

Forty scientists from five Middle Eastern and North African countries convened in Trieste to explore scientific responsibility with a focus on bioscience. The researchers explored the complex social and ethical questions that can arise in modern biological research. 

Paul van Gardingen, director of the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Programme at the University of Edinburgh, UK discussed how science diplomacy can lead to greater well-being worldwide  "From 18th Century Scottish Enlightenment to 21st Century Sustainable Development". Watch the video.


A week-long workshop brought energy-sector scientists and policymakers from 16 different countries to TWAS headquarters in Trieste, Italy, to explore the relationship between science, policy and diplomacy.  

Smaller nations can use science diplomacy to step onto the global stage and contribute to international issues, by providing policymakers with the right scientific advice on urgent matters, says Vaughan Turekian, director of the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy.

Ivo Šlaus, a physicist and president of the World Academy of Art & Science (WAAS), asked how scientists in the world of academia can create a more peaceful, prosperous and equal world, arguing that it's essential that academics of all stripes engage with the political realities of the world. Watch the video.

A roundtable called "Science and Diplomacy: Central Europe and Southern Mediterranean" brought together nearly 50 science and policy leaders from 12 nations. Discussions ranged from challenges confronting women in science and engineering to the role of science academies in building research.


Mary O'Kane, Chief Scientist and Engineer of New South Wales and executive chairman of her own company, Mary O'Kane & Associates, made a strong case that governments should invest in high-level, high-quality research if they wish to increase economic productivity. 


For an engaging review of ideas and issues, read Science & Diplomacy, a journal published quarterly by AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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