Press room

Giovanni Ortolani
Public Information Officer
Via Beirut, 6
Enrico Fermi Building, Room 112
Office: +39 040 2240-324

Cristina Serra
Staff writer
Via Beirut, 6
Enrico Fermi Building, Room 113
Phone: +39 040 2240-429
Mobile: +39 338 430-5210

Sean Treacy
Staff Writer
Via Beirut, 6
Enrico Fermi Building, Room T8/2
Office: +39 040 2240-538

General contact:

TWAS Newsletter
The Academy's quarterly magazine. Download PDF files of individual…

What is science diplomacy?

What is science diplomacy?

All you need to know about the fast-growing science diplomacy field, as well as how to become more involved
The AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: P. Di Bella]
The 2019 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: P. Di Bella/TWAS] 

How do you define science diplomacy?

Science diplomacy is a broad way of describing how scientific teamwork between nations can solve societal problems and improve international relations, and how diplomacy can also open doors for scientific cooperation.

It can be thought of as a feedback loop, in which the fields of science and diplomacy continually support one another, and by doing so they also help society as well.

Tip: The call for the 2024 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy is currently closed. Apply now. For more information, contact

The 2023 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: G. Ortolani]
The 2023 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: G. Ortolani/TWAS] 

What kinds of science diplomacy are there?

Scholars in the field sometimes divide science diplomacy into three categories, listed in the “New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy” report by AAAS and the Royal Society:

  • Diplomacy for science – the use of diplomatic action to facilitate international scientific collaboration (Example: Foreign ministries might negotiate exchange programmes in which each country’s scientists work together);
  • Science for diplomacy – using science cooperation to improve international relations between countries (Example: Scientists work across national borders to produce work that protects people from natural disasters. The work also creates new networks for engagement and good will, which then improves diplomatic relations);
  • Science in diplomacy – informing foreign policy objectives with scientific advice (Example: A scientist might advise a policymaker on how a decision could impact or be hindered by climate change).

Why is science diplomacy important?

Nations and cultures have long built relationships based on science in an effort to build a key element of trust. Today, nations are increasingly placing scientific attachés in their overseas embassies. Diplomacy may help lay the foundation for the next multi-national science project. Or scientific cooperation can begin with the explicit intention of improving relations between nations and achieve a path for mutual prosperity.

Another train of thought is that, since scientific practice values rationality, transparency, and universality, these core values can in turn help promote good governance and a free exchange of ideas across people of all nationalities and cultural or religious backgrounds. Science itself knows no boundaries and scientific knowledge is universal.

Science diplomacy is also especially important for the global South, which needs access to scientific progress to meet highly-varied development needs, many of which are identified in the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2019 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: P. Di Bella]
The 2019 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: P. Di Bella/TWAS] 

What are some examples of science diplomacy?

Here are just a few:

  • High profile science diplomacy successes in institution-building include the Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) located near Geneva in Switzerland and counting 23 European nations as its member states. In turn, CERN helped establish the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, known under the acronym SESAME, representing a top research centre for physics in the Middle East. SESAME is based in Jordan and has eight member states from the Middle East, and officially opened in 2017.
  • Scientists in the UK worked with scientists from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to study Mt. Paektu. The collaboration resulted in a successful imaging of the crust beneath the iconic volcano.
  • A collaboration between two TWAS FellowsDorairajan Balasubramanian of India and Anwar Nasim of Pakistan—led to an opportunity to distribute a new, inexpensive, India-produced hepatitis B vaccine to people in Pakistan. The initiative was called Vaccines for Peace.
  • Rwanda, Uganda and, DR Congo share the territory of Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site famous for its rich biodiversity including endangered mountain gorillas. Such cooperation requires interaction with scientific advisors but also goodwill and expertise in diluting potential conflicts.

How can I receive training in science diplomacy?

TWAS and its partners support a science diplomacy programme that includes various science diplomacy workshops and courses every year, some general, and some on specific topics such as energy and biosecurity. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) provides key funding for the Academy’s science diplomacy programme.

The flagship programme is the AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy, the result of a collaboration between TWAS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It’s held every year in Trieste, Italy, where TWAS is based.

The course brings together scientists and policymakers from both the developing and developed world, and recently has begun using ’participant pairs’—a team of one scientist and one policymaker typically from the same country—who are encouraged to lay the foundations of working together long-term. The course also includes a full week of presentations by experts in the field, as well as workshop activities and role-playing simulations that help illustrate the nature of diplomacy to scientists.

Among the eminent speakers that have addressed the workshops are:

The 2023 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: G. Ortolani] 
The 2023 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: G. Ortolani/TWAS]

How can I apply for the Science Diplomacy Course?

The 11th edition of the course is currently seeking applications. The deadline to apply is 5 February 2024. For more information, email

What are some more resources for understanding science diplomacy?

The top publication in the field is Science & Diplomacy, which is published by the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy. There you can find articles addressing the latest topics in the field. TWAS also maintains a page for its own science diplomacy coverage, with its own focus on the developing world.

The 2017 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: P. Di Bella]
The 2017 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: P. Di Bella/TWAS] 

How can I use science diplomacy training?

You can find some examples of how the AAAS-TWAS training has influenced the careers of its attendees in this article, showcasing a few of our graduates from Kenya, South Africa, and Lao PDR. They have used what they have learned in their professional careers, and some have worked or begun working on local or regional training programmes of their own.

Sean Treacy

The 2023 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: G. Ortolani/TWAS]
The 2023 AAAS-TWAS Course on Science Diplomacy. [Photo: G. Ortolani/TWAS]