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Who are the Diplomats in Science Diplomacy?

The Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy organized a workshop on 19-21 July 2019 with the theme of ‘Diplomats in science diplomacy: Promoting scientific and technological collaboration in international relations’. The event was hosted at the Niels Bohr Institute of Copenhagen University in Denmark and featured InsSciDE experts from the work packages Power with Science Diplomacy, Science Diplomats, Security, and Environment.

The workshop attracted representation from across the globe, with scholars from Asia, Africa, North and South America and Europe and a paper on Antarctica. The event shone a light on science and technology as increasingly important devices in the administration of foreign affairs. Sessions investigated the roles of diplomats in history who, in embassies and consulates, began to use science diplomacy more frequently in the routine ambassadorial practice of mediating and negotiating between administrations.

Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen of the Arctic University in Tromsø, and the Leader of WP2 – Power with Science Diplomacy, presented a paper during the session ‘Academic Institutions, Scientific Societies, and Diplomacy’. He demonstrated the diplomatic roles of international universities and their presidents through his research on the American University of Beirut, the American University in Cairo and Yenching University (Beijing). Presidents of these universities often went on to become American ambassadors or to serve in other diplomatic positions. In light of such transitions, Bertelsen discussed universities as transnational actors, serving as ‘information and resource bridges’ between their western societies of origin and their eastern host societies.

The session on ‘Scientists and Diplomats in the Nuclear World’ saw presentations from InsSciDErs Simone Turchetti of the University of Manchester and Matthew Adamson of McDaniel College in Budapest. Turchetti, case study author in WP7 – Environment discussed his paper ‘The Unflinching Mr. Smith and the Nuclear Age’. Adamson, whose InsSciDE case study in WP6 – Security relates to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), presented a paper titled “Behind the smile: Bertrand Goldschmidt and the nuclear perspective of a reduced power.”

The leader of WP6 – Security, Maria Rentetzi presented alongside Myrto Dimitrokali, both from National Technical University in Athens, a paper entitled ‘What is a Queen Doing at CERN? Science Diplomacy in Greece in Early 1960s’. During the same session, ‘Agents of Science Diplomacy’, Daniel Gamito-Marques from WP3 – Science Diplomats discussed his InsSciDE research ‘A Scientific and Diplomatic Scramble for Africa: Barbosa du Bocage, colonial science, and the Berlin Conference of 1884–85’.

The Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy is a part of the Division of History of Science and Technology. It meets once a year with the mission to promote and coordinate interdisciplinary historical studies on the relationships between science, technology and diplomacy. The three major research projects within the Commission are InsSciDE and our sister projects S4D4C and EL-CSID. Read more here.