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Science Diplomats

International scientific cooperation, initially between individuals and then increasingly via congresses (Rasmussen, 1990) or joint publications (Shapin, 1995), has been one of the cements of a European knowledge space (Schroeder-Gudehus, 1990). The Academies of Sciences had international influence mainly through interpersonal ties (Fox, 2012), or close exchanges (Schroeder-Gudehus, 1978; Crosland, 1995).

The 18th and especially the 19th century saw a tradition of international exchanges among European engineers (Deicer, 1995). Sweden founded an Academy of Engineers in 1919 (Frängsmyr, 1989) but in other countries Academies of Technology arose closer to the turn of the 20th century from processes that, in the UK or France, took respectively three or two decades (Fischer, 2005; Griset & Greffe, 2015).

At national level, the most outstanding achievements in science diplomacy are found in countries with the highest scientific output (Berg, 2010; Flink & Schreiterer, 2010). Gradually, embassies have professionalized the role of Science, Technology and Innovation Counselors and Attachés (Ruffini, 2017). Very few investigations have explored and analyzed this process (Sunami et al., 2013; Wisard, 2010). Very little is known of the formal and informal networks created among the envoys of each Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and also between the attachés representing their various nations in a single foreign capital.

Academies of Science (Daston, 1998) or of Technology, and embassy Counselors or Attachés are the carriers of Europe’s intangible capital for science diplomacy. InsSciDE will study the evolution of these spaces and networks as a process of construction embracing the creation and development of institutions, but also the slow elaboration – through practice and experience – of savoir-faire and methods (Golinski, 1998).

We will also bring into view the elaboration of a European scientific culture (Gillispie, 1960) articulating both ethical principles and practices of negociation and influence, across polarities such as: disinterested science vs. mercantile technology; science for peace vs. technology for war; science for cooperation vs. technology for competition. This joining of issues generates multiple tensions, linked for instance to the conflict between national interest and universalism (Crawford et al., 1993; Somsen, 2008), which both construct and destabilize science diplomacy and may converge to an opposition between a science perceived as ’pure’ vs. a ’useful’ diplomacy aimed solely at forwarding the specific interests of States and their enterprises.

InsSciDE’s Science Diplomats Objectives, under Maria Paula Diogo (NOVA)

Europe appears to have lagged behind the United States in gaining awareness of the importance of science diplomacy as a facet of international relations (David & Patman, 2015). InsSciDE starts from the hypothesis that Europe benefits from a capital of science diplomacy experience, diffuse but long lived, concrete and offering high potential, which can overcome the lag as long as it is brought to light, exposed to critique, organized and mobilized.

In parallel with the development over time of the national Science Academies, new Academies of Technologies formed, aiming to assist governments in embedding a culture of science and technology in their diplomatic affairs, with engineers serving as mediators among different countries.

At the same time, embassies were gradually peopled by a new type of diplomat: actors who would eventually be professionalized with the title of Science, Technology and Innovation Counselors and Attachés. This movement, which followed the rise in powers of the Commercial Attachés, was asserted especially from the years 1970-1980, with important nuances according to the countries.

• Draw a factual and critical map of actions carried out by Academies and diplomatic networks, over the long term, regarding the circulation of knowledge and the construction of expertise. Reveal what underlies the growing weight of these actors’ expertise in the negotiation of international balances, within Europe and with its external partners.
• Identify fundamental benchmarks for European scientific culture, integrating ethical principles and a vision of science rooted in international cooperation carrying European values. Show how such benchmarking can form the foundation of a doctrine for the future scientific diplomacy of Europe.
• Point to best practices in terms of organization and communication which can allow Academies of Science and Technology and diplomats (especially counselors and attachés) to harness their efforts, adopt efficient modes of exchange (including with international organizations) and to come forward in this way as agents independent of but sympathetic to a European vision of science for world peace.
• As a Transversal Work Package, contribute to the Thematic WPs a supplementary understanding of historical trends in the development of science diplomacy that lie in the background of their case studies; provide feedback on the presence and weight of the InsSciDE global challenges (themes) in these trends and shaping present-day organization of the institutions studied.


WP3 will contribute several case studies to InsSciDE’s Library of Cases. Find published case studies here or browse WP3’s case study pitches to get an overview of the background, aims, methodology of all Science Diplomats case studies.