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InsSciDErs meet online to talk theory

As with many EU-funded projects, our project members are spread out over a large geographical region. This means that meetings involve a lot of travelling and are not only resource intensive but impact our environmental footprint in detrimental ways. Online meetings have thus been a regular feature of our project even before the current COVID-19 quarantine measures. Most recently, Nina Wormbs, leader of InsSciDE Environment studies, and Katharina Paul, leader of InsSciDE Health studies, hosted a webinar on the theoretical concepts that have emerged in different case studies of some of the work packages in our project. As a fortunate side effect of the pandemic, a high number of project members were able to join due to fewer travel commitments.

With participants from work packages Environment, Health, Security and Power with Science Diplomacy, a total of ten project members in six countries gathered after lunch on April 23rd to discuss the theory of science diplomacy and how to develop it further. Everyone had prepared a short elevator pitch, which turned out to be a close to perfect way of hitting off the discussion.

There was consensus on the great opportunity of InsSciDE in this respect, partly due to the great variety of disciplines represented, partly for our extensive and deep knowledge on science, or technoscience. Participants agreed that theoretical understandings of science diplomacy can profit from a more situated, non-static and historicised understanding of what is science.

Numerous terms were brought up that were useful in the different case studies. The group discussed how connotations of language can dictate understanding or influence the practice of science diplomacy. Compromise, for example, is often used as a negative term meaning a lost negotiation. However, as Anna Åberg is showing in her case study about European science diplomacy in the nuclear fusion project ITER, compromise is inherent in scientific work and should be re-assessed as not just a noun but a verb. Co-production and co-evolution were also terms that surfaced as functional to explain and demonstrate how science and diplomacy are not separate entities, between which there can be ”boundary disputes”. Rather we can understand these as co-evolving practices, and as deeply situated.

Translating the thick descriptions emerging in historical and contemporary case studies to easy take-home messages is a challenge – one that resembles the kind of issues we face in science policy. The webinar did not provide any solutions to that, but offered a cooperative space to identify common issues, and to explore and learn together.


Pictured left to right: Nina Wormbs, Katharina Paul, Rasmus Bertelsen, Matthew Adamson, Miyase Christensen, Anna Aberg, Anna Pichelstorfer, Leonard Laborie, Katerina Vlantoni


Published 29 April 2020

Internal Theory Seminar
Organized by: Nina Wormbs (WP Environment) and Katharina Paul (WP Health)
Date: 23 April 2020