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SD Research & Practice at the European Commission

A science diplomacy seminar was hosted at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels and co-organized by the ERC (European Research Council) and the REA (Research Executive Agency) on 16 January 2020. The afternoon yielded an inclusive overview of science diplomacy, as presentations demonstrated the present utility and future potential of science diplomacy, as well as outlined the challenges and vulnerabilities that may accompany the practice. InsSciDE and ‘sister project’ S4D4C presented a historical and theoretical perspective of science diplomacy as a concept and a practice, while climate change scientists offered their experience in communicating research to political and diplomatic actors. In addition, the Director of International Cooperation in Research and Innovation supplemented discussions with a policy perspective on science diplomacy and its role in the European Commission’s mandate.

Claire Mays
Science Diplomacy: Context and Development
Executive Director InsSciDE

Claire introduced modern perspectives on science diplomacy with quotes from the EU Commission and Science Diplomacy Advisor Marga Gual, illustrating its utility in pursuits such as climate crisis action, promotion of world peace and international cooperation for R&I. Switching to a historical perspective, she provided an example from the complex geopolitical history of the Arctic, and explained how polar explorer Karl Weyprech ‘internationalized’ the poles and facilitated peaceful cooperation in the region. She also shared InsSciDE Expert Sam Robinson’s case study on the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), one of the most important pieces of international law of the 20th century. With purpose to both delineate national and international ocean space as well as establish marine protective measures, the agreement is an excellent representation of the interdisciplinary and global synergies possible in the practice of science diplomacy. Read more about the case here.

Eystein Jansen
Science diplomacy in the climate area: Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheet sensitivity
ICE2ICE Arctic Sea Ice and Greenland Ice Sheet Sensitivity
University of Bergen (UiB)

Through graphics depicting the rapid changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) over past decades, Dr. Jansen conveyed the absolute urgency of the melting ice feeding our ocean levels. He described the ‘hot spot’ nature of the Arctic – regional temperature increases twice the global mean or more, a 13 % loss in sea ice per decade, and increasing geopolitical importance as the ice cover diminishes – and cited glacial changes in Greenland as particularly fast and wide spread. He emphasized the global consequences of insufficient response to the challenges facing the Arctic, and pointed to science diplomacy as a tool for tackling the problems as well as promoting peace and understanding between the region’s member countries.

Halvard Buhaug
Science diplomacy from a climate security perspective
CLIMSEC Climate Variability and Security Threats
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

The premise of Dr. Buhaug’s research is to assess indirect connections between climate variability and social conflict. He measures whether food shortages and economic impacts of climate variability affect political violence, and whether political violence can be forecast based on these variables. However, the main point driven home in his presentation related to how research similar to his own is communicated to non-scientific audiences. His message had transversal applications, as he compared common rhetoric of politicians and advocates versus that of the scientists and studies being referenced.

Tim Flink
The integrative and reflexive approach to science diplomacy by S4D4C
S4D4C, German Center of Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)

Tim Flink spoke of S4D4C’s approach to science diplomacy as a social phenomenon and outlined the knowledge resources and guidance materials that the project provides. Tim guided us through the evolution of discourse in science policy and in foreign policy, comparing key phrases of the two fields since the 1980s, until present time when ‘science diplomacy’ depicts a convergence in rhetoric. Demonstrating the work of his case study on International Joint Programming, he reported the various obstacles international counterparts encounter in collaborative projects, beginning from fundamental aspect like research methodology and quality standards. In addition, the challenges are amplified in regions where a shift in governments may entail drastic reorganization of personnel and policy, such as in Egypt and other countries involved in the Arab Spring. The case studies seem to support the theory that indeed scientific advice can facilitate international diplomacy, which in turn, can strengthen science cooperation.