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Watch now: SD, Covid19 and more from InsSciDE Webinars

Following at the heels of the 2nd annual EU Research and Innovation Days, the InsSciDE Webinars provided a holistic overview of science diplomacy and its role in the ongoing pandemic. Four integrated panels were hosted 24-25 September 2020, in partnership with The Hague Journal of Diplomacy and UNESCO.

If you missed it – you can watch all panels right here under each panel description! (Note that Panel 3 – ‘Research and research institutes…’ will be available exclusively for two weeks (until 16/10/20).)

Opening Address

The webinar series was launched with an opening address by Maria Cristina Russo, Director of International Cooperation in Research and Innovation at the European Commission. She highlighted the growing importance of science diplomacy, not only in regards to the ongoing pandemic, but as a key element in her own department and in achieving the EU’s broader goal of becoming a stronger global actor, for the advancement of science as well as for the formation of essential human connections across borders.

Panel 1 | Forum on Science Diplomacy

From Director Russo’s motivational message, we transitioned to a lively debate based on the Forum on Science Diplomacy, a series of articles assembled by InsSciDE’s Pierre-Bruno Ruffini and published in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy. Co-organized by the Journal and moderated by its Editor-in-Chief Jan Melissen, a spectrum of voices, including from S4D4C and InsSciDE, weighed in on practical and theoretical aspects of science diplomacy.

On the concept and necessary skillset of a ‘science diplomat’, S4D4C’s Lorenzo Melchor channelled lessons learned from being a Science Adviser in the Spanish Embassy in London, Paul Berkman described how his journey with science diplomacy began with a curiosity of the Antarctic Treaty’s impact during the Cold War, and Karen Lips testified to the crucial need for training in policy processes and transboundary skills for scientists.

Olga Krasnyak focused on how interpersonal communication brought a human dimension into decision making in the Cold War, while Prof Ruffini reflected on the gap between a rather virtuous perspective of science diplomacy depicted in the literature and its real-world applications, which tend to stem primarily from national rather than ‘common interests’.

Punctuating the panel, S4D4C’s Tim Flink delivered a critical reflection on grand promises made in the name of science diplomacy, pointing to a considerable lack of evidence, and InsSciDE Coordinator Pascal Griset outlined the evolution and hybrid applications of ‘innovation diplomacy’.

Read the Forum authors’ papers here.

Panel 2 | Economic diplomacy meets technoscientific diplomacy: Health, pharmacology and international business

Following closely behind the Forum, InsSciDE’s Expert on power Rasmus Bertelsen led a panel discussion with leaders of public and private institutions on international coordination when scientific and economic factors are closely entwined. Martina Szabo described initiatives of the World Economic Forum, sharing examples of the Covid Action Platform bringing together businesses, technical experts and the World Health Organization to identify and fill gaps in stocks of medical supplies. Director of the Institut Pasteur in Guinea Noël Tordo described the international channels and business partnerships mobilized to fight shortages during the pandemic that were ten-fold those of Western countries. Clotilde Fortier, specialized in international business law and pharmaceutical business law, argued for rethinking parts of the international market to allow fairer access to medical and other vital resources for those in greater need. Finally, Maja Fjaestad, State Secretary to the Swedish Minister of Health and Social Affairs, reflected on the natural role of science in decision making in Sweden and the deliberate processes behind the controversial Covid-19 strategy of the government.

Panel 3 | Researchers and research institutes: Shaping and informing global action through diplomacy

Kicking off the second day of webinars, InsSciDE’s Katharina Paul moderated a discussion marked by concrete examples of science diplomacy practices during the pandemic, reflections on the heartening shift in research culture caused by the pandemic and perspectives on how diplomacy could boost overall research impact by facilitating more equal opportunities for science to flourish across the world.

Director Ronald de Bruin described how COST Association maximizes European research excellence through the international networking platform and shared a special anecdote from granting partner membership to the South African delegation. International Relations Head of Inserm Audrène Eloit delivered insight into the trust-building and multilevel channels involved in negotiating international research cooperation agreements. Emma Hodcroft, of the University of Basel and co-developer of global ‘virus hunter’ project Nextstrain, illuminated how lack of funding - the crucial core component of research - in the Global South has created gaps in data for the otherwise powerful genetic technology tracking global infections, arguing that diplomacy can help counter the discrepancy.

Exclusive: Please note the Panel 3 recording is only available until 16/10/20.

Panel 4 | Institutional and territorial scales interlocking in health diplomacy

Drawing in actors beyond Europe, Ana Persic of UNESCO delved into the topic of health diplomacy and how it’s helping regions respond to the pandemic.

Benjamin Djoudalbaye, Head of Policy, Health Diplomacy and Communication at Africa CDC, outlined how the practice enables coordination across the African continent on Covid-19 testing, misinformation and border controls. Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General at Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) in New Delhi, highlighted why international cooperation on health infrastructure has become absolutely essential given the complex interlinkages and interdependences of today’s world. Marie-Paule Kieny, currently at Inserm, drew on her previous experience as Assistant Director General of Health Systems and Innovation at the WHO to give a supranational perspective on how health diplomacy has been used as a tool for countries to gain prestige, to fight crises like Ebola and to negotiate fairer access to medicines across high- and low- income countries.

Following the final global panel on health diplomacy, InsSciDE’s Coordinator Prof Griset delivered concluding thoughts on the webinar series and on the insights gained from the diverse perspectives convened for the occasion.

Published 1 October 2020
Written by Daniella Palmberg

InsSciDE Webinars: Actors’ perspectives: Science diplomacy and the cross-sectoral impacts of Covid-19
24-25 September 2020

Panel 1 | Forum on Science Diplomacy

Panel 2 | Economic diplomacy meets technoscientific diplomacy: Health, pharmacology and international business

Panel 3 | Researchers and research institutes: Shaping and informing global action through diplomacy

Panel 4 | Institutional and territorial scales interlocking in health diplomacy