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WSDS20 CHRONICLES: Week’s Overview

Hosting the first edition of the Warsaw Science Diplomacy School (WSDS) in an entirely virtual format turned into a decisive success for the InsSciDE project and our international team of co-organizing partners, the European Academy of Diplomacy (EAD), UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI), Symlog, and UNESCO.

The flagship program, hosted online 22-26 June 2020, embodied InsSciDE founding principles of historical connections and interdisciplinary dialogue, while fostering an intimate and constructive environment in a Zoom-intensive week of debate, analysis and fun.

This article is a part of the ’WSDS20 Chronicles’, which recount the sessions and explore the outcomes of the first edition of InsSciDE’s Warsaw Science Diplomacy School (WSDS). See also:
WSDS20: Week’s Overview
WSDS20: Health Diplomacy Open Session
WSDS20: Historical Analysis and Future Scenarios

See also ’Student Takes’ articles, written by the WSDS20 alumni:
Overview: Traversing boundaries during a virtual week in Warsaw
Team Biodiversity/Le Roux: Towards a Joint Approach for EU Science Diplomacy
Team Ocean/Robinson: Science Diplomacy and the Litter at Sea
Team Scramble for Africa/Marques

Reflecting the diverse field of science diplomacy, the programme proudly achieved a broadly interdisciplinary and international environment, with a great range of professional and educational backgrounds, and 28 countries from 6 continents represented among the students (accounting for both nationality and country of residence).

The application process was competitive and required students to submit thoughtful essays addressing ways to foster science diplomacy, balance interests and resolve coinciding tensions. With over 80 applications submitted globally from high-profile scientists, zealous students, accomplished civil servants, innovators and more, the 27 admitted candidates submitted essays with particular insight and clarity, of which short excerpts are shared below:

[As the international fellow representative for scientists in Africa and Arab States,] science appeared as a common heritage breaking boundaries and bridging dialogue between countries.

[...] transnational science cooperation provides a communication channel which states don’t have. It provides ground for exchange, debate, and problem-solving (mostly) free from national interests.

Additionally, science-based foreign policies built around topics like education, capacity building and sharing of data, can provide a more equal playing field in the interactions between traditionally unfriendly or unequal countries while also potentiating scientific activity.

InsSciDE and fellow project of the EU Science Diplomacy Cluster, S4D4C, embraced the synergies between WSDS and their new European Science Diplomacy Online Course, with select modules assigned as pre-study material to the WSDS students and two InsSciDE cases featured in the course

Case studies by InsSciDE historians were placed at the heart of open discussions and collaboration in small student teams. The teams convened with their Case Study Author before WSDS to build synergies in the group before diving deep: Team Le Roux analysing the strategies employed to secure French researchers’ access to a Malagasy natural substance used in a cancer treatment; Team Paillette tracing the networks of scientists and diplomats responsible for management of the plague outbreak in Oporto in 1899; Team Marques unravelling the role of scientists in European colonization during the Scramble for Africa, and Team Robison deciphering how science was incorporated in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as conservationists and exploiters grappled for ground in the agreement.

Check out WSDS brochure for a closer look at the WSDS cases and see a short clip of Prof Robinson’s case below:

Activities of the week ranged from deep theoretical discussions in small teams, to plenary debates where students and instructors vetted ideas and questions in both directions, to innovative exercises that leveraged analysis of historical case studies to create science diplomacy strategies. One such exercise was the interactive scenario workshop, led by Björn Fägersten and Rasmus Bertelsen. Fägersten presented scenarios of Europe, characterized as either fragmented, united, multipolar or in a networked order. The teams drew on the future scenarios as well as their historical study to craft mock policy deliverables intended to guide the European Commission in science diplomacy affairs related to the themes of their case studies. InsSciDE Advisors Gabriella Lazzoni and Dieter Schlenker served as jury to assess the four teams’ policy advice presentations, lending their extensive experience in history, policy and diplomacy to convey how policy advice in this domain can – and must – be concise, bold and evidence-based.

Mixed in with intensive concerted activities were panel discussions with seasoned practitioners who offered insight into the versicolor positions and affairs involving science diplomacy. In the Practitioner’s Panel convened by Prof. Pierre-Bruno Ruffini, diplomats directly involved in brokering STI initiatives reflected on the meaning of science diplomacy in their work and spoke to the challenges of balancing national interests and regional politics in the process.

Breaking popular notions of a science diplomacy that mainly inspires ‘peace & love’, the fourth day was dedicated to Risk, Safety and Security (RSS). Colonel in the Norwegian Armed Forces and Professor of Medical Microbiology, Ørjan Olsvik recounted the protocols in place to protect his teams from targeted terrorist attacks on mission to support Ebola relief efforts in Mali. Prof John Krige testified to states’ use of scientists for informal intel gathering with anecdotes from the Cold War. InsSciDE archaeologist and expert in heritage of the Near East, Prof Pascal Butterlin, shared what it’s like to conduct research in a war zone. Students described the sessions as eye-opening, inspiring and even scary, and rated the debate (led by Rasmus Bertelsen and John Krige) as among the most successful of WSDS.

Success of the virtual program can be attributed to the carefully prepared innovative and variable structure of sessions, an incredibly open and determined Class of 2020 and a host of remarkable instructors and speakers willing to engage with WSDS students in the modified format and contribute to InsSciDE pilot science diplomacy training. The large backstage team of organizers also won kudos from the students, who have coalesced into an ongoing community.

Outcomes and evaluations of WSDS will guide future works of the project, including an InsSciDE Case Library, published training materials and WSDS 2021. In the Graduation Ceremony, students had the chance to review the format and quality of the training as well as give their input to the central InsSciDE object of leveraging history for future strategies, emerging with comments such as:

In addition, we were privileged to have several master Tweeters in our pilot cohort of students, sharing their favourite moments and helping #WSDS20 flourish on Twitter.

Click here to visit the memories preserved under the hashtag, including insights on the summer school’s contributions to Europe and to training approaches!

Thanks to all who participated, WSDS was characterized by lively discussions, first hand perspectives on science diplomacy practices, skills building and networking that will doubtless continue beyond the virtual program and into the real world.

A series of ‘Student Takes’ articles will be published, allowing a close look at the experiences of our students and what they learned. Meanwhile, several students also created individual blog posts about WSDS:

Joanna Siekera
Pauline Pic

This historical perspective was really eye-opening and allowed for a deeper understanding of the political mechanisms at play in science diplomacy.

Christian Gerl

Participants truly felt part of an emerging network of science diplomats all over the world [and] consider founding an alumni association to find further ways of cooperation

Science Policy Forum, by
Sneha Sinha, Jenice Goveas, Joanna Siekiera

View the next article in the WSDS Chronicles: Day 1 WSDS20: Health Diplomacy Open Session

Published 9 July 2020 by Daniella Palmberg

WSDS 2020: Overview of the Week
22-26 June 2020

About the Instructors:

Click here to learn about WSDS 2021!