Home > RESULTS > First Open Conference > Discovery Round Tables and Fishbowls

Discovery Round Tables and Fishbowls

Results and lessons learned from dynamic sessions on InsSciDE thematic areas

The final day of the InsSciDE First Open Conference saw six Discovery Round Tables on science diplomacy responses to global challenges in heritage, health, security, environment and space, with one session looking at the roles played by science academies and diplomats.

Young diplomats, researchers, and experts exchanged ideas on strategies, best practices and lessons to be drawn from InsSciDE historical science diplomacy cases. Insights from the discussions were noted by the young diplomats and collated. Summary results are presented below.

Six Discovery Round Tables at the InsSciDE Open Conference triggered lively discussions and reflections in participatory "fishbowls" on global challenges and the various ways in which they connect to science diplomacy. 101 diplomats-in-training, alongside researchers, experts and practitioners, were divided into 6 working groups. Together, they considered, among much else, how diplomatic processes can be affected by social and scientific values; the ways in which science can be "entangled" with diplomacy; ideas of "formal" and "informal" diplomacy; and the connections between science, national powers, economic interests, and ethical and legal policies.

Reflections on focussed cases were used as a springboard to draw historical lessons, to suggest good and bad science diplomacy practices, and to construct recommendations and strategies. Sixty-one diplomats-in-training provided written feedback; summaries that provide a glimpse into these reflections, along with brief case study materials, are linked below.



Heritage Summary: best practices and lessons learned.

From the historical case on Mari and Near Eastern Archaeology, presented by Pascal Butterlin, young diplomats drew lessons about protection and preservation, noting the vulnerability of heritage in the face of danger, and the idea of heritage as a common good of humanity. They also understood that heritage can be tool for diplomacy, for understanding other cultures, and improving bilateral relationships.

Best practices for "bringing together" science and diplomacy to address heritage challenges

Young diplomats noted:
- Collaboration among scientists and between scientists and diplomats
- Open dialogue
- Data sharing
- Exchanging know-how, good practices
- Raising awareness
- Reinforcing credibility of European Science Diplomacy
- Win-win spirit (despite competing interests)


Health Summary: best practices and lessons learned.

From the historical case on European blood safety, presented by Katerina Vlantoni, young diplomats drew lessons from scandals involving HIV-contaminated blood, commenting on the role that governments and the EU can play in creating a safer blood supply system, and noting new technologies that could improve blood safety.

Recommendations and strategic suggestions

All young diplomats commented on collaboration as a strategy to address health challenges, recommending in particular to:
- Foster collaboration between patients’ organisations, Ministries of Health, global organisations (WHO, Red Cross)
- Standardise the process of blood safety among European countries, while acknowledging that it must be consistently revisited and improved (e.g. new diseases, definition of donor groups and "at risk" groups)
- Encourage data sharing


Security Summary: best practices and lessons learned.

From the historical case on nuclear diplomacy, presented by Maria Rentetzi, young diplomats grew aware of how current science diplomacy developments in the nuclear area are rooted in past decisions, events and practices (e.g. nuclear weapons and the Cold War), and saw that technological advances took security challenges to the supranational level.

Recommendations and strategic suggestions

Young diplomats recommended for future nuclear diplomacy:
- Transparency and inclusiveness
- Interdisciplinarity (e.g. diplomats should take scientific reports into consideration); link scientific work with economic and social research
- Pursuing unified European goals, and curbing national interests in science diplomacy
- Education: science and diplomacy in universities; emphasising the dangers of destructive science
- Pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals


Environment Summary: best practices and lessons learned.

From the historical case on NATO and the emergence of environmental diplomacy, presented by Simone Turchetti, young diplomats drew lessons from "short-sighted" views about the environment, where national and other interests can be given priority over others. They saw the importance of environmental diplomacy - an area where science can help to open up channels of communication.

Recommendations and strategic suggestions

Young diplomats recommended for future environmental diplomacy:
*Raising awareness of environmental challenges through:
- Sharing knowledge
- Curbing climate change skepticism
- Communicating that the environment presents global, rather than national challenges
*Introducing new environmental measures such as:
- Supporting economic and ecological transitions (e.g. decreasing coal use)
- Implementing efficient international treaties (with obligations and incentives)


Space Summary: best practices and lessons learned.

From the historical case on Leadership and Partnership in European Human Spaceflight, drawn from her case study work, presented by Anne de Floris, young diplomats noted the significance of the concept of "coopetition", whereby actors aim to achieve national interests while at the same time collaborating together.

They noted that space is an extremely technical area, requiring skilful diplomacy and scientific awareness.

Best practices for "bringing together" science and diplomacy in the arena of space

Young diplomats noted:
- Admitting the need of cooperation (e.g. achieving more together)
- Accommodating dialogue among disciplines and nations (e.g. normalising relations between actors in conflict)
- Fostering trust among partners (e.g. exchange of technology)

Science Diplomats

Science Diplomats Summary: best practices and lessons learned.

From the historical case on science diplomacy and the late 18th - early 19th century Naturalist Abbé Correia da Serra, presented by Maria Paula Diogo young diplomats drew lessons about the significance of informal relations and networks, and the ways in which science can directly inform and support diplomatic processes.

Limits to "bringing together" science and diplomacy

Young diplomats noted historical issues of:
- Viewing religion over reason
- Ignoring scientific input
- Science espionage
- The political instrumentalisation of science
- A lack of a clear border between science and diplomacy

Reflections on the sessions

The fishbowls and Discovery Round Tables proved to be popular with participants, with one young diplomat commenting that "the fishbowl method...was so valuable and engaging”. One participant commented that the sessions offered the opportunity to become exposed to "different experiences coming from different thematic areas", while another found the fishbowl format "especially refreshing in its departure from widespread patterns of younger professionals being somewhat lectured by the older ones".

Young diplomats gave some guidance to the InsSciDE team which we will take into account for our next Open Conferences and Summer Schools. One highlighted the importance of participation and interaction: "I would like to learn, develop, explore more about my abilities than to be taught. I would like to speak with people who are working as diplomats and who will share their experiences, who will tell me how they get where they are and what difficulties [they are] facing in their daily work.” InsSciDE will continue to explore inclusive and participatory approaches to science diplomacy outreach and engagement.

Thank you to all who participated!

Return to the First Open Conference page.

Click here to view photos from the InsSciDE fishbowls!


In a fishbowl, participants form inner and outer circles. Discussions occur in the inner circle only, where one chair is always kept empty. Participants in the outer circle who would like to speak must move to the empty chair in the inner circle, at which point someone else from the inner must move to the outer circle. Moderators and scribes ensure dynamic and focussed discussions, and that participants continue to move between circles.