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WSDS21: DAY 3 – Tensions and Interests; Risk, Safety and Security

Building on successes from Warsaw Science Diplomacy School 2020, this year’s training program by InsSciDE dove even deeper into the skills, systems and practices lining the path ’from Wissenschaft to Statecraft’.

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DAY 3 – Tensions and Interests; Risk, Safety and Security

The day started with a presentation by InsSciDE’s Björn Fägersten on SD as a strategic instrumentalization of science for foreign policy purposes. He pointed to SD as a powerful tool of statecraft and highlighted the power dynamics that underlie research funding and scientific progress, setting the stage for a broader theme of risk, safety and security (RSS) in the afternoon.

SD should not be thought of as inherently better than other forms of diplomacy, rather it is the interests of the SD actors involved that reveal the positive or negative nature to the practice.

Teams regrouped to examine their case studies through this narrower foreign policy lens and zoomed in on the tensions and interests that underlie the actions observed in their cases.

Last year, the RSS sessions brought up researchers jailed or even killed abroad for political reasons, terrorist attacks on foreign soldiers assisting Ebola relief efforts, and protecting as well as studying archaeology in a war zone

This year, the RSS sessions addressed more abstract yet equally significant security stakes, with students afforded exclusive insights from the frontlines of political decision-making and negotiations in two ‘off-the-record’ sessions with high-level scientists and science diplomats.

In the first session, the idea of ‘offense and defence’ in research cooperation was debated in the context of cutting-edge research conducted at the Niels Bohr Institute. How can we balance the intrinsic necessity for cooperation and openness in science with the realities of scientific espionage, geoeconomic competition in STI, and potential abuse of research products? Despite several voices urging ‘defensive’ approach with some of the research at Niels Bohr, the speaker asserted that the institute remains fully open to collaborate internationally – ‘it is part of our DNA’ – but does exercise caution. The discussion also revealed that several WSDS21 students had personally observed differential treatment based on nationality due to security concerns, for instance, in lab access privileges.

The second conversation traced the evolution and internal politics of the Arctic Science Ministerials. These high-level meetings aim is to enhance cooperation on Arctic sciences and were first convened in 2016 with ministerial representatives of the eight Arctic States (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the US), as well as fourteen additional states and the EU, in partnership with Arctic Indigenous representatives. The speakers compared experiences from involvement in the International Arctic Science Committee, centered on science, and the Arctic Council, the high-level intergovernmental forum that organizes the Arctic ministerial meetings. They also discussed the incentives and strategies of non-Arctic entities, like Japan and the EU, to glean influence in the region. In the case of the EU, a boost in funding for Arctic research helped elevate their political relevance in the region.

After a day of rather heavy topics, we returned once again to the Gather platform for a ‘Pub Night’, where the evening’s activity had students chatting about everything from hidden talents to the ultimate implication of AI on humanity.

Select Session Recordings:

Power, Actors and Interests of European Science Diplomacy
Lecturer: Björn Fägersten
The Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) | Sweden

12 July 2021
D. Palmberg

WSDS21: DAY 3 – Tensions and Interests; Risk, Safety and Security


  • Power, Actors and Interests in European Science Diplomacy
    Check out the recording below
  • Case Study Team Discussion: Actors, Interests, Power
  • Meditation
  • RSS Panel: Offense and Defense in Research Cooperation
  • Summit Discussion: Science in High Level Decision-Making and Negotiations
  • Pub Night in Gather.Town