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The AAAS STPF Science Diplomacy Affinity Group is preparing the next generation of science diplomacy leaders

The modern, globalized world necessitates that nations engage and cooperate more than ever before.

The world’s most pressing challenges such as climate change, pandemics, food security, and terrorism are interdisciplinary and transgress national boundaries. There is no country or scientific powerhouse that can solve these problems in isolation. Not only does addressing science-based challenges require intentional diplomatic relations, but the process of maintaining and nurturing international relationships through diplomacy also critically depends on science and technology advancements in the modern world. 

Diplomacy is playing an increasingly important role in supporting the global scientific enterprise and is key to the expansion and sharing of human knowledge and information. The creation of large-scale, multinational scientific infrastructure projects such as ITER (the world’s largest nuclear fusion experiment) and CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) bring diplomacy’s role in advancing science into sharp focus. This constitutes the domain of science diplomacy.

The term “science diplomacy” is relatively new, surfacing only within the last three decades. The fundamentals of what it represents, however, have been around for centuries. Even in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, products made through scientific discoveries, and the scientific knowledge itself, were used as tools to develop inter-and-intra-state relationships. Notably, the Silk Road demonstrated how the exchange of commodities, cultural knowledge, and scientific advancements can serve as a bridge, fostering cooperation and mutual understanding spanning large geographical distances.

The use of the term "science diplomacy" began in the post-Cold War era during the early nineties, which witnessed increasing scientific cooperation between countries. In 2010, a seminal publication on New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Royal Society, laid out the foundation for science diplomacy, thereby promoting the use of the term throughout the scientific community. Akin to the Olympics, which is notable for its promotion of global unity and peace, science diplomacy has emerged as an instrument of soft power that fosters connections among nations through shared goals, mutual respect, and influencing the status quo.

The AAAS STPF Science Diplomacy Affinity Group

Science diplomacy, like the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF), unites science and policy, but positions this connection in an international context. Building on the principles outlined by the AAAS Center of Science Diplomacy, the AAAS STPF Science Diplomacy Affinity Group (AG) began as a community of AAAS STPF fellows and alumni to explore how science can create a dialogue between countries. Through social and professional networking opportunities offered by this AG, fellows can explore common interests in science diplomacy and develop nuanced perspectives on a myriad of topics ranging from scientific affairs, international relations, trade security, sanctions, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Engagements like these provide AG members an opportunity to supplement their fellowship placement with a greater appreciation of the wide-ranging impacts of international scientific collaboration.

Since 2019, the Science Diplomacy AG has operated through a committee of co-chairs who decide on the group’s activities at the intersection of science, technology, and foreign policy. In the past year, our AG has organized activities to engage its members with the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy and visited the embassy of the Czech Republic’s cultural center. A guided tour of the National Museum of American Diplomacy, playing a simulated water policy game, and book club discussions about the implications of the Ukraine war on scientific cooperation are some of the popular activities of this AG. Moving forward, our AG is exploring the development of a mentoring program that would pair interested members with diplomats from the public, private, or non-profit sectors. This would enable members to learn first-hand about the goals, work, and lifestyle of their mentors as well as explore the diplomacy career landscape and job prospects. 

A group of AAAS-STPF Fellows interested in Science Diplomacy went on a tour of the National Museum of American Diplomacy at the U.S. Dept. of State.

With a 9 billion strong human population on our planet, no nation can stand alone or prosper without science and technology today. As we need more individuals who not only speak the language of diverse populations, but also scientists who can speak the language of international relations and diplomacy, the Science Diplomacy AG is poised for a dynamic future.


Image: Generated by DALLE AI

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