Science and technology can be used to build relations between countries. Thus, scientific diplomacy is becoming increasingly important, and is the subject of Nature Immunology’s December Editorial (10, 1223; 2009). The use of science diplomacy has taken a back seat in the many years since President Nixon signed the Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement between China and the United States.
But the Nature Immunology Editorial argues that current world events have thrust the use of this diplomatic card back into the limelight. “A 2004 Pew Survey of many Muslim states confirmed that the most countries had negative views of America. Yet although American politics has been heavily criticized, a Zogby International poll of six Arab states found that most viewed American science and technology in a favorable light. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and other organizations, along with the present US government, have realized this disparity marks an opportunity for the United States to leverage this positive image of science and technology to improve diplomatic relations. In 2008, the AAAS opened a new Center for Science Diplomacy with the aim of promoting international understanding and prosperity. The AAAS was most recently involved in a ten-member delegation sent to Syria to explore future cooperation in health, agriculture and scholar exchanges, among other areas. The year 2009 also saw 200 participants from 18 countries attending a joint meeting of the Royal Society (UK) and AAAS to explore new frontiers in science diplomacy.”
Many issues need to be addressed to facilitate this type of communication between countries and regions, and science diplomacy can be only part of a bigger picture, says the Editorial. “Science is a common language that has no borders. Thus, scientific diplomacy will probably have an integral role in relationship building between nations now and in the future, but doing this well will require sustained effort. It should not be considered a quick fix in fostering diplomatic relations.”