As scientists working in a range of disciplines come under fire in some sections of the media, Nature Physics in its February Editorial (6, 75; 2010) explains why science diplomacy matters.
The Inter-Academy Panel (IAP) counts 103 of the world’s scientific academies as members, most recently the Academies of Science of Afghanistan, Mozambique and Nicaragua, and assembles once every three or four years to discuss issues, like climate change, biodiversity or nuclear proliferation, of global significance that hinge crucially on scientific knowledge, and the gaps in that scientific knowledge.
The Nature Physics editorial continues: “The IAP initiative is typical of the approach espoused in a newly published report, ”http://royalsociety.org/New-frontiers-in-science-diplomacy">New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy: Navigating the Changing Balance of Power, which summarizes a two-day meeting organized last year by the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The report stresses the vital role of science diplomacy in the modern world in three ‘dimensions’: science in diplomacy, diplomacy for science, and science for diplomacy. The first of these relates to the obvious need for scientific advice and evidence to underpin international negotiations or developments, a prominent example being the work of the existing Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Diplomacy for science recognizes that “science can be a bridge to communities where political ties are weaker, but to develop relationships in these areas, scientists may require diplomatic assistance, whether in contract negotiations, intellectual property agreements or dealing with visa regulations.”
Finally, science for diplomacy acknowledges the ‘soft power’ of science, as a national asset and a universal good — and exemplified by the founding of CERN in post-war, divided Europe. Following the CERN model is the current project to build the synchrotron SESAME in Jordan, as a partnership between several Middle Eastern countries including Israel, Iran and the Palestinian Authority. Indeed the further development of scientific partnerships with the Middle East and the wider Islamic world is identified in the report as a priority for science diplomacy."