Page 1

Science Diplomacy from a Journalist’s Perspective David Dickson, Director, SciDev.Net

Science Diplomacy Boot Camp for Journalists New York Academy of Science, 15 July 2011

Background: •Science is an increasingly important component of international relations because of the growth of knowledge economies, and the application of science to solving critical social problems. Therefore … •Science diplomacy stories require increased attention in any reporting on the dynamics of these relations.

What makes a science diplomacy story?

A ‘science diplomacy’ story must have: 1.A solid scientific or technological dimension (i.e. must include promoting science and technology, either specifically or generically) 2.A broader political/diplomatic dimension, i.e. a motivation that goes beyond the purely practical, and reflects social or political interests and objectives

Scientific/technical dimension can include: 1.Promoting a particular field of science or technology (e.g. regional climate models) 2.Promoting a specific scientific or technological goal or project (e.g. a malaria vaccine) 3.Promoting the capacity to produce science and technology (e.g. building skills in ICTs)

Political/diplomatic dimension can include: 1.Enabling the social and economic development of states through the promotion of science and technology 2.Enhancing political and economic relations between states 3.Stabilising post-conflict situations

‘Scientific’ test for a science diplomacy story: 1.Is the science or technology involved robust (no window dressing)? 2.Does the science/technology involved genuinely meet needs of both partners (no ‘science for its own sake’)? 3.Do both partners have the scientific capacity and resources to deliver on commitments under the agreement (no empty promises)?

‘Political’ test for a science diplomacy story: 1.Are the motivations of each partner (or set of partners) explicit? 2.Does any partner have a “hidden agenda” that is not being declared (e.g China in Africa)? 3.Do the interests of one partner dominate over that of the other (e.g. clinical trials in developing countries)?

‘Solid’ science diplomacy stories: •Partnership programmes between universities (aimed at capacity building with no broader motive) •Africa’s Consolidate Plan of Action (a science blueprint aimed at cementing both scientific and economic relations) •Science-driven aid projects intended to stabilise post-conflict situations, e.g. in Rwanda or Arab States

‘Less solid’ science diplomacy stories: •Signing of empty science and technology agreements with no programme detail or specific budget (i.e. politics masquerading as science) •Collaborative agreements of no obvious social or economic value (science masquerading as politics) •Agreements where the benefits are skewed in favour of the stronger partner (politics being expressed through science)

Conclusions: 1.Science must be robust (check with experts in the field) 2.Scientific outcomes must be desired by each partner in an agreement (check on how goals are selected) 3.Scientific benefits must be shared equitably (check on how outcomes are shared) 4.Political interests must be explicit (check for hidden agendas).

Remember: 1.Robust science diplomacy stories are those in which the science is strong, and both scientific and socieconomic goals are equitably shared by each partner 2.Suspect science diplomacy stories are those in which science masquerades as politics, or politics masquerades as science

For more details visit:

To sign up for free weekly emails, visit

How to write about science diplomacy  

Tips on how science journalists should cover stories that relate to science diplomacy

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you