Skip to main content

The Role of Science Diplomacy in International Crises: Syria as a Case Study

1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

Organized by the AAAS S&T Policy Fellows' Science Diplomacy Affinity Group

The ongoing Syrian Refugee Crisis is recognized as one of the worst humanitarian disasters since World War II. Although the Crisis has not typically been framed in the context of science and technology (S&T), it encompasses many complex issues with scientific components, including the exacerbating effects of climate change, public health issues, cultural heritage destruction, human migration, and scientific diasporas. The objective of this symposium is to explore how science diplomacy can contribute to international crisis response and recovery by mitigating the factors that result in the fueling of conflict, the displacement of people, and the resulting challenges. Using the Syrian Crisis as a case study, we will discuss how S&T and science diplomacy can inform responses to future international security, environmental, and humanitarian crises. Through sessions focused on synthesizing the S&T-related contributing factors and consequences of the Syrian Crisis, we will identify how to apply lessons learned from Syria to help prevent or mitigate future international crises, and we will explore the pathways by which scientists can engage in crisis response and recovery.

Draft Agenda (Updated April 19, 2016)

8:00 - 8:30am

Check-In Opens (Coffee Available)

8:30 - 8:40am


8:40 - 9:20am

Science Diplomacy in Syria: Lessons Learned from Recent History

9:20 - 10:50am

Session 1: Exacerbating Effects of Climate Change in Conflict Zones

  • Introduction, Joel Creswell, 2015-16 AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, EPA
  • Keynote: Water diplomacy: Linking water, drought, climate change, and conflict, Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute
  • ​​Water stress in Syria, Francesco Femia, The Center for Climate and Security
  • Water and sanitation issues
  • Audience Q&A

10:50 - 11:05am


11:05am - 12:05pm

Session 2: S&T to Combat Cultural Heritage Destruction in Conflict Zones

  • Introduction
  • The application of geospatial technologies to humanitarian crises, Susan Wolfinbarger, AAAS Geospatial Technologies Project
  • The sociological/psychological effects of cultural heritage loss, Darren McGregor, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Adult Services and Special Needs Populations
  • Audience Q&A

12:05 - 12:55pm

Lunch Provided

12:55 - 2:05pm

Session 3, Part 1: Science Diplomacy and Refugee Crises: Public Health

  • Introduction
  • Addressing water, sanitation, and health issues in Syrian refugee camps
  • The public health dimensions of the Syrian refugee crisis, Leonard Rubenstein, Johns Hopkins University
  • Capacity-building for refugee mental health services: Syria, Andres Barkil-Oteo, Yale University

2:05 - 2:20pm


2:20 - 3:40pm

Session 3, Part 2: Science Diplomacy and Refugee Crises: Immigration

  • Keynote: The Syrian refugee crisis, Mary Giovagnoli, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Sarah Willcox, Director, Scholar Rescue Fund, Institute of International Education
  • The effect of the Syrian crisis on universities and scholars, Hasan Al-Jabbouli, New Jersey City University and Montclair State University
  • Audience Q&A

3:40 - 3:55pm


3:55 - 4:30pm

Interactive Activity

4:30 - 5:15pm

Synthesis Plenary

5:15 - 5:30pm

Closing Remarks

5:30 - 7:00pm


Lead Organizers and Moderators: 
Teresa Stoepler, AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, USGS Natural Hazards Mission Area, DOI Strategic Sciences Group
Nick Anthis, AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, USAID Middle East Regional Cooperation Program
Rebecca Parkhurst, AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, DOD Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Basic Research Office
Joel Creswell, AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, EPA Office of Research and Development, Innovation Team

Related Scientific Disciplines