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AAAS Encourages U.S. to Take Full Advantage of Science Diplomacy in Foreign Policy




Vaughan Turekian and Kristin M. Lord

U.S. President Barack Obama should consider new ways to extend the use of science diplomacy in foreign relations, including the appointment of a senior-level ambassador for science and technology cooperation in the State Department, AAAS Chief International Officer writes in an op-ed published by Foreign Policy.

The commentary offers a strategic outline for the use of S&T cooperation to build improved relationships around the world, even with nations where government-to-government relations have been deeply strained. It was published 6 May in the journal's online edition, and co-authored with Kristin M. Lord, a vice president at the Center for a New American Security who has researched and written extensively about science diplomacy.

A key step advocated by the authors: U.S. foreign policy leaders should "think about people, not just governments." While the United States is deeply unpopular in many countries, polls show that people who live in those countries often express great admiration for American S&T skill and accomplishments.

"This presents the United States with a public diplomacy opportunity: to remind foreign people of what they like about the United States and to highlight constructive partnerships between Americans and foreign scientists, engineers, doctors, and technology business leaders," Turekian and Lord write.

"The U.S. government should publicize successful partnerships with other countries and the relevant accomplishments of Americans. This means trumpeting Bill Gates as much as government officials and naming Nobel laureates like Egyptian-American chemist Ahmed Zewail as goodwill ambassadors. It means exposing the thousands of U.S.-government-sponsored scientific visitors to American society and politics, not just science."

Turekian also serves as director of the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy.


U.S. Senator Richard Lugar

In related news, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 5 May unanimously passed a bill offered by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) to establish a corps of "science envoys." The envoys would "serve not only as good-will ambassadors, but help reinforce links between U.S. academic and scientific institutions and their international counterparts," Lugar's office said in a release.

AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner and Turekian wrote a letter to Lugar thanking him for developing the plan.

"Increasing global exposure to U.S. science and scientists—both early-career and well-established—provides a valuable mechanism for addressing our many shared global challenges, while also building positive relationships between the United States and key regions and countries," they wrote.

Leshner also serves as executive publisher of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS.