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AAAS, TWAS Agree on Ambitious Joint Effort to Build Science Diplomacy

BUDAPEST, Hungary—The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) signed a formal agreement today to pursue an ambitious slate of joint projects to enhance efforts at the nexus of science and diplomacy.

Under terms of the agreement, the two influential science organizations will focus their efforts on two areas: building regional cooperation and networks among TWAS members and associated countries, and increasing the capacity of foreign ministries, research ministries, and international policy organizations to build science partnerships.

The agreement was signed during the World Science Forum by Romain Murenzi, the executive director of TWAS, and Alan I. Leshner, the chief executive officer of AAAS and the executive publisher of the journal Science. After a brief ceremony, both pledged that the joint International Programme on Science and Diplomacy would seek long-term, high-impact initiatives that could help build a 21st century science culture.

Romain Murenzi

“Science is central to both development and diplomacy,” said Murenzi, who previously helped shape Rwanda’s widely praised science-for-diplomacy policies as a government minister under President Paul Kagame. “This initiative is designed to bring discussions about science to the forefront of international affairs in ways that will help science to serve an even more prominent role in promoting peaceful relations among nations. The first step is to help build the capacity of the scientific and diplomatic communities to communicate more effectively with each other.”

Alan I. Leshner

“This is a very important time for international science,” said Leshner. “Many nations are seeking to join in the world science enterprise, to develop partnerships, and to pursue the benefits of scientific and technological advancement. We believe that our new collaboration with TWAS will help identify new mechanisms for increasing the role that science can play in addressing some of the great international and global challenges.”

The agreement envisions programs in three specific areas: training and building capacity for science diplomacy; organizing international and regional meetings on key science diplomacy issues; and developing a science ambassadors program.

“As central features of their mandates, TWAS and AAAS seek to raise the profile of science in society,” said Vaughan Turekian, the AAAS chief international officer and director of the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy. “Both are committed to addressing issues of global concern, and both support efforts that enable science to serve as a key element in advancing social and economic well-being. This science diplomacy initiative provides an excellent opportunity for the two organizations to work together and with their networks on a number of activities of critical importance to the developed and developing worlds.”

TWAS has almost three decades of experience in promoting scientific capacity-building in developing countries and advancing collaboration in science to address such challenges as poverty and sustainable development. TWAS currently has nearly 1000 members, all of them eminent scientists and 85% of them from developing countries. TWAS also oversees an array of fellowship, grant and research programs, including the world’s largest South-South postgraduate and postdoctoral training program, in partnership with the governments of Brazil, China, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, and Thailand.

AAAS, which publishes the journal Science, has a long history of international science engagement. For example, it has forged collaborative initiatives with China since the late 1970s. When it established the Center for Science Diplomacy in 2008, it set a key objective: “to identify opportunities for science diplomacy to serve as a catalyst between societies where official relations might be limited, and to strengthen civil society interactions through partnerships in science and technology.” In subsequent years, it has worked in partnership with the scientific and policy communities to advance the role of science in foreign policy. AAAS organized delegations have visited Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kuwait, Myanmar, Syria, and East Africa. The Center will launch a quarterly publication—Science and Diplomacy—in early 2012.

TWAS and AAAS will establish an advisory committee for the International Programme on Science and Diplomacy, which will draw on experts from both developed and developing countries who work at the nexus of science and diplomacy.

The agreement was signed Wednesday 17 November during a side session at the World Science Forum. The biennial Forum has convened some 700 participants from more than 75 nations in Budapest for three days of presentations and discussions focused on the theme, “The Changing Landscape of Science.”

Learn more about the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy.

Learn more about TWAS, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.