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International Workshop Teaches the Art of Science Diplomacy

The president of the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan and the U.S. Secretary of State’s science and technology adviser are among the global science leaders addressing participants from developing countries at the third AAAS-­TWAS summer workshop on science diplomacy on 11-­15 July.

The event reflects the increasing awareness of the important role that science diplomacy is gaining in a complex world where challenges cross geographical borders, and demand the knowledge and tools of science and technology to resolve. The summer workshop, being held in Trieste, Italy, offers a full slate of topics.

 “It is very encouraging that science diplomacy is becoming increasingly well­ known and now is widely considered indispensable both in science and diplomacy,” said Mohamed Hassan, interim executive director of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). “Certainly science diplomacy is essential for addressing the global challenges of hunger, energy, climate, and other areas detailed in the Sustainable Development Goals approved last year by the United Nations.”



AAAS’ Rush Holt stresses importance of science diplomacy. | TWAS/Licensed and modified under CC BY-SA 2.0

Rush Holt, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals, emphasized the value of science diplomacy for both developed and developing nations.

“While one may think of science diplomacy as the domain of rich countries with advanced scientific capacities,” Holt said, “in fact, the intersection of science and diplomacy may be even more important in developing regions. An indigenous scientific enterprise can lead to better economic development, and interaction of that scientific enterprise with the larger world leads to improved science and to numerous opportunities in international politics and diplomacy.”

About 30 participants from 22 nations are attending seminars relating to science, technology, environment and health.  The sessions include topics such as the economic and social importance of protecting biodiversity. Another covers the role of transboundary science with a specific focus on Africa, and the importance of international scientific cooperation under political strain.

“Science can bring people together, as it affects people’s lives and environment,” said Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, president of the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, during an interview with TWAS. She added, “Science knows no borders, no boundaries. And I am privileged because I am in the position to put science at the forefront in Jordan.”

Vaughan Turekian, science adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State, and a leading, global voice in contemporary science diplomacy, applauded TWAS and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) for bringing together “some of the best minds” from across the developing world “to push the fronts of knowledge to make the world a better place.”

“I have been awed by the creativity, innovative spirit and inspiring examples of how scientists, engineers, and innovators from around the world are working on the science and technology that can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” Turekian said.

Researchers, scientific advisers, diplomats, and science program managers are among participants in the AAAS-­TWAS course on science diplomacy. They will be exposed to interactions between the scientific and policy­making communities, and will learn how science diplomacy can benefit nations and their people. Effective communication also is being featured.

Participants will engage, for the first time, in a complex, high-­stakes, role­-playing game that will cast them as representatives of two neighboring countries seeking to sort through difficult conservation, biodiversity, and economic development issues, according to Peter McGrath of TWAS, the course coordinator. “Students, for their part, will have to learn others’ perspectives, build trust, and share relevant information with colleagues in a timely manner,” McGrath said.

Another group of students will represent the views of government, nongovernmental organizations, scientific academies, and journalists. At certain points, surprise issues will confront the players, “making the whole simulation more realistic to address and solve,” McGrath added.

Among  others addressing the opening ceremony, held in the crowded Giambiagi Room at the Abdus Salam ICTP in Trieste, were Annapaola Porzio, Prefetto of Trieste; Fernando Quevedo, ICTP director; and Romain Murenzi, director of UNESCO’s Division of Science Policy and Capacity Building/Natural Sciences Sector. Turekian and Princess Sumaya both delivered a keynote address.

[Associated image: Participants use skills to resolve simulated crisis. | TWAS/Licensed and modified under CC BY-SA 2.0]