Editor-in-Chief E. William Colglazier writes about multiple international organizations working with scientists to do inspiring work reducing violence, protecting human rights, and advancing academic freedom. “The annual meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in September is another reminder of these issues,” he writes. “The lofty goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are confronted with the harsh realities of the violent conflicts and the resulting human suffering that exist in too many parts of the world. For all of us interested in the role of science in human affairs, including diplomacy, the contribution of science to the defense of academic freedom and the pursuit of human rights remains a vital issue.”
Lisa Anderson, a political scientist and the former president of the American University in Cairo, delves into her experiences working with students in Egypt and the difficulty posed to international cooperation as terrorism drives government policies globally.
“The distinction between scholarly research and intelligence gathering is itself increasingly vague and vexed,” she writes. “The Egyptian historian Khaled Fahmy told a story in a recent article that would be a hilarious parody of the 1984-ish world of academic research in nondemocratic settings were it not actually true. He recounts his request to photocopy maps of the first postal routes in Egypt in the mid-nineteenth century, which was denied on national security grounds. As the authorities patiently explained to Professor Fahmy, border disputes, including several between Egypt and Israel, have been resolved on the basis of historical maps; maps are tools of war and peace and therefore national security assets. Obviously, if nineteenth-century documents are security risks, all the more is research involving GPS maps, space exploration, nuclear materials, defense funding, or...labor mobilization.”
Lino Barañao, Argentina’s minister of science, technology and productive innovation, discusses Argentina’s success in leveraging scientific cooperation to increase efficiency and innovation. “Active promotion of science in all the provinces was done without distinctions based in the political affiliation of the governors,” he writes.
Yoko Kamikawa a Member of the House of Representatives of Japan, and Tomoko Hamachi, a professional staff at GRIPS Innovation, Science and Technology Policy Program, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, explore Japan’s involvement in the Arctic and the role non-Arctic countries can play in the region. “Japan’s technological expertise has great potential for sustainable development of Arctic communities,” they write. “For example, material technologies could help build resilient infrastructure in communities suffering from the ill effects of thawing permafrost.”
Katherine E. Himes, Brad Kinder, and Lara Peterson explain how the vast biodiversity and range of ecosystems in Central Asia make the region a high priority for global conservation efforts, thus positioning the U.S. Foreign Service to contribute to U.S. foreign policy goals via conservation diplomacy. “‘Soft diplomacy’ improves cross-cultural understanding, creates shared goals and objectives, and develops professional networks, among myriad positive benefits,” they write.
Interviews with National Science Foundation grantees involved in international collaborations demonstrate that many scientists already view themselves as science diplomats, although they do so in an informal and unintentional way. Lisa M. Frehill and Katie Seely-Gant write, “International science collaborations hold forth much promise with respect to science for diplomacy. By leapfrogging the traditional bureaucratic hurdles faced by diplomats and the U.S. Department of State, science facilitates entrée into development contexts.”
As the only female scientist at SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East), Gihan Kamel has a unique view of science collaboration in the Middle East. When it comes to the Middle East, there are hundreds of opinions, hundreds of impressions, and hundreds of reactions,” she writes.