By Mekonnen Teshome
and again, I travel around the world as a freelance science writer and
communicator to attend seminars and conferences that are at times very inspirational
and enlightening and on other occasions devoid of insights.
World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) in which I took part in Lausanne,
Switzerland, and held in July 1-5, 2019
was extremely stimulating and educational that has left me with a key take-away
message – the importance of a robust Science Diplomacy.
According to the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS),
Science Diplomacy refers to as consisting of three key concepts – Science
in Diplomacy, Diplomacy for Science and Science for Diplomacy. Science
in Diplomacy is a notion where
scientific know-how and evidence is used to inform and support foreign policy
objectives . Diplomacy for Science is related with diplomatic efforts and resources that
are aimed at facilitating international scientific and technical cooperation
Scientific for Diplomacy is about scientific cooperation that is used
as a source of soft power to strengthen or foster foreign relations.
By and large, Science Diplomacy could be
defined as a diplomatic relations that involves research-based, scientific, academic
and engineering holistic exchanges among
nations and societies.
Having realized its extraordinary significance,
Switzerland has managed to maintain its strong Science Diplomacy activities for
decades. Science Diplomacy has boosted the competitiveness and innovation
capacity of Switzerland.
Swiss’s main objectives
in science are to ensure participation of Swiss institutions and researchers in
global networks of excellence and collaborative funding schemes. Its policies in general are
characterized by stability and continuity as well as dynamic mutual visions between its scientific and
diplomatic missions. Of course, it is evident that Scientists
and diplomats are not obvious bedfellows. The business of science is establishing truth while the business of
diplomacy appears to be “ truth like “ .
The 17th century diplomat Sir Henry Wotton quoted as defining an ambassador
as: ‘an honest man sent to lie abroad
for the good of his country’.
President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga stated that Switzerland is firmly anchored
in the European Research Area and has been attaching primary attention to
science diplomacy for years. EU
Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos
Moedas, also had his complements on the effectiveness of Swiss science diplomacy.
Switzerland is host to major international scientific projects and infrastructures such as the Human Brain Project at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Coupled with hosting these key institutions and being an active member of the European Framework Programmes, Horizon 2020,and other initiatives of academic cooperation, the country is regarded as a hub of Science Diplomacy.
CERN: An Apparatus of Science Diplomacy
As part of my attendance of the World
Conference of Science Journalists, it was really a thrilling experience to
visit CERN which is the largest particle physics laboratory
in the world.
1,200 science journalists and communications officers from 83 different
countries had the opportunity to visit scientific research organizations and
labs including CERN and met researchers during the “Lunch@Labs” tours held every day during
the week-long conference.
establishment convention was ratified on 29 September 1954 by 12 countries
in Western Europe Currently CERN has 23 member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United
Cyprus and Slovenia are
Associate Member States in the pre-stage to Membership. India, Lithuania, Pakistan, Turkey and Ukraine are
Associate Member States. The European
Union, Japan, JINR,
Federation, UNESCO and
the United States
of America currently have Observer status.
Thousands of scientists from over 600 institutes and universities
around the world use CERN’s facilities including the massive Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of particles.
The gigantic LHC tunnel is located on the Swiss-French border having a
27 km circular circumference at 100 metres underground. The facilities have so
far enabled top particle physics scientists to register eight discoveries that
add critical knowledge to the enlightenment of humans.
CERN is one of the biggest institutions that serve Switzerland
and other member European countries as a major Science Diplomacy instrument.
The Human Brain Project
the several milestone discoveries, in the understanding of the
brain, it is one of the largest Big Data challenges humanity has faced today. Therefore, the “Blue Brain Project” of EPFL is another Swiss Brain Research initiative involves sophisticated and computerized
neuroscience simulation to deal with the mystery of brain.
Swiss Science Diplomacy
Switzerland has also established
the “Swiss Science Diplomacy Network” aiming at ensuring that
Switzerland would be an excellent partner for cooperation in science,
technology and innovation.
The network is run by
the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation which is
responsible for strategy, objectives, and funding. The whole objective of the
network is to create well-trained scientists and managers of science,
technology, and innovation.
Natural disasters like hurricanes,
droughts and earthquakes and the catastrophe they inflict are not limited within
borders, they transcend national boundaries. Therefore, countries
collectively need to make deals such as the Paris Climate
Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Forging international cooperation, nations are engaged in
various ventures to bring about positive changes in maintaining the natural
balance and global ecology. Also
included one denuclearization,
advancing trade relations, industrial and agricultural growth. To achieve these
objectives, countries need to regulate emerging global technologies like
machine learning and artificial intelligence, population control mechanisms and
To this end, despite critical geopolitical differences, we
see countries sign various collaboration frameworks and
agreements and implement programs jointly.
instance, the U.S. and China had signed
agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology . The cooperative activities
and programs under this agreement have been sustained for decades. It is also
to be recalled that the two countries
signed the Ten Year Framework on Energy and Environment Cooperation in
Annapolis, Maryland during Strategic Economic Dialogue . In 2013, a
Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Cuban Academy and the American Association for the Advancement of Science for joint
scientific endeavors and exchanges. On many occasions, Scientific communities
of the US and Iran have also clinched various cooperation deals to the benefit
of the two countries over and over again.
The ownership and use
of the International Space Station (ISS)
was also established by
intergovernmental treaties and agreements among five participating space
agencies – NASA (United States),
JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe),
and CSA (Canada).
a group of students and their professor performed the first African-led
experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). They used some of the most powerful
scientific equipment in existence to examine sub-atomic matter and reflect on
what happens when stars explode.
in all, As Switzerland has maintained fruitful and age-long science diplomacy it could be considered as a model for
African countries, be it inter-African or inter countries outside Africa.