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National Approaches to Science Diplomacy: An Education Resource

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About National Approaches to Science Diplomacy

The global nature of science and technology, the speed with which it is developing and spreading, and the extent it is essential to national priorities are leading more countries to look at the international components of their science strategies. One result is greater policy emphasis on the issue broadly defined as science diplomacy, which reflects the ways in which countries incorporate science into their foreign policy. This trend is taking place in part because the issues the foreign policy community face are becoming more technical, necessitating a greater understanding and use of science and technology. For example, a landmark 1999 report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded that thirteen of the sixteen U.S. foreign policy goals have science, technology, and health considerations. The U.S. Department of State responded by refocusing on the role of science and technology and taking concrete steps to develop the human capacity necessary to meet the foreign policy challenges of the coming century.

More recently, U.S. and international foreign policy practitioners and analysts have begun developing ideas and strategies for national approaches to science diplomacy. The result is a greater articulation of the key drivers and approaches.

The papers included in this reader, which have appeared in the American Association for the Advancement of Science's policy journal Science & Diplomacy, reflect some of the growing international focus on and interest in science diplomacy from national perspectives. These approaches seek to address a variety of goals: some are driven to increase a nation’s economic growth and innovation, others focus more on increasing national influence and global connectivity, and some approaches are designed with an eye towards the public diplomacy value of raising the global image of a nation. In each, there is an emphasis on how science and technology can help address national priorities and important global and societal challenges.

This reader, which includes a series of discussion questions, seeks to aid the understanding of different national approaches to science diplomacy, especially the different drivers, motivations, mechanisms, and tools that countries are using to articulate their foreign policy priorities.



Becoming a Northern Minerva: Injecting Science into Canada’s Foreign Policies by Paul Dufour

Canada needs to better use its science—including greater innovation in government structures of science advice and mobilizing its global science networks—to increase its influence on global issues.

Science Diplomacy as a Defining Role for Canada in the Twenty-First Century by Alan Bernstein

Canada can play an important global role as a knowledge broker, which requires a foreign policy that draws from the nation’s international scientific reputation and uses knowledge and technology to address global challenges.


The Rise of Science and Technology Diplomacy in Japan by Atsushi Sunami, Tomoko Hamachi, and Shigeru Kitaba

Japan must incorporate science diplomacy into its foreign policy strategy if it is to rebuild important relations with key countries and remain a global player in science and technology.

New Zealand

How a Small Country Can Use Science Diplomacy: A View from New Zealand by Peter D. Gluckman, Stephen L. Goldson, and Alan S. Beedle

For small countries with advanced S&T capacity, science diplomacy has a different focus from larger nations. It is essential in projecting New Zealand’s profile and leveraging limited resources.

South Africa

South African Science Diplomacy: Fostering Global Partnerships and Advancing the African Agenda by Naledi Pandor

Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has used science as a way to rebuild relationships and advance science.

United States

Science Diplomacy and Twenty-Firsty Century Statecraft by Robert D. Hormats

Science is taking an even more prominent role in how the U.S. Department of State builds and manages international relationships.

Discussion Questions


  • How do Dufour and Bernstein’s visions for the role of science diplomacy in Canadian foreign policy differ?
  • What types of mechanisms seem most promising to increase the use of science diplomacy?


  • Discuss the advantages (strengths) and disadvantages (weaknesses) for Japan in employing a science and technology diplomacy strategy as part of its foreign policy.
  • Can science play an important role in building broader regional cooperation, or do regional tensions potentially decrease the effectiveness of building collaborative science?

New Zealand

  • This piece discusses several ways in which science diplomacy facilitates New Zealand’s participation and leadership at the global table. In most of these cases, science diplomacy allows for positive engagement with other countries. However, the paper also alludes to the use of science for restricting engagement or cooperation. For example, when there are technical barriers to trade. Discuss these “negative” aspects of science diplomacy and how countries may choose to incorporate these approaches.

South Africa

  • What are the challenges South Africa faces as the most scientifically developed African nation as it conducts science diplomacy within Africa?

United States

  • This piece highlights the central link between science diplomacy and economic diplomacy. Does such an emphasis neglect to leverage the strengths of the broader U.S. science enterprise?
  • Innovation in connection with national economic strength is rooted in competition, while scientific collaboration at the heart of science diplomacy relies oftentimes on partnerships. Can innovation diplomacy and science diplomacy be reconciled? If so, how?
  • U.S. science diplomacy is often led by the Department of State. What are the strengths and weaknesses of such a foreign ministry-led approach?


  • How similar are the motivations and approaches of different countries in science diplomacy? What are some of the key differences?
  • Do countries need a central agency or council tasked with science diplomacy efforts? If so, what would that look like?
  • How can nations better utilize civil society for science diplomacy? Are there examples from these pieces that demonstrate this?
  • Is science diplomacy always a “win-win” scenario?