Saturday, February 14, 2009

Foreign Policy's "Smart Power" Gives Science Diplomacy a New Role

(Integrated military-civilian strength invests in partnerships, exchanges)

By Cheryl Pellerin - Staff Writer

Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called for a change in the State Department's approach to carrying out its foreign policy duties. This reformation will strengthen the role of science cooperation in international relations.

"American leadership has been wanting but is still wanted," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing January 13. "We must use what has been called smart power, the full range of tools at our disposal - diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural - picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy."

Smart power is a balance of hard military power with the soft power of diplomacy, development, cultural exchanges, education and science. One of the most promising of the smart power tools is science diplomacy, the practice of supporting and promoting scientific exchanges, cooperation and research between the United States and other nations ? sometimes nations that have no other diplomatic relations with the United States.

Through its Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science (OES), the State Department engages governments, private-sector businesses, universities, nongovernmental and international organizations and individuals from every region in the world to promote scientific cooperation and education.

"We have recently concluded S&T [science and technology] agreements with Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Jordan," Jeff Miotke, OES deputy assistant secretary for science, space and health, told the House Committee on Science and Technology in April 2008. An agreement with Saudi Arabia was finalized and signed in December 2008.

"We've raised our S&T relationship with Pakistan to a higher level," he added. "With Pakistan and Egypt, we have the only two government-to-government S&T funds still in existence."


In July 2008, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an international nonprofit scientific organization based in Washington, announced the establishment of the Center for Science Diplomacy.

The center works with the science and foreign policy communities to communicate the value of science diplomacy and identify collaborative projects that could help strengthen civil society relationships among nations, especially when official relations are strained or do not exist.

"I view our activities as twofold," Vaughan Turekian, center director and AAAS chief international officer, told "One is operational and the other is inspirational."

Operational activities include assembling delegations and working with international collaborators to visit other countries, and developing activities with countries bilaterally.

The center works with the Jerusalem-based, nonprofit and nonpolitical Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization, for example, to support its mission of fostering cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians and promoting dialogue and interaction among scholars and scientists in those communities.

"The inspirational piece, which is critically important," Turekian said, "is to bring together experts from the different communities to think about opportunities for the types of engagement that might initiate connections or establish connections over the long term."


In November 2008, the Association of American Universities organized a tour of Iran for the presidents of six leading U.S. universities as part of an effort to identify ways to enhance science and education links between the United States and Iran.

On January 22, Iranian and U.S. scientists and senior academics met at AAAS in Washington in the latest of a series of exchange visits that comes at a time when U.S. policy toward Iran is undergoing a comprehensive review.

Another example of science diplomacy is the Iraqi Virtual Science Library, launched in 2006 to help rebuild the educational and scientific infrastructure in Iraq.

The library is a digital portal that gives 80 percent of Iraqi universities and research institutes access to millions of articles from more than 17,000 scientific and engineering journals, plus technical content and educational resources, through an Internet platform developed with Sun Microsystems. (See "U.S. Officials Launch Iraqi Virtual Science Library")

A group of AAAS scientists began the project, which is now an interagency collaboration funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the State Department, the Civilian Research and Development Foundation, donations from publishing companies and professional societies, universities and private companies.

"The U.S. government hasn't appreciated the full power of science diplomacy," Kristin Lord, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, told

"There's no substantial part of our government that's tasked with doing science diplomacy," she said. "At the State Department are people who are very committed to science diplomacy, but there are very few staff there who do this ... and the budget is absolutely miniscule."

"Science cooperation has such great potential as a way to build bridges and because it's based upon mutual respect and understanding," Turekian said. "That is at the heart of the engagement."