This text is a short summary of remarks I made during a round table discussion on the occasion of the start of the activities of InsScide, Inventing a Shared Science Diplomacy for Europe.


InsSciDE is a large project designed to study science diplomacy and to contribute to its further development in Europe. The project begins its activities now, in January 2018. For the launch of the project, I was asked to reflect on the science diplomacy, in particular in the light of EASAC, the European Academies Science Advisory Network that includes all science academies of the EU member states, Norway and Switzerland.

When I think about diplomacy and science, my first thought is about the cold war and how space sciences and high energy physics conferences were among the very rare opportunities for contacts between east and west. That this was so is in large part due to the fact that science, natural sciences at least, is expressed in a universal language. The equations and theories that describe space, particles, symmetries and the like are accessible to all ready to spend the time necessary for their study, irrespective of political, religious or cultural barriers. One can discuss science across all fences.

It is the same reason for which CERN, ESA, ESO and EMBL, all large European scientific organisations, have been stepping stones of the European construction in the decades following the second world war. It is also what allows SESAME the synchrotron light source in Jordan to be a centre open to all scientists from the Middle East, even those from countries at war.

In EASAC, scientists from all European Union countries, Norway and Switzerland, come together to provide science based advice to the European Commission and other European authorities. This is also a form of science diplomacy: science relevant for European policies is discussed, synthetized and presented where and when appropriate to inform decision making processes.

Europe is not isolated in the world. Neither is EASAC, it collaborates actively with other regional networks of academies, in particular in Africa. Furthermore, EASAC is the European regional network of the world association of academies, IAP. Together with the regional networks of other continents it contributes to providing science based analysis relevant for world problems, most recently on nutrition. EASAC is also considering extending its activities by including European development policies. Scientists active in EASAC therefore contribute in many ways to science diplomacy.

While science diplomacy does contribute to making the world safer, it must also be remembered that science is used in weapon development and warfare. When reflecting on science diplomacy one should consider not only the bright side of science, but also its darker aspects.

InsSciDE will become a powerful tool to further science diplomacy in Europe. I wish the project to be most successful. It will be an enrichment for Europe, but also for the world at large.