On being diplomatic

As Vice President of our association and Co-Chair of Task Force Openness of Science & Technology, Jennifer Herek reflects on our purpose and values, advocating for a more proactive role in safeguarding global cooperation in times of increased scrutiny and securitization.
31st October 2023
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I am not a diplomat, but I am diplomatic.

So I was intrigued to see the recent call from the European Commission for expressions of interest to participate in Science Diplomacy Working Groups. Calling for “individuals from both, the science and diplomacy communities, to develop potential elements of a future European framework for science diplomacy.” In particular, to explore an added dimension to what is commonly understood as science diplomacy, beyond the “soft power” and supportive role, that science becomes a “diplomatic actor in its own right.”

I think that is absolutely right, that scientists should advocate from a position of shared values and principles, and take a proactive role in preventing those who undermine them. Lest it be left to the diplomats alone.

As scientists, we understand global cooperation from a unique perspective. In pursuit of knowledge and understanding, of new discoveries, designs, and devices, at the core of it all our motives are pure. We are open and eager to collaborate, spar, even engage in healthy competition in the name of advancing our field. Personal contacts are key.

As leaders of scientists, our purpose is to create conditions for them to thrive. Not just inside our universities, but connected to global challenges and complex problems that require systemic understanding and a cooperative approach. Our task is to facilitate and clear the way for collaboration.

And as Members of CESAER, we have an opportunity to advocate for positive change. We are a strong and united voice, and we are heard! The collective spirit and inspiring vibe that characterized our recent annual meetings in Madrid underscores our commitment to make a difference on challenging topics. I am especially proud of the white paper we launched on knowledge security, recognizing the importance of taking a proactive stance in the rapid encroachment on academic freedom, without being naïve of threats by foreign interference.

It comes down to trust. How can we balance individual and collective interests? Or even better, how can we stimulate constructive interference that contains more positive energy than the sum of its components? And how can we embrace uncertainty, recognizing that it contains trapped energy that can be channelled into positive action?

I am ready to try diplomacy. Who is with me?

Jennifer Herek is Vice President & Treasurer of CESAER, Co-Chair of the Task Force Openness of Science & Technology, and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Twente.

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