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Science diplomacy refers to the role science can play in international relations, or how diplomatic efforts support international science.

Science diplomacy describes a range of activities that are pursued for a number of reasons. These can include the promotion of national interests, for example improving innovation capacity, addressing cross-border issues, such as the sharing of water resources, or tackling global challenges such as ocean acidification. Scientists and diplomats work together in channelling multilateral responses to these questions and in developing policy agreements at an intergovernmental level.

Science diplomacy can be a driver behind international research programmes when participating countries hope that scientific collaboration will encourage stronger political and economic ties. However in many cases science diplomacy occurs of its own accord when close relationships between individual members of a multinational team can progress to the establishment of more formal connections between their funding organisations or governments.

Science diplomacy also refers to the use of scientific evidence to inform foreign policy decisions and objectives, sometimes in emergency situations such as after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan.

Key Points

  • Science diplomacy draws on scientific collaborations to build and retain international consensus.
  • Science diplomacy is recognised as an effective way of bringing countries together to work on shared challenges.
  • Discussing shared scientific achievements can lead to dialogue about other issues.
  • The UK’s aid strategy has expanded the availability of funding for international science collaborations.
  • The UK Government recognises that science and innovation can work as a springboard in maintaining links with Europe and in nurturing other international partnerships post-Brexit.


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

  • Jeremy Martin, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
  • Elizabeth Hogben, The Royal Society*
  • Dr Emma Hennessy, FCO*
  • Linda Newman, FCO*
  • Prof Robin Grimes, FCO*
  • Debbie Fern, FCO*
  • Iain Williams, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs*
  • Alan Pratt, Home Office*
  • John Aston, Home Office*
  • Lorenzo Melchor Fernandez, The Spanish Embassy in London/The Spanish Foundation for Science & Technology*
  • Daniel Korbel, The British Council*
  • Dr Thomas Killion, Chief Scientist, NATO*
  • Glen Noble, RCUK China*
  • Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Adviser, New Zealand
  • Wesley Brewer, independent consultant
  • Prof Klaus Dodds. Royal Holloway, University of London*
  • Luke Clarke, The Royal Society*
  • Prof Richard Catlow, The Royal Society
  • Prof Bernard Silverman, University of Oxford*
  • Gergely Bohm, Hungarian Academy of Sciences*
  • Vaughan Turekian, National Academy of Sciences
  • Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, University of Oxford*
  • James Wilsdon, University of Sheffield*
  • Jamie Arrowsmith, Universities UK International*
  • Stuart Taberner, Research Councils UK*
  • Prof Mary Edwards, University of Southampton*
  • Mahlet Mesfin, Center for Science Diplomacy, American Association for the Advancement of Science

*Denotes people who acted as external reviewers for the briefing.

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