Documents to download

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.

Documents to download

Related posts

  • COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest

    POST has published 20 COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) for the UK Parliament. ARIs were identified using the input of over 1,000 experts. They were then ranked in order of interest to UK Parliament research and select committee staff, following internal feedback. Each ARI comes with a series of questions aiming to further break down each broad area. The ARIs focus on the impacts of the global pandemic and range from economic recovery and growth, to surveillance and data collection, long-term mental health effects, education, vaccine development, and the NHS.

    COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest
  • Digital Sequence Information

    Evolving life sciences and agricultural research approaches may have a decreasing need to access physical resources in future, such as plant seeds or viral material. Information and genetic data may be all that is required for commercial exploitation of biological resources. This POSTnote summarises the challenge this creates for international discussions on the governance of genetic resources and the possible options for addressing these.

    Digital Sequence Information
  • Key EU space programmes

    The EU operates space programmes which provide services such as navigation and weather forecasting to European citizens. These programmes include Galileo, the EU's global navigation satellite system (which is similar to GPS), Copernicus, the EU's Earth observation programme, and the EU space surveillance and tracking (EUSST) programme which aims to protect satellites from space debris. The UK has made significant contributions to the development and delivery of these programmes in recent decades, but there will be changes to future involvement at the end of the Brexit transition period.

    Key EU space programmes