In April 2022, InsSciDE united two groups of bright and motivated individuals for science diplomacy workshops over a weekend in Warsaw: alumni of the Warsaw Science Diplomacy School (WSDS) and trainees of the Academy of Young Diplomats (AYD). The European Academy of Diplomacy were lead organizers of the event.

Alumni Science Diplomacy Trainees & Current Diplomacy Trainees

For WSDS alumni, it was the ‘WSDS Reunion Weekend’, the long-awaited opportunity to convene in person as the training program had been hosted online. They would serve as the teachers in the weekend’s workshops, representing a rich conflation of professional and academic backgrounds, and hailing from Australia, Brazil, Zimbabwe and several countries in Europe.

For trainees in the Academy of Young Diplomats (AYD), a highly regarded educational program hosted by the European Academy of Diplomacy, the event constituted the first time science diplomacy was in the curriculum.

Building Blocks from Warsaw Science Diplomacy School (WSDS) 

WSDS was a selective 5-day training program hosted online in June 2020 and 2021 by InsSciDE, for a cohort of about 25 trainees each year.

WSDS used historical case studies to illuminate the concept of science diplomacy through workshops fueled by trainees’ own experiences and analyses, as well as sessions led by science diplomacy practitioners and international relations experts. The process, coupled with improvised online social functions, generated a unique affinity among its participants.

(Check out the Alliance’s collection of training materials here.)

Keynote Address by an Arctic Science Diplomat

In the opening keynote, Dr. Malgorzata (Gosia) Smieszek from UiT – The Arctic University of Norway captivated the WSDS alumni and AYD trainees alike in its account of the environmental, societal and geopolitical pressures facing the Arctic. Science diplomacy is a constant in every aspect of the Arctic. Science serves as the basis for cooperation between the eight Arctic countries, which form the membership of the Arctic Council: Norway, Sweden, Russia, Canada and the United States, Denmark, Iceland, Finland.

In the Arctic, the climate is warming up three times as quickly as the rest of the world, Smieszek noted, explaining that the Arctic acts as a sink for chemical and material pollutants, from anthropogenic carbon to plastic litter from beaches far away. She emphasized that Indigenous Peoples are crucial actors in Arctic research as holders of traditional knowledge. They are also the communities suffering the most severe consequences from climate changes in the region. Through representative organizations, Indigenous Peoples exercise their right to active participation and full consultation in the Arctic Council.

Smieszek’s inspiring talk provided a foundation for the next day’s workshops, which were taught by the WSDS Alumni who drew on their own unique experiences to illuminate the broad meaning and many applications for science diplomacy.

WSDS Alumni demonstrate the Great Scope of Science Diplomacy

Before three accomplished WSDS women took the stage, EAD Founder and Chairwoman of EAD, Katarzyna Pisarska, fittingly delivered a lecture on women’s leadership. Pisarska discussed the reality of the gender divisions in the field of diplomacy and compelled the future diplomats to adopt a framework of gender equity in their careers.

Oltjana Beci picked up Pisarska’s thread, discussing women’s leadership in science diplomacy. Coming from a background of electric engineering, she shared first-hand experience of some of the gender-specific challenges in STEM studies and how they intensify as one looks at higher level jobs. To illustrate women’s leadership despite the challenges, she profiled three women who were instrumental in negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal – Federica Mogherini, Helga Schmid and Wendy Sherman – and discussed the career and achievements of Marie Skłodowska–Curie as an overlooked case of science diplomacy.

Kleinsy Bonilla challenged the audience to question what they think they know about the so-called Global South, reminding of the huge diversity condensed in the term. She drew on her own experience as a globe-trotting researcher to illustrate how brain-drain exacerbates socioeconomic issues in her native Guatemala. ‘Global South’ researchers who study or work abroad face a dilemma: to return home and infuse their own communities with their acquired knowledge and skills, or to stay abroad and maximize their scientific impact.

Joanna Siekiera opened her lecture with the staggering notion that only 0.2 percent of the world’s scientists deal directly with the ocean, and 4 percent indirectly. As the ocean changes, there are legal implications. From a legal perspective, she raised issues of diminishing fish stocks threatening food security and the unprecedented risk of losing entire islands to rising sea-levels that some countries are facing. In addressing these complex challenges, she emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and we must ‘change our lens’ to understand the needs of different communities.

The afternoon brought flash presentations that each showed science diplomacy in a different light, together shaping an expansive view of the concept and its applications. Antonino Puglisi opened with a case for leaning on faith-based organization to spur climate change action in faith communities. Nathan McMahon delivered a crash course on game-theory and argued its utility in diplomatic negotiations. Farah Ouechtati urged greater integration of youth-led initiatives on the path to sustainable development. Zviko Manjengwah drove home the point that every crisis has a health component and highlighted the gross inequity in global health that the world has accepted as normal. Leonardo Rodarte probed the recently popularized term of ‘vaccine diplomacy’, stripping it down to the same undercurrent that dictates all foreign policy: power.

After each set of presentation, AYD and WSDS alumni split into breakout groups that delved deeper into the issues raised in the preceding presentations. WSDS alumni Nastasia Dhomps, Matthew Kibble, Christian Gerl, Tereza Vizinová were also active discussants in the breakout groups.

Exciting Outcomes!

WSDS alumni finally connected in person and took their bonds to the next level with the launch of their own science diplomacy network – the Global Network for Science Diplomacy (GlobNetSD; name pending confirmation). The group plans to begin with small sessions among the community of circa 50 WSDS alumni, before inviting individuals from across the science diplomacy sphere to join and build the network, undoubtedly a great compliment to the institutions-based EU Science Diplomacy Alliance.

As for AYD: upon receiving positive feedback from workshop participants, the European Academy of Diplomacy plans to permanently integrate science diplomacy into their curriculum.

From AYD’s survey collection, the segment received an overall grade of 4.3/5, with several complimentary comments, such as:

Best session so far, liked science diplomacy topic and like to further knowledge on climate change diplomacy

… eye-opening to new dimensions of diplomacy

Inspiring, the speakers gave me useful insight on issues of Science, National branding and Cultural Diplomacy as well as insight on Arctic issues

Reunion Weekend Warsaw & Launch of a New Sci Dip Network