Hosting the first edition of the Warsaw Science Diplomacy School (WSDS) in an entirely virtual format turned into a decisive success for the InsSciDE project and our international team of co-organizing partners, the European Academy of Diplomacy (EAD), UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI), Symlog, and UNESCO.

The flagship program, hosted online 22-26 June 2020, embodied InsSciDE founding principles of historical connections and interdisciplinary dialogue, while fostering an intimate and constructive environment in a Zoom-intensive week of debate, analysis and fun.

This article is an extract from of the ’WSDS20 Chronicles’, which recount the sessions and explore the outcomes of the first edition of InsSciDE’s Warsaw Science Diplomacy School (WSDS). Find all related articles on InsSciDE’s website:

WSDS20: Week’s Overview
Day 1 WSDS20: Health Diplomacy Open Session
Day 2 WSDS20: Historical Analysis and Future Scenarios
Day 3 WSDS20: Strategy, Policy and Practitioner’s Panel (coming soon!)
Day 4 WSDS20: Risk, Safety and Security in SD (coming soon!)
Day 5 & Lessons Learned: Success & Opportunities with Virtual SD Training (coming soon!)


Reflecting the diverse field of science diplomacy, the programme proudly achieved a broadly interdisciplinary and international environment, with a great range of professional and educational backgrounds, and 28 countries from 6 continents represented among the students (accounting for both nationality and country of residence).


InsSciDE and fellow project of the EU Science Diplomacy Cluster, S4D4C, embraced the synergies between WSDS and their new European Science Diplomacy Online Course, with select modules assigned as pre-study material to the WSDS students and two InsSciDE cases featured in the course.

Case studies by InsSciDE historians were placed at the heart of open discussions and collaboration in small student teams. The teams convened with their Case Study Author before WSDS to build synergies in the group before diving deep: Team Le Roux analysing the strategies employed to secure French researchers’ access to a Malagasy natural substance used in a cancer treatment; Team Paillette tracing the networks of scientists and diplomats responsible for management of the plague outbreak in Oporto in 1899; Team Marques unravelling the role of scientists in European colonization during the Scramble for Africa, and Team Robinson deciphering how science was incorporated into the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as conservationists and exploiters grappled for ground in the agreement.

Check out WSDS brochure for a closer look at the WSDS cases and see a short clip of Prof Robinson’s case on InsSciDE’s website.


Activities of the week ranged from deep theoretical discussions in small teams, to plenary debates where students and instructors vetted ideas and questions in both directions, to innovative exercises that leveraged analysis of historical case studies to create science diplomacy strategies. One such exercise was the interactive scenario workshop, led by Björn Fägersten and Rasmus Bertelsen. Fägersten presented scenarios of Europe, characterized as either fragmented, united, multipolar or in a networked order. The teams drew on the future scenarios as well as their historical study to craft mock policy deliverables intended to guide the European Commission in science diplomacy affairs related to the themes of their case studies. InsSciDE Advisors Gabriella Lazzoni and Dieter Schlenker served as jury to assess the four teams’ policy advice presentations, lending their extensive experience in history, policy and diplomacy to convey how policy advice in this domain can – and must – be concise, bold and evidence-based.

Mixed in with intensive concerted activities were panel discussions with seasoned practitioners who offered insight into the versicolor positions and affairs involving science diplomacy. In the Practitioner’s Panel convened by Prof. Pierre-Bruno Ruffini, diplomats directly involved in brokering STI initiatives reflected on the meaning of science diplomacy in their work and spoke to the challenges of balancing national interests and regional politics in the process.

Breaking popular notions of a science diplomacy that mainly inspires ‘peace & love’, the fourth day was dedicated to Risk, Safety and Security (RSS). Colonel in the Norwegian Armed Forces and Professor of Medical Microbiology, Ørjan Olsvik recounted the protocols in place to protect his teams from targeted terrorist attacks on mission to support Ebola relief efforts in Mali. Prof John Krige testified to states’ use of scientists for informal intel gathering with anecdotes from the Cold War. InsSciDE archaeologist and expert in heritage of the Near East, Prof Pascal Butterlin, shared what it’s like to conduct research in a war zone. Students described the sessions as eye-opening, inspiring and even scary, and rated the debate (led by Rasmus Bertelsen and John Krige) as among the most successful of WSDS.

Success of the virtual program can be attributed to the carefully prepared innovative and variable structure of sessions, an incredibly open and determined Class of 2020 and a host of remarkable instructors and speakers willing to engage with WSDS students in the modified format and contribute to InsSciDE’s pilot science diplomacy training. The large backstage team of organizers also won kudos from the students, who have coalesced into an ongoing community.

Outcomes and evaluations of WSDS will guide future works of the project, including an InsSciDE Case Library, published training materials and WSDS 2021. In the Graduation Ceremony, students had the chance to review the format and quality of the training as well as give their input to the central InsSciDE object of leveraging history for future strategies, emerging with comments such as:

In addition, we were privileged to have several master Tweeters in our pilot cohort of students, sharing their favourite moments and helping #WSDS20 flourish on Twitter.

Click here to visit the memories preserved under the hashtag, including insights on the summer school’s contributions to Europe and to training approaches!


Thanks to all who participated, WSDS was characterized by lively discussions, first hand perspectives on science diplomacy practices, skills building and networking that will doubtless continue beyond the virtual program and into the real world.

A series of ‘Student Takes’ articles will be published, allowing a close look at the experiences of our students and what they learned. Meanwhile, several students also created individual blog posts about WSDS:

Joanna Siekera
Pauline PicThis historical perspective was really eye-opening and allowed for a deeper understanding of the political mechanisms at play in science diplomacy.

Christian Gerl “Participants truly felt part of an emerging network of science diplomats all over the world [and] consider founding an alumni association to find further ways of cooperation.”

Science Policy Forum, by Sneha Sinha, Jenice Goveas, Joanna Siekiera

InsSciDE’s Warsaw Science Diplomacy School June 2020