Science diplomacy emerged in the early years of the 21st century as a new vocabulary and a new concept in international relations, although the practice of science diplomacy has deep historical roots and various forms that were not labeled as such before. Science diplomacy refers to professional practices at the intersection of the world of science and that of diplomacy. It is also a subject of study that gives rise to a scholarly literature. Basically, the rationale of science diplomacy is twofold: advancing a country’s national interest and addressing global challenges. Science diplomacy encompasses a great range of activities to promote and secure a state’s foreign policy objectives and of activities to secure global public good at the transnational level, such as using scientific advice and expertise, enabling international scientific cooperation, bringing scientists on board of diplomatic negotiations, or appointing science attachés to embassies. International scientific cooperation is sometimes confused in the discourse with science diplomacy. However, if scientific cooperation is possible only with diplomatic assistance, serves a nation-state’s foreign policy objectives, promotes national interests, or aims to address global issues, then it is science diplomacy. Otherwise, it is not. Science diplomacy is also closely related to a state’s political system and beliefs because the effective use of science diplomacy contributes a great deal to a state’s power and influence in world politics and in international relations, and it helps to generate soft power of attraction and cooperation.
As published in Oxford Bibliographies in International Relations 26 February 2020 (paywalled).