2nd Science Diplomacy Coordination Conference

Friday, July 8, 2016
  • Pictures of the 2nd Science Diplomacy Coordination Conference, click here.

Aiming to improve the integration of Spanish science into foreign policy, the second science diplomacy coordination conference was held in Madrid on 4, 5 and 6 July. The meeting was organised by the Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), both of which work under the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, the Directorate of Cultural and Scientific Relations of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), which belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEC) through the State Secretariat for International cooperation and Ibero-America, and the Ramon Areces Foundation.

The Associations of Spanish Scientists Abroad, which bring together many scientists working in other countries, also participated in the event. There are currently 12 Associations, located in the United Kingdom (CERU), Germany (CERFA), Sweden (ACES), Denmark (CED), Italy (ASIERI), Belgium (CEBE), Ireland (SRSI), the Czech Republic (EIC), Japan (ACEJAPÓN), Australia (SRAP), Mexico (RECEMX) and the USA (ECUSA).

The meeting’s aims included: reporting on the latest developments of the Spanish Science and Technology System and its European context; explaining the science diplomacy initiatives put in place by the Spanish Central Administration and debating proposals for improvement; considering opportunities for the Spanish R+D+i and the role of researchers in implementing Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI); and making potential collaborators aware of the Associations’ projects.

The Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, Carmen Vela Olmo, did not want to miss this annual event and took the opportunity to give an overview of the history of Spanish science. It began, she said, in the 1970s, although no Law was passed until 1986; this was later replaced with the 2011 Law on Science, Technology and Innovation.

Vela also wanted to highlight the country's capabilities in science and technology, citing the network of Severo Ochoa-accredited research centres of international excellence, the Singular Scientific and Technical Infrastructure (ICTS) and Spain’s competitiveness. Spain is the tenth world power in terms of scientific output and the fourth country in the European Horizon 2020 programme.
Finally, she reiterated the aims of science diplomacy, among which she stressed the promotion of international collaboration and the visibility of Spanish science and innovation.

Cristina Russo, the Director of International Cooperation of the European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation, emphasised that although science diplomacy is not a new concept in the European context, its diplomatic and political potential remained unexplored.

She highlighted that the European Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme is “Open to the World” and places heavy emphasis on collaboration with international partners in all areas. An example of this is the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where the European Commission reacted immediately and decisively, contributing close to 700 million euros to support research into possible treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tests.

2017 Science Diplomacy Action Plan 
There was mention at the meeting of the Science, Technology and Innovation Diplomacy Report, drafted by the State Secretariat for Research, Development and Innovation and the State Secretariat for International Cooperation and Ibero-America, presented on 12 July. There was also debate about ideas for the preparation of the 2017 Science Diplomacy Action Plan.

Proposals included: establishing streamlined communication channels between different actors in scientific and technological fields abroad to promote the flow of information; monitoring indicators for impact assessment and taking into account the cultural, geographic and resource diversity between countries; increasing coordination and communication between participants in the Spanish Central Administration’s diplomatic activities; and pooling strategic plans in order to create a joint strategy.

Dialogue with the Associations of Spanish Scientists Abroad 
The Associations of Spanish Scientists Abroad had the opportunity to have discussions with representatives of the State Secretariat of Research, Development and Innovation. Both bodies analysed methods of maintaining the Associations’ activities, indicating the option of fostering interaction with possible collaborators such as private foundations and universities.

Another topic of debate was the opportunities to improve the Spanish R+D+i system. In this regard, the associations presented several R+D+i management models which are used with great success in the countries where their members are developing their careers; the aim of this was for the models eventually to be implemented in Spain. The Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation considered the suggestions and the parties made a commitment to work jointly to try to carry them out as far as possible.

The meeting drew to a close with a discussion on researchers’ role in implementing Responsible Research and Innovation, a new term used by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 programme to bring together a series of overarching concepts about the relationship of science and innovation with society; the Associations also presented their projects in order to promote potential collaboration.


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