The first shadowing programme between scientists and diplomats starts in London

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
The programme “Ambassadors for Science” aims to bring closer distant fields such as science and diplomacy by a shared experience of scientists and diplomats. The first session opened a debate focused on the necessity of more science outreach and the development of scientific advice for better policy-making process.

How could scientists influence the Spanish diplomatic action? How could diplomats help scientists to better perform their research? Creating a middle ground between scientists and diplomats to solve these and other questions is the main objective of “Ambassadors for Science”, a pioneering programme that aims to contribute in the development of Spanish science diplomacy. 

Last 17th May, nine scientists and nine diplomats gathered at the Spanish Embassy in London for the first session of this programme. The session was opened by the Ambassador of Spain to the United Kingdom HE Federico Trillo-Figueroa, who welcomed all attendees stressing the importance of building new collaboration ways so diplomacy and science could deliver results to tackle the crucial societal challenges ahead such as climatic change, the spread of diseases, or energy sustainability. The Ambassador emphasized the innovative flavour of this programme and wished a great experience for all future Ambassadors for Science. 

This session was comprised of four introductory seminars, a debate and a formal introduction of each couple of the programme. In first place, the Minister Counsellor Juan López-Herrera not only talked  about the activity, structure, and functions of the Spanish Embassy in London, but also addressed the main challenges for diplomacy such as better coordination between different Ministries and with European institutions, multiple actors in public diplomacy, and the digital revolution. 

Next, Dr Lorenzo Melchor, FECYT scientific coordinator in the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Spanish Embassy in London and coordinator of the programme, introduced the concept of science diplomacy. Lorenzo summed up the milestones recently reached by Spain in this field and the different actors involved: public and private entities, and civil society; stressing the required close collaboration between all actors to achieve higher visibility and influence of science in other professional fields. 

Dr Izaskun Lacunza, Head of FECYT Unit of Science Abroad, covered the world of science: from seeking funding to publishing in scientific journals, stages in the researcher career, or evaluation criteria for research professionals. Izaskun also focused on certain issues in science such as the need for better training, the consideration of additional merits in research evaluation, open access, or women and science.

Dr Eduardo Oliver, research associate at Imperial College London and current chairman of the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (SRUK/CERU), talked about the role of scientists and their associations as actors in science diplomacy, as it fosters higher visibility of Spanish scientists, establishment of scientific collaborations and international agreements, science mobility between countries, or writing reports of recommendations for better policies for science. 

After these four talks, all speakers and attendees discussed about the role of scientists as part of society, the development of common grounds to bring closer not only science and diplomacy, but also science and policy, or about the reasons for the lower representation of women in science. 

To bring the evening to an end, each of the couples of this first edition of “Ambassadors for Science” was introduced: 

1)    Joaquín de Navascués, Research Fellow in the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute in Cardiff University, and Fernando Villalonga, Minister Counsellor of the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Spanish Embassy in London.

2)    Mario González Jiménez, postdoctoral researcher in the School of Chemistry in the University of Glasgow, and Miguel Utray, General Consul of the Spanish Consulate in Edinburgh.

3)    Lorenzo de la Rica, postdoctoral researcher in the Centre for Genomics of Queen Mary University London, and Josefina Beltrán, Commercial Attaché in the Economic and Trade Office of the Spanish Embassy in London.

4)    Cristina Villa del Campo, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physiology Anatomy and Genetics of the University of Oxford, and Gonzalo Capellán, Counsellor for Education in the Spanish Education Office in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

5)    Carmen Domene, Reader in Computational Biology in the University of Oxford and King’s College London, and Juan López-Herrera, Minister Counsellor of the Spanish Embassy in London.

6)    Ernesto Abad, Software Testing Manager in the company Metaswitch Networks, and Esteban Pachá, Transports and Infraestructures Attaché, and Miguel Núñez, Maritime Affairs Attaché, both of them from the Office for Transportation of the Spanish Embassy in London.

7)    Fidel Alfaro Almagro, PhD student in the University of Oxford, and Enrique Ruiz de Lera, Counsellor for Tourism in the Office for Tourism of the Spanish Embassy in London.

8)    María Barreira, postdoctoral researcher in the Wellcome Trust/MRC Stem Cell Institute from Cambridge University, and Francesc Puértolas, Head of Cultural Activities in the Instituto Cervantes in London.

9)    Xavier Moya, Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Materials Science and Metallurgy Department of Cambridge University, and Odón Palla, Counsellor for Commercial Affairs in the Economic and Trade Office of the Spanish Embassy in London. 

About “Ambassadors for Science”

“Ambassadors for Science” is organized by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) and the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Spanish Embassy in London, with the collaboration of the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (SRUK/CERU). This programme fits within the following FECYT’s priority lines: increasing science outreach and science culture, and the support for the internationalization of Spanish science. The programme is a pilot experience with the aim of extending it to other diplomatic missions and even, importing it back to Spain with the Congreso de los Diputados and other scientific institutions. 

The participating scientists are researchers from different fields, professional stages and cities across the United Kingdom, who were selected after an open call whose deadline was last 20th March. On the other hand, the participants of the Spanish diplomatic mission in the United Kingdom comprise diplomats, Culture managers, technical advisors, commercial delegates and other representatives of the Spanish General Administration. 

In the next three months, each “Ambassadors for Science” couple will visit their respective workplaces. By the end of September, there will be a common discussion to exchange their experience. 

For more information, visit: 

If you want to follow the programme on Twitter, use #Amb4Sci. For the rest of scientific activities delivered by the FECYT scientific coordinator in the United Kingdom, you may use #ScienceSpainUK.

Photographs by Noela Roibás.


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