Science and Technology Studies


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UCL STS Seminar series: Science Diplomacy; historical and STS approaches

15 November 2023, 4:00 pm–5:30 pm

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UCL STS Seminar series : Dr Sam Robinson, University of York

This event is free.

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UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Archaelogy 612
Gordon Square (31-34) & (14) Taviton St

Science Diplomacy; historical and STS approaches.  


Since its emergence in the early 21st century, there have been many claims to the “power” of Science Diplomacy, with multiple definitions put forward for what it is, how it functions, and what it might become. Over the last decade, STS scholars and historians have put the very concept of ‘science diplomacy’ under scrutiny. Historians have challenged science diplomacy practitioners' claims of historical lineages stretching back to the Cold War and even beyond to Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Banks. STS scholars have unpicked the Anglo-American centric definition of Science Diplomacy presented by the AAAS and the Royal Society in their 2010 report ‘New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy’. Other scholars have put forward positive declarations on the utility and potentiality of a more equitable and just international scientific system, grounded in the so-called principles of “Science Diplomacy” (Madrid Declaration). Meanwhile, Science 
Diplomacy marches on with the EU launching its Africa Knowledge Platform that risks reinforcing neocolonialism as much as advancing relations through science; ultimately we should ask where is the Global South in the Science Diplomacy discourse?

In this paper, the recent development of a field of critical study around the concept of science diplomacy will be traced. I will demonstrate that a concept as fluid, persuasive and yet historically fabricated as Science Diplomacy must be treated carefully by STS scholars and historians. The valuable questions it prompts regarding the injustices, equitableness, and access to resources, data, and funds within the international scientific system, as well as asking fundamental questions about how that system itself operates offer plenty of opportunities for future study by STS scholars. 


About the Speaker

Dr Sam Robinson

Postdoctoral Research Associate at Department of Sociology University of York

More about Dr Sam Robinson