Science Diplomacy


Dr M Ali Hamza

Impression management is a deliberate or subliminal process in which individuals, communities, and nations endeavor to influence the perceptions of others about a person, object, or a happening, by setting and supervising information in social interaction. It is not a new phenomenon, rather existed for centuries in different shapes. Impression management is commonly used as an alternative to ones’ presentation, in which an entity tries to influence the perception of one’s own image.

The idea of impression management initially practiced through face to face interaction, but later expanded with an invention of modern tools such as computer-mediated interaction, broadcasting technology, internet based platforms, podcasts, social media etc. The concept is related to academic fields of study such as economics, politics, psychology and sociology as well as practical fields, for instance corporate communication, industry linkages and development of social cognition.

If taken in account only last 100 years, we can clearly witness the invasions, destructions, foreign occupations, industrial revolution, knowledge creation, and a buzz word “the innovation” happening at high velocity. On a parallel track we have observed that the progressive nations spending billions of dollars in establishing, maintaining and enhancing their positive impression. The British Empire invaded unstoppably and brutally tainted and tarnished all the cultures, but still the colonized minds see them with respect and honor because they established an image of technologically advanced, scientifically systematic, caring, progressive, learned and soft empire. Americans slaughtered red-Indians, bombarded Vietnam, engulfed the gulf, destroyed the world harmony, but still they have guts to be called advocates of peace due to their impression of being economic might through science and technology.  This all just did not happen. Nations built these images not only through wish and desire but with intentional focus, adequate design of purpose, and well thought execution strategy. Beside economic, political and other impressions, the impression of science loving society is what the world is doing. As we listen to present Govt. showing concern for applied research, declares full commitment and offers a plan for high budget chunk in pursuance of S&T, there it needs to work on science diplomacy as well.

Science diplomacy is an engagement for scientific collaborations among nations to address global problems and to build productive international partnerships. The term encompasses formal and informal technical, medical, research-based, academic or engineering exchanges in the general area of international affairs. Science diplomacy relatively a less utilized approach to diplomacy and has gained attention recently. It is a phenomenon of the 21st century, and number of factors continue to drive this trend, but the most important one is the recognition of major global challenges and realization that science with its applications are part of the cause as well as the cure. As a result, while much of the international science regime is still focused on discovery, there is an increasing demand for the integration of science cooperation in international relations. Science diplomacy began to surface following the end of the Cold War. Toward the last decades of the 20th century, much of the focus of science diplomacy moved beyond the role of science as a bridge to diplomatic dialogue and more toward the role of science interactions as the basis for addressing key global challenges. The new millennium encouraged strategic partnerships to promote activities of international cooperation and compromise on issues with a heavy scientific input and global concern, such as environmental degradation, hygiene & sanitation, biosafety etc. This involved even the development of strategic scientific relations between historical or potential rival countries or blocs: especially between the West and former Soviet Union countries, as a way to promote scientific cooperation to the extent that it could hedge against diplomatic failures and reduce the potential for conflict.

At first glance, scientists and diplomats are not obvious companions, because science is a quest for truth and diplomacy is an honest act of lying abroad for the good of one’s country. Regardless, science diplomacy is gaining tract worldwide. The unambiguous reality of human civilization is that we now are globally interconnected. Pakistan being a major player in regional as well as global activities immensely needs to exploit the vacant area of diplomacy: use science in and for diplomacy, and do diplomacy for science. We need to train our scientists to engage in this cause of scientific connectivity to play their role in local-global applications of science. The journey to international relations through science can begin through communicating science to own masses. The ministry of science & technology needs to inspire and fund the projects that flourish love of science in young energetic academicians and students. Science has to be a way of life. In the words of Brian Greene: a string theorist “Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive and reliable a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional.”