There’s an interesting call in Foreign Policy for a greater use of American scientists in foreign policy. By the authors’ definition of science diplomacy – “scientific cooperation and engagement with the explicit intent of building positive relationships with foreign governments and societies” – the State Department is not nearly doing as much as it could. The more specific recommendations are nothing particularly new, though it is worth noting that the article has a rare use of H-1B visas outside of an economic competitiveness context.
Unfortunately, the authors failed to address what steps the State Department has taken over the last ten years to improve its efforts in using science and scientists to support its policy objectives. I think the authors’ criticisms are valid. But to recommend the appoinment of a senior ambassador for science and technology cooperation without mentioning the existing science adviser to the Secretary of State is odd. Do the authors think the position isn’t working? Do they know it exists? I would hope so, as one of the people who held the position, Dr. Norm Neuriter, currently works for the AAAS, as does one of the authors. Do they have any comment on whether Senator Lugar’s bill creating science envoys would address their concerns? Not in this article. Clearly more debate and discussion on this issue would be worthwhile, just to see if everyone interested in the topic understands what’s currently going on.