“soft power.” Youssef noted that one of the international science community’s main objectives, trust building, is not compatible with the idea of soft power. According to her, even though science diplomacy promises to rise above conflict, the term raises serious ideological questions and practical challenges. Such challenges are apparent in the Middle East, where U.S. policies evoke doubts about true intentions. John Boright, executive director for international affairs for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), cautioned against implying that potentially divisive national agendas are being pursued when using the term “science diplomacy,” in cases where the motivation is simply advancing science, addressing common problems, and building personal relationships. Scientific cooperation and exchanges between the United States and Iran were cited as an example of cases in which the label science diplomacy could affect scientific counterparts negatively.

Clarity and transparency are important. The kinds of things many of us are doing can help in improving people’s lives. But it is not always clear that it is a good idea to label it “diplomacy.”

John Boright, Executive Director, International Affairs, U.S. NAS

Diplomacy is also seen as the science or art of avoiding difficulties and successfully engaging in a dialogue with others; thus, it is not surprising that many workshop participants regarded science diplomacy as a useful means of global engagement. As Vaughan Turekian stated, science is a good way to engage with people from other countries, because it provides a common language, is collaborative, addresses major societal challenges, and is based on common methods (peer review, for example). But participants noted that, at the same time, global scientific engagement, if called diplomacy, can be problematic for many U.S. governmental agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), which have mandates to advance science—but not foreign policy. Therefore, there are advantages to using the simple, and accurate, label of advancing science through international cooperation.

Norman Neureiter, first science and technology advisor to the U.S. secretary of state, warned against defining science diplomacy exclusively by the words science and diplomacy together. Instead, it is a more complex concept and can be understood better by considering examples. Several examples from Neureiter’s and others’ extensive experience in international engagement are mentioned in the section “What Has Been Done with Science Diplomacy?” in this chapter.

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