Chapter 22

Science diplomacy as an element of foreign policy



Jonas and I decided to take the opportunity to visit the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute). Ever since the Agreement and Protocol on Cooperation in Astrophysics was signed in 1979, its observatories and institutions have made up the European Northern Observatory, involving over sixty institutions from nineteen countries.

Spain’s science diplomacy focuses on promoting educational and scientific cooperation.

The Embassies of Spain support Spanish scientists living overseas.

During our trip, we met a resident researcher who told us how hard the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs had worked in recent years to encourage our embassies to become more involved in the field of science diplomacy and to seek out new forms of collaboration.

In cooperation with the Fundación Española de Ciencia y Tecnología – FECYT (the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology), scientific consultants are now working in the embassies, particularly in countries where there are Associations of Spanish Scientists Abroad.  And as you can see, the European Northern Observatory is an example of how there is a long history in Spain of forging bonds of international collaboration to promote the development of science.

Marca España places great importance on promoting Spanish science in order to give visibility to the innovation of its companies and to national talent.

To give you an idea of the present state of science and innovation in Spain, you may find the website of Marca España and the Report on Diplomatic Science, Technology and Innovation to be useful.

01_POSTS_#T210_02Science diplomacy is more important than ever today, due to several factors such as the need for contribution to resolve global problems such as climate change, pandemics, natural disasters or cyber security; to resolve and improve food security, water treatment and purification, health and hygiene, the scarcity of energy; or promote cooperation and harmony in international relations.

International participation in projects for the development of infrastructures creates a favourable framework for the competitiveness of Spanish companies overseas.

The European Regional Development Fund – ERDF – were fundamental to the construction of the GTC.

During our visit we were able to see the imposing Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC), on the island of La Palma, from which important observations have been made. This is a Spanish initiative led by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands) – IAC with the support of the State and the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands. Mexico also participated in this project, through the Instituto de Astronomía de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Institute of Astronomy of the National Autonomous University of Mexico) – IA-UNAM and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics) – INAOE, as did the United States, through the University of Florida.

01_POSTS_#T210_03It has been a great experience to discover this area of science which you all know I like so much, and to introduce Jonas to another part of my country. We enjoyed the sun, the sea, the volcanic landscapes and the exuberant nature that abounds in these islands.