Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Scientific Diplomacy Has Not Gone Into Self-Isolation

12/05/2020 17:02

Traditional forms of scientific diplomacy are organizing and conducting various types of discussions. Photo from the site:

Krasnova Gulnara Amangeldinovna, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Principal Research Scientist of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Head of the International Development and Partnership Committee of the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly.

The cancellation in February 2020 of the Order of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation (the Ministry) dated February 11, 2019 No. 1-dsp “On approval of recommendations on interaction with state authorities of foreign States, international and foreign organizations and acceptance of foreign citizens in the territorial bodies and organizations under the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation” by the new Minister of Science and Higher Education of Russia V. Falkov caused a positive reaction in the scientific and educational community.

Reflecting on the issuance/repeal of this Order and the possibility of other restrictions on contacts between Russian and foreign scientists in the future, it seems that their reason is the interpretation ambiguity of the “scientific diplomacy” in concept of Russian practice and science, which, as an independent direction of foreign policy, has appeared relatively recently.

The definition of scientific diplomacy was first given in the Concept of International Scientific and Technical Cooperation (ISTC) of the Russian Federation, approved by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of December 1, 2016 No. 642, namely, scientific diplomacy  - “a special form of international scientific and technical cooperation related to public diplomacy, which is a system of interaction between scientists, research teams, organizations that perform research and development, and related activities of authorities aimed at the development of international relations, taking into account the interests of the Russian Federation, the development of dialogue of the scientific and technical community and improving mutual understanding between peoples.”

Thus, the role of Russian scientific diplomacy in a difficult geopolitical situation, the extension and escalation of sanctions against Russia with negative consequences for its image abroad and the importance of the contribution of Russian scientific research and its share in the global scientific space were noted. At the same time, there is a high level of public confidence in scientists, high professional ethics of the scientific community, scientific understanding of the scale of global threats and challenges, their professional resistance to ideological propaganda and fake news.

Of course, with the globalization and internationalization of science, scientists around the world are becoming increasingly involved in international communication processes, and assessment of efficiency of scientific activity measured by data on the number of publications and the citation received from international scientific citation databases Web of Science and Scopus; the amount of funding and number of grants from international sources.

The main task of scientific diplomacy in the current context is to establish additional communication channels and sources of information with the help of scientists. Traditional forms of scientific diplomacy are: organizing and conducting events, various types of discussions, research and development of recommendations with the participation of scientists; providing information and analytical support for the negotiation process; inviting leading foreign researchers and promising young scientists to work and study in Russia; informing foreign partners about the activities of national educational and scientific organizations; spreading the results and achievements of Russian science; implementing joint international projects and publishing joint scientific articles, monographs, and statements.

In General, the positive role of scientific diplomacy is noted by both political elites and the scientific community. At the same time, the development of Russian scientific diplomacy is hindered by the lack of well-developed mechanisms, forms and tools for its implementation, as well as the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies, both language and digital, and in the field of scientific diplomacy, among representatives of the scientific community and the problem of “brain drain”.

A particularly vulnerable age group in this context is young scientists, who at the initial stage of their scientific career face a number of problems and restrictions, which were described in detail in the report of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation on the results of the expert - analytical event “Analysis of the implementation of state support measures for young Russian scientists in 2016-2017 and the expired period of 2018”. All these problems and limitations, of course, have an impact on the development of scientific careers and lead to a loss of interest in scientific activities among young scientists and/or “brain drain”.

Although the issues of attracting young scientists to scientific diplomacy were repeatedly raised in various discussions by representatives of the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC, RFFI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, and the Concept of International Scientific and Technical Cooperation of the Russian Federation in paragraph 26, as activities to enhance scientific diplomacy of the Russian Federation, include “support for international youth scientific diplomacy, participation of Russian scientific youth in global associations of young scientists, support for Russian initiatives to form such associations”, the mechanisms for supporting youth scientific diplomacy in the context of international scientific and technical cooperation and the country's foreign policy goals have not been yet formulated.

At the same time, Russian young scientists, in my opinion, are the most promising potential participants in active scientific diplomacy, since 1) this age category of scientists is the most oriented and ready to interact in a virtual environment, due to the use of digital technologies from birth, and the possession of developed digital competencies (“digital diplomacy”); 2) it is the most mobile, as evidenced by international and national statistics (academic mobility increases with the level of education); 3) has a higher level of language competence in comparison with other age groups of scientists; 4) is able and ready to interact with their foreign colleagues from the same age category (various public opinion studies in foreign countries show a higher share of positive attitude to Russia among young people).

If we consider state support of youth science diplomacy from a position of participation of young scientists in international scientific and technical collaboration for realization of the national goals of Russia, it is absolutely necessary to increase the level of knowledge, skills and abilities of young Russian scientists in the field of international scientific and technological cooperation and science diplomacy, to assist in disseminating the results and achievements of Russian young scientists.

At the same time, regular research on the intellectual migration of highly qualified specialists from Russia abroad (“brain drain”), obviously, should be considered from the position of strengthening social policies to support young scientists: employment, wages, housing, and not scientific diplomacy.