New SciDEAL Program Enables Hands-On Experience in Science Diplomacy

The NSPN Science Diplomacy Exchange and Learning (SciDEAL) program was designed to teach NSPN members how science facilitates international cooperation to address global challenges. We caught up with SciDEAL Program Coordinator, Amrita Banerjee, to learn more about the program, how NSPN members can get involved, and plans for the future.

Tell us a bit about SciDEAL; what are the mission and main goals for the new program? 

The NSPN Science Diplomacy Exchange and Learning or SciDEAL program was created to help NSPN members understand how science can be used to address national and global challenges, build constructive international partnerships, and act as a tool for international cooperation. Through virtual, project-based collaborations, participants will learn from science diplomacy professionals at diverse institutions, contribute to the mission of the project sponsor, and develop resources for the public good.

What are the specific projects you’ll be recruiting for? Who should apply to be on a project team?

There are 4 project teams in the initial phase – 2 teams will work with science diplomacy organizations, DiploFoundation and SciDipGLOBAL, while the other 2 teams will work with science and technology offices at the Austrian embassy in Washington, D.C. and the UK consulate in Boston. The breadth of project types ranges from curriculum development to science diplomacy research to crafting policy recommendations for governmental stakeholders.

All NSPN members interested in developing a better understanding of the role of science and technology in international relations are encouraged to apply to SciDEAL. I encourage interested applicants to closely review the project descriptions, anticipated time investment, and recommended skills here. There will be multiple information sessions as well as Q&As with the project sponsors (details below) – I urge applicants to attend at least one of these to gain a better appreciation for what they can expect as a SciDEAL team member.

How will these projects benefit both NSPN members and the project hosts?

NSPN members will: (a) gain a stronger understanding of the practice of science diplomacy and the role of various stakeholders, (b) develop professional skills through immersive learning and interactions with diplomatic practitioners, and (c) begin to build a network of diplomatic professionals and thought-leaders. Our project hosts will: (a) benefit from the scientific expertise of NSPN’s early career scientists and (b) utilize the team’s project materials to advance their organization’s mission. The collaboration will also benefit the public, as teams utilize the project materials to bring science to both the “policy and dinner table.”

How did the SciDEAL program come to be?

NSPN’s broad mission is to train the next generation of science policy, communication, and diplomacy experts. The Science Diplomacy Committee was formed to expand NSPN’s scope to focus on science and technology policy in an international context. Since our inception, we have been publishing articles, hosting special topic webinars, and getting engaged with science diplomacy organizations. However, our committee recognized that no amount of scientific training or science diplomacy webinars would prepare us for a diplomatic environment. Moreover, despite our interest in “science diplomacy,” few of us fully appreciated the diversity of professions and breadth of work encompassed by the term. SciDEAL will enable members to get hands-on experience in the field of science diplomacy while bridging the gap in knowledge between our scientific training and aspirations of becoming a successful science diplomat.

What are your hopes for the future of SciDEAL?

My preliminary goal is to ensure that our initial teams have the proper support and guidance to be successful in their project assignments. Following a successful first phase, we will expand the program to work with additional organizations, institutions, embassies, and more. Therefore, I am continuing my outreach efforts to ensure that we constantly have new projects in the pipeline and continue providing interesting opportunities for our members. My goals also include leveraging our SciDEAL teams to create more science diplomacy curriculum, workshops, and trainings for NSPN and our partners; develop a diplomatic mentorship network with the support of our NSPN mentorship coordinators; and, ultimately, develop a repertoire of projects that allow our teams to understand how science diplomacy is carried out at different organizations (governmental and non-governmental), in the US and abroad, on a variety of topics related to solving global challenges. Certainly, my ultimate goal is that SciDEAL teams be able to have an actual impact on the public good through their science diplomacy efforts.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Our application is live and can be found on our SciDEAL website. We will be accepting applications until January 11th, 2021. Join us at our next SciDEAL Q&As to learn about the program and hear from our project sponsors (more information can be found on our website). Finally, come see us over at the Science Diplomacy Committee if you’re interested in learning more about the intersection of science and international relations.

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To learn more or to apply for the SciDEAL Program, visit the NSPN SciDEAL website.

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