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Can science build bridges between the nations of the world? At least that is the hope behind the term Science Diplomacy. Science diplomacy means scientific expertise requested by politicians as well as diplomatic efforts for international scientific cooperation. But even if scientific collaborations only lead to an improvement in international relations in the second step, this is a success in terms of science diplomacy.

One passionate advocate of such large collaborations is Professor Felicitas Pauss, particle physicist at ETH Zurich and formerly Head of International Relations at CERN. In 2010 she said in an interview: "We have employees from all over the world and I can live out my enthusiasm for the fact that scientific language and scientific cooperation go beyond political boundaries."

With a large research facility like CERN, in which around 3,000 scientists from 200 institutes in 40 countries are involved in the CMS project alone, one can actually speak of a multinational exchange in two directions, because in addition to the local staff and the permanent member states there are so-called International Cooperation Agreements and, according to Prof. Pauss, more than 10,000 scientists from 70 countries benefit from this because they can use the scientific facilities for their research.

It goes without saying that the establishment of such a large-scale research facility requires innumerable political negotiations and diplomatic efforts. “Getting a binding long-term financial commitment from so many nations is a great challenge. It took more than 20 years from the first concept to the commissioning of the LHC particle accelerator in 2008 ”, says Prof. Pauss. The founding meeting was even more than 60 years ago: It took place in 1954.

Live connection to CERN with General Director Fabiola Gianotti and colleagues at this year's LNLM - they discussed on the podium Steven Chu, David Gross, Takaaki Kajita and Carlo Rubbia on the subject "Glimpses Beyond the Standard Model ", moderated by Felicitas Pauss.

After the Second World War, the formerly hostile nations had to resume the broken scientific relations - and Germany had to overcome its complete isolation from the global scientific community. In the USA, John F. Kennedy reached a corresponding cooperation agreement with Japan in 1961.

In Germany, the two Lindau doctors, Dr. In 1951, Franz Karl Hein and Prof. Gustav Parade came up with the idea of ​​bringing together Nobel Prize winners from the scientific disciplines of chemistry, physics and medicine and found Count Lennart Bernadotte to be an ideal sponsor and host. Over the years, the idea has been expanded: The invitation to young scientists from all over the world to apply to participate was added and contributed significantly to bringing the motto of the conferences "Educate, Inspire, Connect" to life. The impetus of the meetings was particularly noticeable last year when a majority of the Nobel Prize winners present signed the “Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change”.

Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, here signing the Mainau Declaration on Climate Change, recently published an article speaking out against nuclear weapons. Photo: Ch. Flemming / Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) was also re-established in Bonn at the beginning of the 1950s. The DAAD is now one of the largest funding organizations for the international exchange of academics worldwide. He also runs the very popular European Union Erasmus program. This academic international understanding made Germany more cosmopolitan and efficient again, and the same applies to its partner organizations in the world.

Science diplomacy is an established term in the USA and is used as a figurehead for modern politics. The term gained some popularity under Barack Obama's leadership. Obama's efforts at the time of the rising Arab Spring to bring the American scientific community and scientists from predominantly Muslim countries closer together through scientific and technical innovations are an example of this. In the face of today's political situation, it hurts to look back on such hopeful expectations. Nobel laureate Peter Agre had also described the efforts of the US government in an article, but at the same time warned that the efforts had to be increased even further.

Photo: Ch. Flemming / Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

However, Age's words about Science Diplomacy as he understands them are timeless:

"Science is a wide-ranging effort that naturally crosses borders, and so scientist-to-scientist collaboration can promote goodwill at the grass roots."

And beyond current political events, there is an unbeatable argument for science diplomacy - the complex global problems and conflicts can only be solved with a global approach, and science is predestined for this. No medical research team only aims to heal the sick in their own country, and what does 'own country' mean when you have found your place in a team far away from your country of origin?

The international space station ISS, a joint project of the US American NASA, the Russian space agency Roskosmos, the European space agency ESA and the space agencies of Canada and Japan is positively taken and always good for the relevant headlines. The fact that it is still thin diplomatic ice that is being acted on was shown by the discussions, fueled by the conflict in eastern Ukraine, about an end to the operation of the ISS, which, however, have been resolved for the time being. In addition, it was not possible for China to participate in the development and operation - due to a veto by the USA.
One project, the structural materialization of which did not get off the ground for years due to political entanglements, is the large-scale fusion research project ITER in France. Only an internal report that was made public marked the turning point. Here the builders are the EU, Russia, the USA, China, Japan, India and South Korea. And of course it was national interests in the sense of contract awards that brought the company to the verge of failure.

Maintaining the difficult balance between national interests and investing in a peaceful community of states is the great challenge for everyone involved. Given the worrying nationalist currents and government policies of some countries, many achievements that we have taken for granted are at stake again.