Interpretations of “diplomacy for science” by Russian scholars and diplomats

Interpretations of “diplomacy for science” by Russian scholars and diplomats

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2022.02.09

For citation:

Raynkhardt R.O., Panov A.N. Interpretations of “diplomacy for science” by Russian scholars and diplomats. – Polis. Political Studies. 2022. No. 2. P. 115-129. (In Russ.).

The article was prepared in the framework of the MGIMO grant for young researchers under the supervision of doctoral or postdoctoral fellows (project “New Forms and Methods of Diplomacy under Pandemic Conditions” of the XI MGIMO Young Researchers’ Contest “Scientific Idea”).


The article concerns the role of ‘diplomacy for science’ as a science diplomacy track facilitating international scientific and technical cooperation. The authors argue that diplomatic practices used to support the said cooperation are conducted at two levels. The macro-level features intergovernmental and interstate cooperation, such as making international agreements on scientific and technical cooperation, while at the micro-level individual scholars or scientific groups are supported by diplomats in their relations with foreign partners. However, there are issues jeopardizing cooperation between diplomats and scientists, and in order to gain insight into the nature of these problems and suggest ways to rectify the situation and so alleviate the struggle of both sides, the authors have conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with representatives of Russian-speaking academia and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The scientists interviewed have reported legal issues, as well as a lack of consular and visa information, as factors negatively affecting their decision to go abroad for working purposes; the so-called research diaspora is poorly consolidated, subverting efforts to coordinate Russian-speaking researchers outside Russia. The diplomats expressed regret over the absence of formal definitions for such terms as ‘researcher’ and ‘research diaspora’ which effectively hinders the identification of those eligible for diplomatic and consular support within the ‘diplomacy for science’ framework. The support itself is provided unevenly across Russian diplomatic establishments abroad, being dependent on the staffing situation and the Ambassador’s as well as senior diplomats’ personal interest in the matter. At the same time, both scholars and diplomats indicated difficulties in communicating with each other, caused by among other reasons a sense of mutual distrust. Based on the empirical data collected and analyzed, the authors have formulated a number of recommendations for decision-makers to bolster the country’s science diplomacy effort. To enhance consular and visa support, it is suggested that travel for the purposes of scientific exchange be designated as an independent visa category and ‘Scientist IDs’ introduced (similarly to ‘Fan IDs’). To engage more with the research diaspora, it is advisable to define what categories of researchers comprise the said group and offer them eased rules of entry and naturalization. Restarting the existing Internet resources related to scientific exchange alongside launching a specialized online platform integrating such sources would serve to improve the information coverage of Russian science diplomacy. 

science diplomacy, diplomacy for science, international scientific and technical cooperation, digital diplomacy, research diaspora, overseas compatriots, scientific policy.


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Content No. 2, 2022

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