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See detailExploring the Institutionalisation of Science Diplomacy: A Comparison of German and Swiss Science and Innovation Centres
Epping, Elisabeth UL

Doctoral thesis (2022)

This thesis explains and investigates the development and the institutionalisation of Science and Innovation Centres (SICs) as being distinct instruments of science diplomacy. SICs are a unique and ... [more ▼]

This thesis explains and investigates the development and the institutionalisation of Science and Innovation Centres (SICs) as being distinct instruments of science diplomacy. SICs are a unique and underexplored instrument in the science diplomacy toolbox and they are increasingly being adopted by highly innovative countries. This research responds to a growing interest in the field. Science diplomacy is commonly understood as a distinct governmental approach that mobilises science for wider foreign policy goals, such as improving international relations. However, science diplomacy discourse is characterised by a weak empirical basis and driven by normative perspectives. This research responds to these shortcomings and aims to lift the smokescreen of science diplomacy by providing an insight into its governance while also establishing a distinctly actor-centred perspective. In order to achieve this, two distinct SICs, Germany’s Deutsche Wissenschafts- und Innovationshäuser (DWIH) and Switzerland’s Swissnex are closely analysed in an original comparative and longitudinal study. While SICs are just one instrument in the governmental toolbox for promoting international collaboration and competition, they are distinct due to their holistic set- up and their role as a nucleus for the wider research and innovation system they represent. Moreover, SICs appear to have the potential to create a significant impact, despite their limited financial resources. This thesis takes a historical development perspective to outline how these two SICs were designed as well as their gradual development and institutionalisation. The thesis further probes why actors participate in SICs by unpacking their differing rationales, developing a distinctly actor-centred perspective on science diplomacy. This study has been designed in an inductive and exploratory way to account for the novelty of the topic; the research findings are based on the analysis of 41 interviews and a substantial collection of documents. The study finds evidence that SICs developed as a response to wider societal trends, although these trends differed for the two case studies. Moreover, the development of SICs has been characterised by aspects such as timing, contingency and critical junctures. SICs are inextricably connected to their national contexts and mirror distinct system characteristics, such as governance arrangements or degree of actor involvement. These aspects were also seen as explaining the exact shape that SICs take. Furthermore, this study finds evidence of an appropriation of SICs by key actors, in line with their organisational interests. In the case of the DWIH, this impacted and even limited its (potential) design and ways of operating. However, the analysis of SICs’ appropriation also revealed a distinct sense of collectivity, which developed among actors in the national research and innovation ecosystem due to this joint instrument. The research findings reaffirm that science diplomacy is clearly driven by national interests, while further highlighting that the notion of science diplomacy and its governance (actors, rationales and instruments) can only be fully understood by analysing the national context. [less ▲]

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