Unlocking Potential Of Science And Technology Through Diplomacy

May 18th, 2011 | by MuslimScience
Unlocking Potential Of Science And Technology Through Diplomacy

By Soraya Jamal

Published at Burnama on May 18, 2011 16:43 PM
KUALA LUMPUR, May 18(Bernama) — When United States President Barack Obama made his first major attempt to improve US relations with the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009, he said that one of the enabling tools was science and technology.

In his speech, he called for “partnership” with the Muslim world, after which the United States began a series of activities to enhance science and technology collaboration around the globe from Morocco to Malaysia.

But the concept of ‘science diplomacy’ is not new. For example, the scientific community was instrumental in facilitating US-Soviet dialogue during the geopolitical tensions of the Cold War era.

The role of science diplomacy is an emerging area and it is important how we position ourselves internationally, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid said.

Science, technology and innovation are vital in solving many challenges confronting us today.

A lot of urgent global problems, such as climate change, global warming, nuclear technology, pollution and renewable energy, have no boundaries and have a diplomatic angle to them as well.


Through science diplomacy, cooperation can be an important tool to improve international relations, rebuild trust and promote mutual understanding.

A lot of potential can be unlocked in a responsible and sustainable manner through scientific technology and knowledge sharing.

As a country, Malaysia has long recognised the importance of facilitating international scientific cooperation and access to its benefits.

During the earlier days, we called for the opening of Antarctica as a “common heritage for mankind,” Zakri explained.

“There will be many areas that can benefit from science diplomacy, especially among the 17-mega diverse countries in the world. With abundant resources, we have a role to play,” he added.


The establishment of the Global Science and Innovation Advisory (GSIAC) for Malaysia in New York is deemed essential for improving Malaysia’s capabilities in science and technology.

While science diplomacy follows a more formal governmental route between Putrajaya and Washington, the GSIAC can assist in strengthening interest and aspirations, said Zakri.

The GSIAC complements the government’s efforts towards creating a high-income economy, as well as benchmarking Malaysia’s ranking and competitiveness in science and innovation.

The GSIAC, which consists of selected members from Malaysia and the renowned New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) President’s Council Members, held its first meeting in New York on Tuesday. It was chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

High-powered council members, including Nobel Laureates, ministers, experts, corporate leaders, academia and economists, will advice on Malaysia’s aspirations of becoming a high-income country through wealth creation, as well as on promoting the well-being of society.

Zakri said that the council would provide scientific and technical advice, assistance in the development of policies, as well as examine the components of science that can contribute to the country.

The joint-secretariat of the GSIAC, along with the NYAS, would help develop increasingly sophisticated products, as well as increase the number of products from Malaysia in the global markets.

It would also promote Malaysia as a science and innovation destination rather than as a manufacturing base, he noted.


Zakri said that it is the nature of the NYAS, with its interesting mix of policy makers, captains of industry and researchers, which makes it exactly the organisation that Malaysia needs.

It is a very established organisation, and not an elitist society to which membership is restricted. “We have CEOs of multinationals interacting with Nobel laureates. That’s the advantage and added value of the council. The availability of these people makes it the ideal location,” Zakri pointed out.

It also answers the question of why Malaysia is trying to establish links with an institute in New York.

“It is the centre of the world for science and technology and has access all different viewpoints. The aim is to tap abilities and it is not restricted to US experts only. There are experts from India, China, Russia, Korea and the UK. In terms of cost, it might be cheaper because several of these people are based in New York,” he said.

He added that anything discussed would contribute to a positive outlook in promoting diplomacy through science.

“Some of the approaches in science could contribute to better diplomacy. Even the involvement of scientists would promote better relations between countries,” he said.

The presence of Dr Rita Colwell, Obama’s Special Science Envoy to South Asia and Southeast Asia, would go a long way in promoting bilateral relations.

Malaysia is not only well positioned to be the forerunner of OIC countries but is also capable of tapping scientific advances available in America to realise the aspirations of the New Economic Model.


The GSIAC could be the ideal base to promote and link entities in Malaysia with suitable international counterparts, which could be universities or companies with headquarters in New York.

There are a number of products and research findings that are ready to be commercialised. Utilising resources from the country can help facilitate and increase the level of opportunities for Malaysian products on the global market.

Judging from the initial enthusiasm, a meaningful project can be realised in the near future, possibly from North America.

“Some North Americans already have large projects here, so they understand what we can offer them,” Zakri said.

“Our advantage is that we already have plans and have laid out the process. The council members would add value to the goals we decide,” he noted.

“We are very optimistic and bullish that this will be a very constructive pursuit,” he added.




Leave a Reply