The Time for Science Diplomacy Is Now. This Is the Time for Humboldtians.

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Alexander von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer whose primary focus was on scientific exploration and research.

Alexander von Humboldt was also a science diplomat whose work had significant international implications. He fostered international cooperation through collaborations with scientists and scholars in the countries he visited and established political connections and exchanged knowledge across borders. Humboldt’s insights profoundly influenced political decisions related to trade, agriculture, and environmental conservation and his work embodies current definitions of science diplomacy, such as that of Nina V. Federoff, former Science and Technology Advisor to the US Secretary of State:

Science diplomacy is the use of scientific collaborations among nations to address the common problems facing […] humanity and to build constructive international partnerships.

Today, science diplomacy is more important than ever. Our societies face challenges that affect everyone on the planet—global warming, public health, and international security, to name just a few. At the same time, rhetoric—and policies—on de-globalization, re-nationalization, and de-coupling have entered the political and societal mainstreams. Such “de-s” and “re-s” are poison for scientific progress. After all, climate change does not stop at the border between a democracy and an autocracy, and viruses do not care about the political views of their hosts. If we want to tackle global challenges, we cannot afford to think and act in regional spheres.

Our world needs leaders who drive scientific exchange and research collaboration across borders, and across sectors, be they in academia, the private sector or non-profit sphere, or the public or philanthropic sectors. We need science diplomats, and we have many in our global network—30,000 Humboldtians. When it comes to science diplomacy, Humboldtians have been there, done that. In addition to being experts in their relevant fields, they all are experienced practitioners of international exchange and collaboration.

The mission of American Friends of AvH is to cultivate the network within the network, that is, the community of US-based Humboldtians. We aim to engage these almost 6,000 brilliant minds and influential voices as much as possible. The list of our activities since the beginning of this year keeps growing. We have engaged on topics such as AI, diversity, equity, and inclusion, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the future of US-Chinese science and research exchange, cancer research, and so on. Our approach is always transatlantic, our perspective is always global.

We are also building strategic partnerships with other like-minded organizations to further elevate our brand recognition and impact on both sides of the Atlantic. Since I began outreach efforts around the United States, we have received substantial interest from potential partners. This is largely due to the fact that we bring a great asset to any partnership—our network of almost 6,000 Humboldtians. This is a network that extends across the United States–beyond the beltway, between the coasts, from the North to the South.

American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation aspires to be a driving force in international science and research exchange and collaboration. To achieve this, we rely on our Humboldtians as experts, speakers, co-developers, advisors, and partners—and as science diplomats.

Please get in touch if you would like to work with us in tackling the most urgent global challenges of today. We look forward to sharing more about our upcoming programs and initiatives. Exciting things are on the horizon, such as programs on sustainable AI, neuroscience and robotics, historical memory in international relations, fake news and deteriorating trust in science, and more. Next spring, we plan to co-shape the Johns Hopkins University Science Diplomacy Summit 2024 in Washington, DC. We invite you to collaborate with us on that, and on all our other programs. Because the time for science diplomacy is now. And this is the time for US Humboldtians to shine.


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