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Diplomacy, Technology, and Virtual Intellectual Migration: Indispensable Nexus for Fostering Global Equity

Beverly Lindsay

University of California

And this nation’s [Indonesia] motto holds – Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, unity in diversity – which sounds pretty familiar to an American. In the United States we say E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. It’s the same idea. (Blinken, 2021a)

During the past decade plus, universities, government entities, and multiple organizations have initiated and/or expanded de jure policies and programs regarding the necessity of diversity and inclusion that can result in fostering equity (Lindsay, 2022).   Prominent illustrations are observed in individual universities, associations or consortiums of universities and professional bodies emphasizing diversity in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.  Many have appointed organizational administrators to promulgate diversity and inclusion (Alam, 2021; Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, 2021; Blinken, 2021b; Institute of Policy Studies, 2022; Kezar et al, 2021; League of University Research Universities, 2019)

In the meantime, the waves of alternative and/or new technological modes of interactions have increased drastically since the late 1990s and early 2000s.  SKYPE was an innovative real-time mode to communicate with educators and professionals throughout the world.  Recently, a colleague at an Association of American University (AAU) [the top 65 research universities in Canada and the United State] site and the author discussed the multiple dimensions of Zoom.   A younger graduate student inadvertently exclaimed, “you must be old!” when the AAU colleague cited previous meetings via SKYPE.  The student only knew of Zoom meetings and conferences.

Modern innovations in science and technology can accelerate exponentially.  Currently, the acknowledged start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020 has fostered Zoom and other technologies as prominent forms used for university instruction and research and professional communications by government organizations, corporations, and philanthropic entities.  Central to these modes of communication, that will be articulated, are interactive nexuses among diplomacy, evolving technologies, and virtual intellectual migration (Lindsay, 2021; Lindsay, 2022) that should foster equity at micro, meso, and macro sectors.

This article postulates the following elucidatory objectives and questions regarding the aforementioned nexuses, with special foci on comprehensive doctoral research universities. Pondering the following queries, based upon diplomacy and innovative technologies encompass the following.  1)  What are the constructs and manifestations of diplomacy and intellectual migration?  2)  What are the roles of science and technology in diplomacy as observed through government and philanthropic initiatives – even if not constantly labeled as dimensions of diplomacy? 3)  How are domestic and international universities preparing graduate students for diplomatic options? 4)  Via multiple processes and recommendations, how might diplomacy and evolving technologies be altered and further integrated to enhance virtual intellectual migration where the ongoing ultimate aim is enhancing global equity

Before delving into these queries, working perspectives of diversity, inclusion, and equity are articulated based the author’s applied policy research for over 30 years.   Diversity often includes multiple demographic characteristics ranging from ethnicities, races, languages, religions, genders, mental and physical disabilities, chronological ages, socioeconomic statuses, geographical regions, countries, and so forth.   In short, demographic aspects encompass how individuals and/or groups identify people.   Inclusion entails de jure and/or de facto, policies,  programs, and norms to integrally involve various demographic groups or regions in the formal and informal aspects of the raison d’être of the entities or organizations.    (Of course, it is lucidly acknowledged that inclusion is often not the reality).  In short, equity is founded upon the principles of fairness and justice for diverse demographic groups (Dewitte, 2018; Dorling, Danny & Gietel-Basten (2018); Kaufman, 2019; Lindsay and Justiz, 2001).

Concepts and Illustrations of Science and Technology in Diplomacy and for Intellectual Migration

Diplomacy, overall, initially entailed formal relations among nations, via their envoys (Burns, 2022; US Department of State, 2020; Leira, 2016; Roth and Arndt, 1986).  Moving into the 20th Century and early 21st Century, diplomacy became more urgent, due to geopolitical, economic, political, and humanitarian conditions.  Governmental economic and technical assistance, information dissemination, cultural and educational people-to-people exchanges – for example, the Fulbright program that began in 1946 – became expanded aspects of diplomacy.  Simultaneously, both formal government and non-governmental forms of engagements expanded to encompass multi-track diplomacy by: universities, corporations, faith and religious institutions, private citizens, and communication via various modes.  In short, science diplomacy is a substantial component of these multiple tracks (Diamond and McDonald, 1991; Arndt, 2007; Colglazier, 2018; Lindsay, 2021).

The Royal Society (located in London) when working with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), declares that an overarching perspective of science diplomacy is: “the use of science as a way to contribute to foreign policy objectives” (Royal Society, 2010).   However, this can also be used as an umbrella term to describe a number of formal or informal technical, research-based and academic exchanges (Hoy, 2019). While not a new concept, the term became part of the international affairs lexicon in the early part of the 21st century (Barston, 2017; Sharp, 2016). It was coined by academicians as a way to describe the need for new strategic partnerships at the macro country level to promote international cooperation and compromise on issues of global concern (Bjola, 2018; Constantinou & Sharp, 2016; Vikhlyaev, 2005).  Of course, it is recognized that non-diplomatic technological transfer occurs.

The immediacy of being able to develop specific in-country research and communicate, in both real and delayed time, with similar undertakings in multiple domestic and international venues is the import of virtual intellectual migration.  Unlike the term “traditional” intellectual migration, coined during the World War II timeframe (when professional refugees escaped Europe), there is no physical movement (Lindsay, 1985).  Nor does intellectual migration refer to highly skilled professionals who move from one country to another (Fleming & Bailyn, 1969), as appears with ongoing cases of Afghanistan and Ukrainian refugee professionals fleeing to multiple nations.    While travel and onsite meetings and field research are still viable, the development of diplomatic policies and plans are not solely dependent upon in-country visits as was customary into the early 2000s. In short, virtual intellectual migration consists of ideas, concepts, programs, assessments, and natural and social science paradigms that are based upon rapid modes of communication among universities and nations wherein challenges are addressed and solutions posited by mutual participants (Lindsay, 2021; Lindsay 2022).

The exceedingly critical development and clinical testing of several versions of a vaccine for COVID-19 is an ongoing example of intellectual migration, i.e., among scientists and test subjects in developed and emerging nations.   Previously, HIV/AIDS largely ravaged youth and middle age populations throughout the world.  During that period, roughly from the 1980s into the 2020s educational technological instructions and research were being explored and developed, e.g., television lectures, disks, radio, multiple telephone lines, SKYPE, and Zoom, (Lindsay & Moses, 2020) to mitigate effects of HIV/AIDS and continue to prepare current and future generations of students and professionals.

Science and Technology in Diplomacy and Virtual Intellectual Migration by Government and Philanthropic Organizations

The Fulbright program, commenced in 1946, is an American public diplomacy flagship option for educators writ large (Bureau of Education and Culture, 2021).   Various emerging and middle-income countries are moving toward ensuring that their university graduates and faculty are able to participate fully in global natural and social science professional and research communities. Via SKYPE and Zoom technology (launched respectively in 2003 and 2013), a Fulbrighter connected the dean of education and human sciences with executive offices in Washington, DC.  The Indonesian university (among that nation’s top 20 offering undergraduate, doctoral, and professional degrees) planned to establish the process of international accreditation. Interestingly, there was extensive attention to policies regarding research and publications in international journals to include science/STEM education. Moreover, the Fulbrighter team-taught research methods to the medical faculty for residential and virtual presentations at national and international medical seminars and conferences to foster up-to-date research and applications in Indonesia – evident forms of science in diplomacy in international venues that could foster public education and health equity.

During a present timeframe, the Ford Foundation, one of the world’s foremost philanthropic bodies, funds a range of programs in domestic sites and emerging countries. For example, the Ford Foundation sponsored a multi-year Women and University Leadership Institute in conflict, post-conflict, and transitional societies, situated at University of California sites.  Surprisingly, nearly 50 % of the women participants (from Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, and the United States) were directly in STEM fields or taught STEM students. A primary technological outcome is the creation of an online network for cooperative and interactive endeavors continuing after the Ford Institutes.  Such flow of real-time information is particularly beneficial for universities in developing and emerging nations where domestic information can be limited, especially after coup d etats, pandemics, and massive natural disasters.    In particular, an African biochemist Institute participant has responsibility for coordinating national screening for COVID-19, whereby she engages in Zoom meetings with World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations, Southern African Development Community (SADEC) and the Africa Union (AU) on COVID-19 statistics and possible mitigation enterprises.  Certainly, these are science in diplomacy initiatives and virtual intellectual migration – among the international member states – that can facilitate health equity.

University Graduate Programs and Science and Technology in Diplomacy for Virtual Intellectual Migration

Present-day graduate students, emerging faculty, diplomats, and ambassadors are often attuned to the latest online technological platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Messaging, Wikis, Twitter, and the like.  These current technological mechanisms are evident;  and others will evolve as creativity flows.   Hundreds of domestic and international universities have linkages with aspirant and/or peer institutions (American Association of Universities, 2021; Association of Public & Land Grant Universities, 2021).  Interestingly, American Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Greenfield Thomas, has publicly commented on valuable information obtained from online sources such as Twitter and TikTok (Greenfield-Thomas, 2021) that are beneficial for diplomats – although until very recently such sources were often discounted.   For doctoral and professional degree students, an essential requirement necessitates their solid research on specific topics.  For instance, an American doctoral student created a multi-platform rap poem presentation and then shared her poetic research findings on climate change and desertification at a 2021 international conference where hundreds viewed her production.  She artistically evinced the nexuses among science and technology in diplomacy and intellectual migration – while linking climate change as an aspect of STEM and the humanities.

A relative newer component of natural and social sciences and business is blockchain. With reference to university education, blockchain is an interdisciplinary approach that is somewhat similar to an “old-fashion” matrix. Step-by step alternatives and procedures characterize the technological modes where multiple actors can participate simultaneously or in delayed times at sites in various geographical regions.  University courses and certificates on blockchain are recent developments that are useful in decision-making (American Council on Education, 2021; Sodero, 2021) in negotiations involving diplomacy.

Moreover, the level of emerging technology can be examined in terms of whether portrayed in micro-level specific graduate courses or via macro level institutional and international cooperatives.   For instance, avatars and three-dimensional portraits are often beamed to recreate concerts and presentations in multiple venues.  Universities in some emerging nations are employing avatars as teaching and research methods for students and faculty in medical colleges.  Such technology is in lieu of actual clinical practicums since many students and faculty are unable to travel to western nations to engage in onsite state of the art training.  These types of technologies will continue to alter and evolve that facilitate the simultaneous presence of science in diplomacy and intellectual migration.  In such cases, cooperative geopolitical relations could be evident by the integration of diplomacy and virtual intellectual migration, buttressed by multiple forms of technology – thereby creating forms of global equity.

While there are numerous benefits for emerging technologies, we must note there are challenges and problems.  For instance, aspects of artificial intelligence and three-dimensional technology concern applications such as deepfakes (Groll & McKinnon, 2019; Harwell, 2019).  Deepfakes and fictitious platforms can affect safety and security, wherein false images of people and events can be presented as realities resulting in misdiagnosis of patients, public health anxieties, inaccurate elections publications, and even start social conflict and civil wars due to invalid educational material (Fauci, 2022; Lindsay, 2022).  In the meantime, universities and government entities can engage in alternative research to ascertain invalid information and communicate accurate circumstances during diplomatic engagements via virtual intellectual migration, so global equity is fostered. 

Synthesizing and Integrating Critical Perspectives and Recommendations for Creative Nexuses

Undoubtedly, research university faculty and graduates will continue to be at the forefront of intellectual migration, and science and emerging technology in diplomacy.  Hence, I articulate logistical and policy processes and recommendations to foster bedrock nexuses to enhance contemporary and future cooperative international affairs.  Expanded knowledge via intellectual migration can thus contribute to equity in micro, meso, and macro dimensions.

To reiterate, science in diplomacy has become an increasingly important strategy in international affairs via transnational agreements.  The use of science as a strategic tool provides a policy framework for international relations that incorporates natural and social sciences for mutual societal benefits. The transformation of global science concerns (e.g., thwarting climate change and desertification) can be facilitated through nexuses among diplomacy, evolving technology, and intellectual migration.   Hence, cogitate on the following types of perspectives and recommendations.

First, as discussed, doctoral students and emerging faculty are using evolving modes of technology for their research.  These creative undertakings should be encouraged.  For example, via domestic and international university partnerships, individual departments can cooperatively create apps and wikis for joint accessible research.  Certainly, faculty who have been awarded Fulbrights and other federal and philanthropic grants can continue, as demonstrated by the Ford Foundation Women’s Leadership Institute that has significant percentages of women scientists.  Scholarly and policy engagements are ongoing with women professionals on multiple continents via Fulbrights and Ford Foundation grants. Another illustration concerns faculty with joint appointments in sciences and university medical schools, who periodically journey on humanitarian missions in developing countries.  Subsequent research can entail mitigations after earthquakes and tsunamis via refined avatars, three-dimensional portrays, and geological paradigms.

Second, current and future technology lends itself to bypassing some older technological devices among western and developing nations.   Various African and South American educational sites skipped landline telephones and began with mobile devices utilized for instruction.  A challenge and an opportunity will be moving current tools to the next phases so future G-6 or G-7 cell phones and tablets, for instance, can undertake even more functions – especially in nations where the physical infrastructures are unreliable.

Third, while corporate and university partnerships exist in a range of doctoral research universities, interdisciplinary creations should be fostered.  Sciences and STEM may include aspects of social sciences and humanities such as archaeology and human development.  Thus, STEAM [Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics] should be integrated.  Moreover, language acquisitions research, in humanities and childhood education, can link with science projects that utilize technological apparatuses for hearing and enhancing tones and pitches.

Fourth, internal and external evaluations for university promotions ostensibly include teaching, research, and public engagement.  The reality is that many universities focus on “traditional” research as narrowly defined by peers.   Science and technological innovations are encouraged.  However, public engagement can further promote intellectual migration with non-peer international institutions, when demographically diverse participants are available. Hence the composition of university-wide evaluation committees must include senior diverse faculty who are receptive to innovative inclusiveness to facilitate equity in criteria and assessments.  Moreover, the chancellor or president must adroitly convey the importance of public engagement via policies and voiced statements to university communities.

Fifth, scientific cooperation between the United States. and other countries has existed for decades through informal scientist-to-scientist collaborations, institutional collaborations, and formal agreements between agencies. These arrangements are sought in international spheres to encourage access to facilities and personnel, and to emphasize diplomatic and collegial relationships among partners.  When these are authentically evident, the lexes of diplomacy, science and technology in diplomacy can be omnipresent to foster equity in domestic and global environments via virtual intellectual migration. In essence, American Secretary of State Blinken’s sagacious expressions to the University of Indonesia, will evince Bhinneka Tunggal Ika.


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