Successful end of the first shadowing scheme between scientists and diplomats in London

Friday, November 11, 2016

Last 7th October, the Spanish Embassy in London hosted the final session of “Ambassadors for Science”, the first shadowing scheme between scientists and diplomats in which they have a glimpse to both professional fields for a few days. 

This session started with the FECYT scientific coordinators in the Spanish Embassies in London and Berlin, Lorenzo Melchor and Guillermo Orts-Gil. Lorenzo explained the last steps of the Spanish science diplomacy underlining its “different and innovative approach”. Guillermo said “communication and diplomacy are key channels for the scientific community to be actively engaged within society”. 

Then, each couple of the scheme told about their experiences and discussed about how to bring science closer to all aspects in society, and about how to improve the Spanish science diplomacy and future editions of this programme. 

Diplomacy and science

The Minister-Counsellor Juan López-Herrera gave emphasis to the Spanish scientific talent and their role in improving diplomacy: “Science has to be embedded in our foreign policy action in such a natural way as we do with politics, economics or culture.” Carmen Domene, Reader in the University of Oxford and King’s College London, learned about the Embassy’s activities and described science as “a non-ideological environment, for the free exchange of ideas, which enables us to tackle global challenges beyond national borders.” 

Mario González, postdoctoral researcher in University of Glasgow, learned about the Spanish Consulate in Edinburgh during the Spanish General Elections on 26J. Mario also visited with the Consul Miguel Utray an international exhibition of technological companies in astronomy, where he noted “a good representation of Spanish companies.” Miguel visited the University of Glasgow and considered his experience to have been “very worthwhile to open new fields of diplomatic collaborations.” 

Culture and science

Joaquín de Navascués, Research Fellow in the University of Cardiff, told his experience with the Minister-Counsellor for Cultural Affairs Fernando Villalonga. Joaquín stressed the “enabling efforts from the Cultural Office and its instrumental role to project ‘Marca España’.” Fernando visited Cardiff and described science as “instrumental for the growth of a country.” Joaquín also went with the science coordinator Lorenzo Melchor to a science forum where he noted “the close connection between the scientific community and the British government”.


María Barreira, postdoctoral researcher in the University of Cambridge, praised the Instituto Cervantes for its “great work to teaching Spanish language and disseminating culture” and said that this programme allowed her “to come out of her scientific bubble.” Francesc Puértolas, Cultural Manager in London, described his visit to the lab as “an initiatory journey” in which he “remotely understood the amount of persevering and systematic labour that lies behind every scientific breakthrough.” 

Education and science

According to Cristina Villa del Campo, postdoctoral researcher in the University of Oxford, “this scheme, with the Spanish Office for Education and Counsellor Gonzalo Capellán, has made me see another way to do research and to promote Spanish culture and language.” Gonzalo reflected upon the need for “a bigger exchange between Sciences and Humanities in Education” and “for professionals to think out of their box”. 

Economics and science

Lorenzo de la Rica, postdoctoral researcher in Queen Mary University London, visited Josefina Beltrán, Commercial Attaché, to learn about the support for the internationalisation of Spanish startups, among other things. After her visit to the university, Josefina said that it would be highly positive if “Spanish universities were to internationalise and if our Economics and Trade Offices increased their support to scientific and technological companies.” Lorenzo valued “initiatives such as the one from FECYT to take part in NatureJobs Careers Expo” as “useful to promote visibility of Spanish science.” 

Xavier Moya, Royal Society University Research Fellow in University of Cambridge, shadowed Odón Palla, Commercial Counsellor. Both of them considered key “to build up a forum for the continuous exchange between diplomats and scientists”. Odón described his experience as “terrific” after his visit to the university and different colleges in Cambridge. Xavier learned about the increasing Spanish investment in Gastronomy and Hotel industry in the United Kingdom, and also attended the Cocoa Market Outlook Conference. 

Transport and science

Ernesto Abad, quality manager in the communication company Metaswitch Network, visited the International Maritime Organisation with Miguel Núñez, Attaché for Maritime Affairs, and Esteban Pacha, Transports and Infrastructures Attaché. Ernesto mentioned “I saw how international policy and diplomacy both influence in the technical development of telecommunications.” Estevan visited Metaswitch Network and described his “multilateral experience” as a “very positive experience to learn about the scientific activity applied to highly-specialised industrial processes.” 

Tourism and science

Fidel Alfaro Almagro, PhD student in University of Oxford, was paired with Enrique Ruiz de Lera, Counsellor for Tourism. Fidel said “I have learned about the importance of the promotion of Spain in the UK as a touristic destination, and about the methodology to analyse the projected image of the country”. Enrique emphasised the “top quality” of all participants of the scheme and that “more lateral and long-term thinking, curiosity, and the right monetization and management of the talent” would be of high benefit for the country. 

Soon, full reports of “Ambassadors for Science”[LMF1] 

To learn in detail about each of the experiences of “Ambassadors for Science”, FECYT will upload in its website a series of full reports of each couple with interviews and podcasts between November 2016 and January 2017. 

About “Ambassadors for Science”

“Ambassadors for Science” is organized by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) and the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Spanish Embassy in London, with the support of the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (SRUK/CERU). This programme fits within the FECYT’s priority lines of increasing science outreach and science culture, and supporting the internationalization of Spanish science. The scheme is a pilot experience with the aim of extending it to other diplomatic missions and even to the Congreso de los Diputados and other scientific institutions in Spain. 

The participating scientists are researchers from different fields, professional stages and cities across the United Kingdom, who were selected after an open call. On the other hand, the participants of the Spanish diplomatic mission in the United Kingdom comprise diplomats, Culture managers, technical advisors, commercial delegates and others. 

The scheme has been covered on Twitter with #Amb4Sci. For the rest of activities delivered by the FECYT scientific coordinator in the United Kingdom, you may use.


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