In Bruges: investigating strategic positioning and Science Diplomacy

Technically this was not my first time in Bruges, Belgium. It all comes down to how you define ‘In Bruges’. In 2015, I was a keynote speaker at the inaugural Positioning Theory Symposium held in Bruges, but that time I attended the three-day event via telepresence robot (you can read about my “I, Robot” experience here).

This time, I’ve been been working (in person) with Professor Luk van Langenhove as an invited visiting researcher at the United Nations University – Centre for Regional Integration Studies in Bruges.

Professor van Langenhove is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Positioning Theory, and together we’ve been exploring the adaptation of the positioning framework developed for public relations  (as presented in my 2014 book) for researching the topic of Science Diplomacy.

This work is timely given the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) is currently developing the Foreign Policy White Paper, which aims to set the direction of foreign policy for the coming decade. DFAT has announced that Science Diplomacy is a priority area for Australia and they are working on a developing a Science Diplomacy strategy.

Working with Luk during the past month, we have built on our initial Science Diplomacy paper presented in Singapore earlier this year at the International Conference on Public Policy. Whilst in Bruges, I undertook a positioning analysis of selected public submissions to the DFAT White Paper to ascertain the ways in which Science Diplomacy was being conceptualized.

I found through applying the revised positioning framework that firstly there was a narrow view of Science Diplomacy as primarily being about international scientific collaboration being put forward. Secondly, the analytic lens offered by positioning theory showed how submission authors positioned themselves and others through the strategic use of discourse, a key component of communication.

This research initially will be published as a working paper for the European Leadership in Culture, Science and Innovation Diplomacy Project (EL-CSID).

I’m very grateful to the University of Newcastle, and in particular Professor Daryl Evans, (Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic) and Interim Director People and Workforce Strategy, Ms Tina Crawford, for their support in facilitating this period of my Special Study Program. I am also very appreciative of the warm welcome extended to me by the Director of UNU-CRIS, Professor Madeleine Hosli, and to all the staff and scholars at UNU-CRIS.




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