Session highlights

Trust is at the base of knowledge diplomacy. Without trust collaboration in science collapses. Trust can be established in partnerships and most likely a change of government or political turmoil will not affect your trust.  In some cases, knowledge diplomacy is the last thing available. Keeping the lines of communication open is very important.” Dr Michael Hörig, Head of Division Strategic Planning, DAAD, Germany.

  • Offering a definition of knowledge diplomacy, Dr John Simon Rofe said it involved “a troika of representation, communication and negotiation”. Higher education facilitated knowledge through research and transactions between students and faculty but was not the sole proprietor. “All of us at this Going Global conference are diplomats on behalf of ourselves, our institutions, our research interests” said Dr Rofe, reader in Diplomatic and International Studies at SOAS, University of London, UK.
  • Knowledge diplomacy breaks down into solving global challenges together, argued Dr Michael Hörig, Head of Division Strategic Planning, DAAD, Germany. It is about tackling the challenges we all face, such as climate change. “Whether we like citizens of other countries or not, we are all in this together. We need to fix the problems together and collaboration and joint knowledge creation are essential. Knowledge diplomacy is the key,” he added.
  • A downside of virtual communication and collaboration is that there is hardly any opportunity to discuss in an open and frank way in an informal setting, said Dr Michael Hörig, Head of Division Strategic Planning, DAAD, Germany. “The video calls immediately get down to business and for knowledge diplomacy informal is the key. How do I find out who are the real decision makers in my institution if I can’t speak to my colleagues informally over dinner or in a market place?” he asked.  Ways need to be found to bring back those informal moments that are so essential to building trust and keep partnerships going when things are a little bit rougher than they should be, he said.

Session summary

The aims of the panel discussion is to explore the crucial role of knowledge diplomacy in ensuring a positive future for global knowledge production, sharing and dissemination, with particular reference to SDG4.  We bring together colleagues from higher education, government and policy, in the UK, Germany, and the US, to build a deeper understanding of the role of knowledge diplomacy in future global knowledge production, exchange and transfer.   

The panel discussion will explore what knowledge diplomacy can do to:

  • Maintain flows of knowledge through UK and global universities into society and communities.
  • Protect the integrity of knowledge and counter its distortion. 
  • Enhance understanding of, and gain support for, the equitable sharing of knowledge in a digitised world.  We will also consider how universities can: •             Lead the discourse on Knowledge Diplomacy. •             Identify the key research questions.
  • Address practical issues that facilitate the global knowledge commons such as business models, partnerships, and networks. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is the ‘most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War’, as noted in March 2020 by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The need to share knowledge globally, at speed and with trust, and to develop common-interest-building strategies through science/knowledge diplomacy has never been greater as we work through the global pandemic and consider the next steps in the evolution of our globally interconnected civilisation.    The policy choices we make now will be crucial to the prospects for the global future.

Recent global research has suggested that COVID-19 has shone a bright light on issues of how current economic models handle information and knowledge. Some of these are familiar issues that have long been understood but not acted upon effectively – for example, the danger that current systems of intellectual property and patent protection are actually inimical to delivering a cost-effective vaccine available to all, whereas treating knowledge as a public good is much more likely to deliver efficient outcomes for the entire global population. COVID-19 has demonstrated that traditional models of knowledge production and dissemination are failing us; scientific knowledge is becoming weaponised and hyper-partisan, and confidence in this knowledge is falling.   

The challenges that COVID-19 has exposed in the information economy and ecology will be of increasing importance. Academics and policymakers need to understand and grasp them now if we are to avoid contagion into other sectors due to the preventable errors that have marred the global response to COVID-19.


  • Chair: Dr. Linda Amrane-Cooper, Director of Strategic Projects, Head of centre for Distance Education, University of London, UK
  • Michael Hörig, Head of Division Strategic Planning, German Academic Exchange Service - DAAD, Germany
  • Prof. Ignazio Marino MD, ScD, Jefferson Health Executive Director, Executive Vice President for Jefferson International Innovative Strategic Ventures, Thomas Jefferson University, United States
  • Dr. John Simon Rofe, Reader in Diplomatic and International Studies, Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS, University of London, UK
  • Louise Thomas, Deputy Director, Global Science and Emerging Technology Department, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), UK