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Margin Notes

Making the case for knowledge diplomacy


I came across a term recently that I was unfamiliar with: knowledge diplomacy. A quick Google search suggests the term was coined a decade ago by author Michael Ryan, but the context in which I saw it was a commentary by Université de Montréal rector Luc Vinet in the Montreal Gazette. He writes:

Knowledge diplomacy, defined loosely, is the diplomacy of ideas, and ideas are the raison d’être of universities. When Canadian professors deliver lectures in Tokyo or Toulouse, they are emissaries of our country’s values and expertise. When they collaborate with colleagues overseas, they bring new information and technology that can benefit the Canadian economy. And when our universities enter into partnerships with international NGOs, universities from the developing world or foreign governments to monitor human rights or train social workers, we advance Canadian values.

Dr. Vinet goes on to make a strong pitch for the internationalization of research, noting that 40 percent of Canadian research papers are co-authored with international scientists. “Universities worldwide are collaborating with each other, multinational companies and governments, forging relationships that amount to a complementary diplomacy that works alongside that conducted at the state level,” he writes.

It’s an unabashed defense of the power of universities and a forceful argument with which I think most in academe would agree. Bravo.

His commentary was adapted from a speech he gave earlier this fall at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations (view the full text here).

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is a former editor of University Affairs.
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