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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has launched a science diplomacy centre, aiming to use science and scientific cooperation to promote international understanding.

The Center for Science Diplomacy, based in Washington DC, was officially announced last month (15 July) by AAAS chief executive Alan Leshner at a congressional session on fostering international science cooperation.

Vaughan Turekian, the AAAS chief international officer and director of the centre, says its major objective is to raise the profile of science as an important element of relationship-building between countries and societies.

"What makes this centre different is that it works to bring together not only science organisations, but the foreign policy community, international affairs community, foundations and other civil society groups to focus on the role that science engagement can have in building relationships," Turekian told SciDev.Net.

"Given AAAS's relationships with both science organisations and international relations think tanks, we will work to bring together communities to identify places and the types of activities that might be undertaken to support science engagement with the aim to promote understanding, prosperity and stability."

Turekian says the centre is still planning specific activities. Critical to those plans, he says, will be to "share lessons learned from prior and ongoing experiences and activities and to identify areas where cooperation might be possible — including areas such as science and math education, [and] science ethics".

He adds that the centre has some funding for a conference "to identify activities that are already taking place to demonstrate the power of science diplomacy in promoting international understanding".

"Science diplomacy is underappreciated as a way of building relations between foreign societies," says Kristin Lord, director of the science and technology task force of the US-Islamic world relations project at the non-profit Brookings Institution in Washington, United States.

"This new centre will help to demonstrate its value to policymakers and scientists alike."