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Hardly Academic

Why Diplomacy and Science Need Each Other

Students touch a gas filled glass ball creating a plasma sphere in Berlin, November 7, 2008. Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

At U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s side when he negotiated a framework nuclear deal with Iranian diplomats this spring was physicist Ernest Moniz, U.S. secretary of energy. His presence spoke to the rise of “science diplomacy,” which can take the form of scientists helping diplomats, diplomats helping scientists, or scientific cooperation promoting diplomacy. 

The Iran case is the most vivid recent example of the first form. The implementation of any eventual agreement will require an exquisitely designed regime of sensors and inspectors capable of flawlessly alerting the world to potential cheating. And any evidence they present will have to withstand searching critiques by scientists and engineers around the world. Moniz’s role in the talks, in other words, was not only to add to the debate with the Iranians but also to help the West design a scientifically robust monitoring system. Without him and other scientists,

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