At the same time, the reality of global politics and geo-economics means that there are increasingly areas of international and inter-group tension that involve science and technology. US restrictions on use of certain foreign resources for technology development, the importance of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry to its independence and security, shortcomings in the supply of parts and labour for multilateral science projects such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), vaccine production and distribution, and the location of key science projects such as the Future Circular Collider, are all potential sources of conflict and competition. The same is true of the way some indigenous groups suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change, seeking to use the relevant science as a lever to encourage action by majority population groups. Similarly, the uptake of certain scientific technologies, such as gene therapies and anti-ageing interventions, by small groups of adventurous self-experimenters, puts pressure on hesitant regulatory bodies. Unilateral forays into geoengineering have also caused diplomatic tensions. The return to the Moon will be a test for science diplomacy and its power to achieve collaboration on a global scale at a time when growing nationalism and trends towards strategic autonomy will challenge future large-scale science collaborations.
This threatens to limit knowledge sharing, the advancement and acceptance of certain medical technologies, the free movement of people and ideas, and funding for international collaboration. All these issues create challenges for science diplomacy’s efforts to establish useful channels for improving multilateralism, but can also be seen as opportunities for initiating dialogue.