‘International Scientific Relations’: Q&A with Francisco Del Canto Viterale

1. Briefly, how do science, technology, and innovation impact world order?

We are privileged witnesses to an extraordinary historical moment due to the quantity, depth, and complexity of the changes in the world order. The scientific and technological revolution has opened a new stage with the discovery, development, and application of new areas in Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) that promise an extraordinary impact in all aspects of society.

As a result, the influence of STI in the world order is much stronger than ever before in the history of international relations (IR) and acquires a special and strategic relevance as a critical factor of the new international order.

Basically, STI is impacting and modifying the 21st century’s international system in two essential ways: First, by substantially changing the main systemic parameters, that is, the essential parts that form the international system (actors, relations, agenda of topics, processes, dynamics, phenomena, etc.). Second, by modifying the global structure and configuration of the global system (new polarizations, divides, hierarchies, resources of power, etc.).

2. How are science, technology, and innovation, and international relations connected?

The connection between STI and IR is not a new phenomenon in the international system. Scientific and technological development has always been considered an important factor in many historical periods, from Ancient Egypt, through the European colonial empires, to its peak in the 20th century. However, in the current international order, the decisive factors are the magnitude, depth, and intensity those links have acquired. The world is changing rapidly and intensely, and STI is one of the main causes of this transformation.

The mutual and increasing interaction between STI and IR has created a new and innovative research agenda of topics that includes issues in global health, environment, and energy; STI policy and global governance; STI diplomacy; cybersecurity and cyberwar; STI cooperation and partnership; STI and international development; emerging technologies; knowledge gaps, among many others.

Currently, STI is a key factor in the international system where its prominence and influence are only growing and, as a consequence, the interaction between STI and IR becomes a crucial element to understand the new world order.

3. You say in your book that there is a lack of theoretical and methodological approaches to study this rising phenomenon. Could you explain the reasons for this lack?

Despite the historical empirical relevance of STI in the international system, in the academic field of Global and International Studies (GIS), the treatment of the STI has been rather sporadic, reduced, and inarticulate. Whether because of its own internal epistemological and methodological confusion, the strong theoretical and pragmatic debates or simply because of the interests it has served, the discipline of GIS has never given STI a privileged place in its analysis of the international reality.

The discipline of GIS has addressed some of these issues, but it is still a pending task to build analytical frameworks that better explain the changes we observe at the empirical level as a result of the action of STI in the international system. Despite the relevance of STI in the international system and the increasing number of researchers making efforts to study this new subfield of study, the number of scholars focusing on this issue is still low.

Nowadays, the main challenge for GIS is developing original scientific tools to address new international complex problems and a better understanding of the mutual and deep interaction between STI and IR, and their importance to global governance. In this process, it is necessary to renew the theoretical-methodological scaffolding of GIS to be able to offer new responses bearing in mind the increasing relevance of STI to the world order.

The search for explanations that address the new reality represented by STI in the current international system must be seen as a social and academic need and this book is seeking to offer answers to a disciplinary field and a social knowledge that requires it.

4. What role do you expect International Science Relations to play in the coming years?

The main hypothesis of the book is that International Scientific Relations will become a critical empirical area of analysis with a strong impact on the global configuration of the international system. STI has become indispensable in this new phase of IR, as the main source for generating economic benefits, political power, military development, and social innovation. As a result, International Scientific Relations has assumed an indisputable leading role and influence in the global dynamics of IR that has made it a decisive factor that is reshaping the New World Order in the Post-Cold War period.