About the Author: Portia Boone serves as an intern in the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Scientists, researchers and students from throughout the Americas are working on innovative projects on diverse issues including the environment, climate change, energy and pandemic preparation. Unfortunately, there is no system currently in place to link these people and projects, allow them to share best practices and collaborate on related initiatives. State’s Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Bureau is working to change this by building a "Science Network of the Americas."
To help build enthusiasm, support and content for this project, Dr. Timothy DeVoogd of Cornell University led a webchat on Wednesday, July 1 via WHA’s online media hub. Dr. DeVoogd, a Jefferson Science Fellow in the Public Diplomacy Office of State’s WHA Bureau, has made a number of contacts at research and academic institutions, national institutes of health and development agencies during his travels throughout the hemisphere. Dr. DeVoogd — in his role as WHA’s resident “Ambassador of Science” — is leveraging his contacts to develop a network through a free classifieds, Craig’s List model. Right now, WHA is actively exploring partnerships to host an online Science Network of the Americas.
Attracting participants from a variety of Latin American countries, this event allowed scientists, academics, and many others to discuss concerns such as climate change, the need to develop renewable energy sources, and options for improving communication within the Americas. Representatives from Universidad de la Sabana (Colombia), TEC de Monterrey (Mexico), science experts from the Organization of American States (OAS), and Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA-Colombia) took part. The online media hub allows the conversation to continue via a discussion forum on the same topic.
This event was an excellent example of diplomacy in action and a testament to the fact that diplomacy is not just the business of senior officials, but can also be carried out by engaged and passionate individuals at any level within any field. As an intern in WHA, I assisted with the webchat and was quite impressed by the reciprocity of the interchange. Not only did the webchat allow Dr. DeVoogd to share meaningful insights on the positive impact of a science network for the region, but it also created an environment in which participants could learn from one another and explore how to collectively address the challenges affecting the region. While there remains a great deal of work to be done to promote and strengthen this network, I am certain the ideas shared during the webchat have helped lay a strong foundation for a scientific network that will play a major role in the advancement of our region and our world.