What is your research program? : Science & Techonology Cooperation and International Relations, By Fabricio Padilha

In accordance with the 2015 Annual Convention Call for Proposals of the International Studies Association (ISA) – submissions are open until June 1st – theories and traditional methods are not sufficient to understand complex contemporary international relations. Certain global and regional concerns, such as human rights violations, migration, terrorism, disease, and climate changes have a tendency to blur the universalist’s spectrum of vision of the field. The 2015 Annual Convention will focus principally on “the new, current, possible directions and innovations in International Relations theories, methods, issues and areas” (ISA, 2014).

On this line, the defining purpose of this paper is to discuss key issues specifically relevant to international cooperation in the field of science and technology (S&T). On the one hand, the international science and technology cooperation is perceived as a likely mechanism for minimizing a multitude of contemporary challenges influencing international security. On the other, the states and markets are viewed as the largest actors of this type of cooperation.

In reality, in the International System states and markets are motivated to cooperate considering future incentives they expect to gain resulting in earnings derived from a cooperative agreement. These incentives are greater than the gains from a non-cooperation approach (OYE, 1986). International cooperation may improve the rewards of the actors involved, and it is different towards subjects and over time (KEOHANE, 1988).

International cooperation in science and technology facilitates economic development and helps to mitigate some challenges to the contemporary international security. Actually, the existence of interdisciplinary problems transcends geographical boundaries and traverse far beyond a nation’s policy of control and the economic standards of the majority of countries (NYE, 2008). Five distinct challenges dominate this current interdisciplinary agenda:

1st: Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: the proliferation of these deadly weapons are maliciously spread through trade, migration, education and the flow of ideas. Over forty nations have the potential to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. The greatest concern is the potential for these weapons’ falling into the hands of a small number of terrorists.

2nd: International terrorism: technology provides power to the individuals and parallel groups and challenges the “international order.” These terrorists show no mercy, have no morals and in many instances are brain-washed by fanatics with no consciences.

3rd: Cyber Warfare: Internet attacks configure an international threat. Cyber attacks provide drastic consequences to “the West and the Rest”. They are motivated for ideological and / or political issues that are bent on invoking fear and mass destruction.

4th: Pandemic: this subject concerns the science and medicines production. HIV/AIDS, for example, identified in Africa in the 1980s, have been affected the world population. It is estimated that the AIDS pandemic has already killed 25 million people all over the world. More recently the resistance of super micro-organisms to all known antibiotics is a growing fear across the world. Tuberculosis, Hepatitis “C,” MRSA (a contagious and antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus), Polio, Small Pox, etc. are becoming the new uncontrollable deadly diseases.

5th:Climate change: global warming is increasingly seen as a potential threat and a matter of international security. There are serious disturbances like natural disasters related to climate, drought and desertification that are creating massive disruptions.

Notwithstanding, both public and private sectors may facilitate and / or challenge the international science and technology cooperation (NELSON, 2006). In the case of the state, cooperation in S&T can be more effective: due to the large availability of political and material resources; and the easier articulation of their own bureaucracies.

Cooperation in this sector can be difficult for several strategic reasons including but not limited to ideological misunderstanding on the resulting gains from the scientific and technological cooperation, the lack of resources, available capital to the developing countries, and for intellectual property right questions. Many public institutions promote Science & Technology for economic development and international cooperation. Federal and states governments, universities, and public research laboratories are concerned with technical change and technology absorption, creation, and diffusion.

The market sector provides international collaboration and is largely responsible for expertise and skills. Nevertheless, the “limited” availability of resources creates a challenge that can be overcome through cooperative means. Bureaucratic control by some states has a tendency to limit the actions of companies in both the international and domestic markets. Bureaucratic controls benefits individual profits at the expense of collective development and may limit the opportunities for cooperation in issue areas considered otherwise to be unprofitable.

Under trans-national oligopoly conditions, the majority of company profits are dependent on the production, use, and dissemination of S&T. The growth of science-based industries has stimulated international cooperation in S&T among companies and countries in areas such as engineering and technology. These arrangements allow companies to generate new opportunities and technological capabilities.

This research paper presents some challenges to the complex contemporary international relations. Cooperation does not evade political ontologisms; however, the above subjects present challenges to society and their leaders. Moreover, their resolution inspires a mutual need for action. A significant number of new, current and possible directions and innovations in international relations exist that are worthy of consideration. For these reason, the 2015 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association wants to know, “What is your research program?”.


ISA. ISA 2015: Call for proposals. 2014. Available in: http://www.isanet.org/Conferences/NewOrleans2015/Call.aspx.

KEOHANE, Robert O.. International Institutions: two approaches . InternationalStudies Quartely, vol. 32, n.4, 1988, pp. 379-396.

NELSON, Richard R. What makes an economy productive and progressive? What are the needed institutions?. LEM Working Paper Series, n. 24, 2006, pp.1-51.

NYE, Joseph S. Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History. New York: Longman, 2008.

OYE, Kenneth A. Explaining Cooperation Under Anarchy: Hypotheses and Strategies. In: OYE, Kenneth A. (Org.). Cooperation Under Anarchy. Princeton University Press. 1986.

Fabricio Padilha is master in International Relations in the “San Tiago Dantas” Program  – UNESP/UNICAMP/PUC-SP (fabapps@hotmail.com)

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