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The Roles of Science Diplomacy in Combating Global Plastic Pollution

The Roles of Science Diplomacy in Combating Global Plastic Pollution



Coventry University Team

Prof Benny Tjahjono (PI)
Dr Macarena Beltran (co-I)
Dr David Bek (co-I)


1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021

Value to Coventry University:


Total Value:


Project overview

The fishing village of Tumbes in Chile, riverbank of Citarum in Jakarta and a Cornish beach share a common problem of plastic pollution, though at different levels. The world’s perennial battle against the ‘wicked’ problems of plastics has, nevertheless, caused dissent between the developed and developing economies on how to deal with many serious issues; e.g. plastic waste import bans and ocean plastic pollution.  Scientific knowledge has indeed contributed to the solutions of global plastic pollution, but this often requires coordinated international policies.  Science diplomacy offers an interface for scientific communities and [foreign] policy communities.  In the midst of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, science diplomacy is more important than ever before. 

Promoted by former PM Gordon Brown in 2009, science diplomacy could mean three things: 1) informing policy objectives by using scientific advice (science in diplomacy); 2) promoting scientific cooperation via diplomacy (diplomacy for science); and 3) science to improve [international] relations (science for diplomacy).  Whichever the meaning, science diplomacy emphasises the new roles of science in policy making and places science at the heart of the UK’s domestic/foreign policy agenda.

Project objectives

This project is proposed to explore the roles of science diplomacy in combating the global plastic pollution.  The research particularly focuses on investigating: 

  • The extant work in science diplomacy, especially in the focused area of environmental conservation;
  • How science diplomacy has been practised;
  • The impacts of science diplomacy; and
  • The future scenarios of science diplomacy to inform, promote and influence global debates and outcomes of eradication of global plastic pollution.

Impact statement

The project supports UK plastic PACT targets by 2025, but is also high in the UK foreign policy agenda, especially related to the UK’s active participation in the International Maritime Organization (IMO).  The latter is particularly concerned with the increased amount of marine plastic litter.  This is a key challenge facing the sustainability of our planet.  It has international reach, but is completely aligned to the UK’s needs and challenges here.

The impacts of this project will be demonstrated by a better understanding of the roles of science diplomacy in informing/influencing the future UK policy-making, both nationally and internationally, especially related to the eradication of plastic pollution.


With strong support from the Indonesian Embassy in London, and under the auspices of the UK-Indonesia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Sciences (UKICIS), the project will produce a scenario analysis of various science diplomacies in action.

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