Technische Universität Berlin

What Does Science Have to Do with Diplomacy?

Maria Rentetzi has been given an ERC Consolidator Grant to research how knowledge of radiation protection is disseminated

“Our current knowledge of radiation protection is not only influenced by scientific and technical research. The social, political, economic and not least diplomatic issues addressed by the International Atomic Energy Agency also play a very important role.” That at least is the argument put forward by Professor Dr. Maria Rentetzi, who has now joined TU Berlin on an ERC Consolidator Grant.

Over the next five years, she wishes to use the two million euros provided by the ERC to research how the authority to pronounce on radiation protection shifted away during the course of the twentieth century from scientific organizations into the domain of diplomatic organizations such as the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and what impact this so-called “science diplomacy” has had.

Rentetzi completed a bachelor’s degree in physics before switching to history for her master’s. In the 1920s and1930s, research as well as the development of our understanding of radiation protection was the preserve of renowned scientific organizations, such as the Institut Curie in Paris or the Institute for Radium Research in Vienna. This was however to change decisively after World War II. 1957 witnessed the founding of the International Atomic Energy Agency. This meant that the key function of generating and disseminating new findings regarding radiation protection was now assumed by a political-diplomatic organization rather than scientific institutions.

“This is the crux of my central research question: “How did it come about that this role switched from scientific organizations to a political organization? What did this mean for research and what impacts did it have on diplomacy?” explains Rentetzi. She is really looking forward to the numerous options for cooperation with researchers from a wide range of disciplines which TU Berlin provides.