2021 Gordon Cain Conference

Diplomatic Studies of Science: The Interplay of Science, Technology, and International Affairs after the Second World War

Monday, June 13, 2022–Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Maison de la Chimie
28, Rue Saint-Dominique
75007 Paris

Rescheduled from November 2021, the 2021 Gordon Cain Conference sponsored by the Science History Institute focused on the fascinating interplay of science, technology, and international affairs after the Second World War. By doing so, it marked the emergence of diplomatic studies of science as a field at the intersection of science and technology studies, history of science, diplomatic history, and international politics.

Is Science Diplomacy on Hold?

Monday, June 13, 2022 | 4:30 p.m. CET (10:30 a.m. EDT)

Given the dramatic geopolitical changes of the last months, science diplomacy, once primarily considered soft power, seems to have been put on hold. Even worse, in the blink of an eye, science diplomacy has been transformed into an instrument of hard power that aims to coerce Moscow and influence Putin’s military brutalities and Russia’s international affairs.

This panel brought together academics, science advisors, and science policymakers to discuss not whether science diplomacy is “the right tool for the job” in the war in Ukraine, but to reconsider what science diplomacy is and how strong academic disciplines in terms of their methodology, such as philosophy and history, can help us understand the role of science in times of international crisis and war.



  • Maria Rentetzi
    2021 Cain Conference Fellow
    Chair for Science, Technology, and Gender Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Theology, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg


  • Aristides Baltas
    Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Science, National Technical University of Athens
    Former Minister of Culture of Greece
  • Melissa Denecke
    Director, Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences, Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, International Atomic Energy Agency
  • Joachim Hornegger
    President, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
  • Gabriella Ivacs
    Head, Archives and Records Management Section, International Atomic Energy Agency
  • John Krige
    Kranzberg Professor Emeritus, School of History and Sociology, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Angela Liberatore
    Head of the Scientific Department, European Research Council Executive Agency

Conference Organizer


Maria Rentetzi headshot

Courtesy of Maria Rentetzi

Maria Rentetzi is the chair for science, technology, and gender studies in the faculty of humanities, social sciences, and theology at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. She has been trained as a physicist and as a historian of science and technology. Her research focuses on two intertwined areas of inquiry: the investigation of the politically and historically situated character of technoscience and the critical examination of gender as a major analytic category in technoscientific endeavors. As part of her ERC Consolidator Grant project Rentetzi currently leads the development of what she calls “The Diplomatic Studies of Science.” This is a highly interdisciplinary field of research at the intersection of science and technology studies, history of science, diplomatic history, political sciences, and international affairs. Before joining FAU, she was a guest professor at the Technische Universität Berlin and a professor for history and sociology of science and technology at the National Technical University of Athens.


About the Gordon Cain Conference

The Gordon Cain Conference is a gathering of scholars in the history of science and related fields. Each conference is organized by an eminent scholar who worked with staff to develop a theme of broad contemporary relevance. Centered on a topic chosen by the conference organizer, the conference consists of an evening public lecture, a symposium, and a collected volume. It is hosted by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry and supported by a generous gift from Gordon Cain.

Past Conferences, 1998−2022


Let’s Get to Work: Bringing Labor History and the History of Science Together
Organized by Alexandra (Alix) Hui, Mississippi State University; Lissa L. Roberts, University of Twente; and Seth Rockman, Brown University


Diplomatic Studies of Science: The Interplay of Science, Technology, and International Affairs after the Second World War
Organized by Maria Rentetzi, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg


Where to Put It All? Some Thoughts about Collections, Museums, and History
Organized by Steven Conn, Miami University


Chemistry in the Americas, 1500–1800
Organized by John Christie, University of Oxford, and Carin Berkowitz, Science History Institute

My Data, My Self: A Century of Self-Tracking Health Technologies
Organized by Deanna Day, Amanda L. Mahoney, and Ramya M. Rajagopalan, Science History Institute


Life in the Universe: Past and Present
Organized by David DeVorkin, National Air and Space Museum


Curators, Popularizers, and Showmen: Science in Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Exhibitions and Museums
Organized by Bernard Lightman, York University


Chemical Reactions: Chemistry and Global History
Organized by Lissa L. Roberts, University of Twente


Sensing Change: Environmental Issues in Art and Science
Organized by Dehlia Hannah, Arizona State University


E pluribus unum: Bringing Biological Parts and Wholes into Philosophical Perspective
Organized by Lynn Nyhart, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Scott Lidgard, Field Museum of Natural History


Chemical Weather and Chemical Climate: Body, Place, Planet in Historical Perspective
Organized by Jim Fleming, Colby College
Request the collected volume.


Personalizing Medicine Here and Now: Empirical Studies of Post-Genomic Medicine
Organized by Alberto Cambrosio, McGill University


Technology Transfer and Diffusion in Comparative Perspective
Organized by Bruce Seely, Michigan Technological University


The Dilemma of Dual Use
Organized by Roy MacLeod, University of Sydney


New Chemical Bodies
Organized by Jody A. Roberts, Science History Institute
Request the whitepaper.


Towards a History and Philosophy of Expertise
Organized by Christopher Hamlin, University of Notre Dame


Nano before There Was Nano: Historical Perspectives on the Constituent Communities of Nanotechnology
Organized by Cyrus C. M. Mody, Cornell University


City, Industry, and Environment in Transatlantic Perspective
Organized by Donna Rilling, State University of New York at Stony Brook


Risk and Safety in Medical Innovation
Organized by Arthur Daemmrich, Cornell University


Industry and Governance: Changing Relations among Science-Based Corporations, Government, and the Public
Organized by Arthur Daemmrich, Cornell University


The Chemical Industry and the Environment
Organized by Christian W. Simon, University of Basel, Switzerland


Pharmaceutical Innovation: Revolutionizing Human Health
Organized by David B. Sicilia, University of Maryland


The Twentieth-Century American Chemical Industry
Organized by Stephen B. Adams, Lucent Technologies