CfP: East-West Cooperation in Science and Technology: Actors, Actions, and Intelligence Gathering

Technology and science were crucial in breaking down ideological boundaries during the Cold War. Scientists and experts from both sides of the Iron Curtain were able to interact because science and technology both produced a neutral working environment. The Geneva „Atoms for Peace“ conference first paved the way for improved East-West collaboration in 1955. But the technological rivalry between the blocs greatly boosted competitiveness. Therefore, politicians‘ strategic interest in science and technology stemmed not only from their capacity to maintain relations in situations where it was difficult for politicians to cooperate but also from the need for both blocs to maintain leadership in the field of scientific and technical advancement.

Especially during the Cold War, science became a matter of national prestige. The shock of Sputnik, which shook not only American society, became the main driver of scientific and technological progress in the 1960s and 1970s, both in Western Europe and especially in the USA. Thanks to the increased mobility of scientists, intelligence gathering has become part of their everyday practice. Particularly in certain fields, there has been a great deal of interest in intelligence gathering. They include for example nuclear proliferation or disarmament, environmental risks, and issues of environmental security.

We are planning to organize a panel on the relationship between intelligence gathering and science and technology at the BASEES conference in Cambridge, 5-7 April 2024. We welcome proposals for papers that address international relations, STS, or science and technology diplomacy and methodological issues to be dealt with.

With respect to international collaboration during the Cold War, we’re particularly interested in how scientists, as providers of knowledge and expertise, have been perceived by their own states and by foreign powers. How was their ´action´ defined in relation to intelligence gathering, and to what extent were they bound by various obligations to their state when traveling? Did scientists participate in due diligence exercises? How?

Apart from Actors, what actions should be considered intelligence gathering? For which type of intelligence gathering were scientists most often used: diplomatic reporting, traveller debriefing or espionage? What do we know about their actions in the field of GEOINT (Geospatial intelligence), MASINT (Measurement and signature intelligence), OSINT (Open-source intelligence), SIGINT (Signals intelligence), or TECHINT (Technical Intelligence)? Since cooperation across the blocs was motivated not only by political but also economic interests, the role of economic intelligence in science and research is therefore another possible topic for this panel.

Regarding the practical agenda, we would like to know what sources are available to historians working on these questions. What obstacles are currently placed in their way by the state – or by the experts themselves since some of them often refuse to comment on their role in the past?

In this panel, we would like to focus not only on East-West relations but also on relations between the Global North and the Global South. We therefore particularly welcome papers that take into account theories of decolonization and offer a new approach to understanding the question of intelligence gathering and knowledge circulation. Early Career Researchers are particularly welcome.

By September 25, 2023, proposals written in English should be sent to Doubravka Olšáková and Matěj Bílý Please include the title of your talk and a short abstract (no more than 300 words) in your email. Don’t forget to include your full name, affiliation, brief CV and your email address. Please let us know as soon as possible if you want to go to the Conference in person or remotely (online).

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