When it comes to Afghanistan, he says, there should be room in the peace process for science diplomacy. Science provides a common set of values that transcends ethnicity, religion, language, culture and politics, Dehgan says. It can help establish trust keep channels of communication open.

“We fail to leverage it, and increasingly, many of the challenges we face are ones that require scientific cooperation across borders and deep understanding of technical problems,” he tells NPR.

“Science diplomacy actually works best, in my opinion, where all the relationships are toughest,” Dehgan says, pointing out that critical challenges such as climate change don’t respect political boundaries and force people to work together on a common goal despite their differences.

Even at the height of the Cold War, Dehgan notes, the U.S. and the Soviet Union maintained an active scientific exchange program.