Internationalization of Science And Technology Research Paper

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Science is predominantly done in national scientific communities, but scientific information regularly crosses boundaries. Various conditions influence this flow, which means that it is not symmetric in all directions. Internationalization is the uneven process wherein cross-border linkages of communication and collaboration in science and technology among countries multiply and expand. Linkages involve individual scientists and their institutions, but also, increasingly, governments through treaties and conventions that include strong science and technology components. The growing density of interconnections between large industrial corporations regarding research in the precompetitive phase as well as technological alliances is also relevant.



1. Some Distinctions

1.1 Scientific Internationalism

Scientific internationalism emerged with the development of national academies of science (Crawford et al. 1993). Later, correspondence and interchange between individual scientists channeled through international scientific unions and congresses appearing in the nineteenth century (Elzinga and Landstrom 1996). The flare-up of nationalism and World War I caused a temporary rupture in this internationalism, both in mode of organization and spirit. After the war, transnational scientific relations were gradually re- paired, even with Germany, but at the cost of promoting a strict neutralist ideology, nurturing an image of science disembodied from and standing above society.

1.2 Scientific Internationalization And Economic Globalization

The multiplier effect of interconnections between transnational corporations (TNCs) and financial institutions that shape trade related agreements and intellectual property regimes influences, but must not be confused with, scientific internationalization. It is a ‘globalization’ process in the economic sphere, driven by for-profit motives, facilitated by a combination of neoliberal politics, privatization and informationtechnological developments. Internationalization of science, by contrast, is ultimately predicated on trust and solidarity among intellectual peers, even though it is interpenetrating increasingly with economic globalization.

A further distinction is between quantitative and qualitative aspects of internationalization. Quantitative studies deal with numbers and patterns of cross-border linkages, and multinational interconnectivity or collaboration and cooperation. They provide indications of changing trends, but for deeper insights need complementation by studies of qualitative changes, e.g., emergence of new institutional arrangements and incentive systems that facilitate international exchange, reorientation of local research agendas, or harmonization of approaches to policy and priorities, like foresight methodologies, at national and regional levels.

Internationalization of industrial research and development (R&D) is now recognized as an important research topic. Statistical surveys and empirical case studies confirm increases in the numbers of multicountry patents held by individual firms, as well as a proliferation of technological alliances within and between a triad of trading blocks (NAFTA; North American Free Trade Agreement, EU; European Union, and Developing Asian Economies plus Japan). In this respect it is actually more appropriate to speak of a ‘triadization’ than economic globalization.

Pertinent literature on internationalization of technology also refers to other types of interaction between TNCs, and it deals with various R&D management strategies in this context. But in this respect also, extant overviews are limited largely to providing taxonomies and typologies of discernible patterns (Research Policy 1999); (for further details, see National Innovation Systems and Technological Innovation).

Qualitative aspects of internationalization also include epistemic change: i.e., in the intellectual contents of scientific fields, namely, dominant perspectives, methodologies and theories. Thematic integration appears along research fronts, as well as sectoral lines where problems transcend national boundaries (acid rain, global climate change, AIDS), or are too costly for a single nation to handle alone (e.g., CERN). In these instances, and more generally, when international research programs foster coordination of national contributions they also force standardization of data formats, preferred instrumentation and experimental practices.

In what follows, transformations of interconnectivity consonant with internationalism is probed in cartographic, institutional and epistemic dimensions, with political aspects also thrown in relief.

2. Tracing The Span And Patterns Of International Networks

At the time of writing, the volume of science, national outputs per monies allocated per gross national product (GNP), and the distribution of research efforts and patenting across the globe are mapped regularly. This is done with the help of publication counts (of papers) and reviews of who cites whom (Price 1986) to trace citation patterns and coauthorship linkages. Visibility of scientists from different countries or in regions is compared. Evaluations of research performance use science and technology indicators as proxies for effectivity, quality and international standing of research groups and their institutions.

The span of global networks increased during the last decades of the twentieth century. Coauthorship patterns reveal growing contacts of scientists across national borders during the 1970s and 1980s (Hicks and Katz 1996), with a certain slackening in the 1990s (UNESCO 1998). Leading scientific producers such as the USA engage less in international coauthorships than do smaller countries—the larger the national or regional scientific community, the greater is ‘self-reliance.’ Generally, internationalism is only played up in large countries when scientific leadership is in decline, or other countries possess desired specialty knowledge. An interesting anomaly is that India and China also figure lower on polls of cross-border co-authorships than might be expected. Latin America has remained constant, while Africa, especially its sub-Saharan part, stands out as most disadvantaged.

Concentration of resources, prestige, authority and recognition thus display regional variations, with densities following continental contours dominated by an Anglophone region. The predominance of English as the main language of scientific communication, as evidenced in the Science Citation Index (SCI), is also increasing. International coauthorship furthermore reveals subclusters (e.g., the Scandinavian countries) influenced by geographical vicinity, historical traditions, and linguistic as well as cultural affinities. The number of Third World countries now participating in world science has increased, but the vast majority still belong to the scientific periphery (Schott 1998). The share of liberal democracies in world science 1986 was nearly five times their share of world population, while the poorer countries’ share in scientific production counted for only one-tenth of their share of the world population. With a few remarkable exceptions (India, Brazil, China) this global gap became even more exaggerated during the 1990s (Schott 1993).

Increased connectivity, scope and participation in scientific communication across national borders, in other words, cannot be equated with decreasing hierarchization. Rather, ‘globalization’ of institutional models and participation in science is accompanied by a deglobalization in dispersion of science. This contrasts sharply with the notion of science as a public good. Scientific knowledge remains highly concentrated where it is first created, namely among OECD countries. The scientific centers in advanced industrial nations, by virtue of prestige and scientific achievement (often measured by relative density of Nobel laureates in specific fields) also exercise influence over work done in peripheral countries. A Eurocentric skew persists in power, resources, problem selection, and overriding perspectives on the content and function of science and technology.

The end of the Cold War opened a new era of pluricentrism, primarily around three large regional blocks: North America, the European Union, plus Japan and developing economies in Asia. These cleavages are reflected in transnational citation impact and coauthorship clusters, and they coincide with current density patterns in international trade and technology alliances (EC 1997, pp. 10–11, 93).

3. Driving Factors

Public spending on R&D is more intense in the USA than in the EU, while in terms of patenting, Japan has caught up with the USA, and the EU rates third (EC 1997a, pp. 53, 93). Economic globalization is a second driving force to reckon with, also uneven. With R&D investments concentrated in a few high-technology industries in the world, these lead strategic reconfigurations in S&T landscapes. Rapid advances in information and communication technologies interlock with economic development, providing new vehicles for rapid interaction (e.g., the Internet), and spurring further alliances and integration of knowledge in pre-competitive phases. Simultaneously, science is being drawn more deeply into the economic globalization process by policy responses, as countries and whole regions (e.g., the EC through its Framework Programs) facilitate technological development for highly competitive world markets. The EC’s mobility schemes for graduate students and post docs must be seen in this light, and so also—by extension—events like the turn of the millennium announcement of a cooperative bilateral university-level agreement between two of the world’s most prestigious institutions, MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology, USA) and Cambridge University (UK), and the EC’s a new integrative policy for ‘the European Research Area.’ Such events herald a new phase in the intermeshing of the two processes, scientific internationalism and economic globalization.

An ideological driving factor is the traditional cosmopolitan ethos inherent to academe. Associated with modernity, it incorporates the idea of progress, with a history parallel to the emergence of the nation state, democracy and secularization. This means it is in fact culturally bound, as are its CUDOS components enunciated by Robert Merton as the social glue of modern scientific institutions: intellectual Communism, Universalism, Disinterestedness, and Organized Skepticism. Recent deconstruction of such norms, standards and models of science by scholars in the newer sociology of science highlights the role of particularism, drawing attention to social mechanisms of negotiation between various actors, and how these shape or ‘stabilize’ scientific consensus that can never be final. This captures the cultural diversity of scientific practices, but not the basic ideological import of universalism as an ideal in scientific internationalism.

A recent factor of internationalization resides in the global nature of environmental problems and the demand for concerted political action on a global scale to address them. Increasing numbers of treaties and conventions with strong science and technology components have been drawn up in this vein. On a converging track one finds pressures of escalating costs of large-scale facilities and calls to share budgetary burdens in newer as well as more traditional fields. The end of the Cold War was also a triggering factor. In its wake appear programs to aid Eastern and Central European scientists in their transition to capitalism and market-driven incentives, and new forms of international science and technology cooperation.

Finally, there are the local pressures in smaller nations that push scientists in settings of relative isolation in all parts of the world to integrate their work more closely with research fronts. Here the benefits of internationalization and the added intellectual stimulation it entails sometimes has the makings of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pressures to increase local visibility and gain international recognition by exposure to wider peer control of scientific quality get entrenched in procedures and new funding opportunities at national research councils and universities, affecting the behavior of individuals and groups of researchers, and success in getting grants.

4. Explanatory Models

Traditional literature on the history of international scientific organizations usually distinguishes two types of fora, scientific non and intergovernmental organizations (scientific NGOs and scientific IGOs). These are taken to represent two different institutional mechanisms for fostering internationalization. In the innovation literature, on the other hand, the focus has mostly been on firms and their role in international diffusion of technologies.

In general, there are two broad strands of theorizing about international organizations. One is rooted in the assumption that networks and more stable forms of organization arise in response to considerations of efficiency and rational goal-oriented behavior, in the course of which less viable alternative forms of interaction are circumvented. An economistic variant of this approach is implicit in an evolutionary theory of technological advance and diffusion. Here ‘market’ is taken as the selection mechanism that filters out a set of particular technologies from many potentially possible ones, and these get diffused across the globe (Nelson and Winter 1982).

Explicitly or implicitly, the market is regarded as being determined by the tastes, preferences and purchasing power of potential technology users, who are treated as exogenous. Internationalization, in turn, becomes largely a unidirectional product of technological regimes or trajectories which cross and are taken up in socially constituted selective environments. Depending on similarities in the selection mechanisms, or ‘learning’ between national innovation systems, the transfer of ideas and technologies may be harmonized successively at a global level.

Theoretical assumptions in the historiography of scientific organizations, or alternatively in regimetheory within the study of international relations, run somewhat parallel to this. Instead of the prominence attributed to an economic imperative, in these literatures ideological or political imperatives, and even communities of experts, may be foregrounded. One therefore gets the picture of internationalization primarily as the product of ideologically driven self-direction by the scientific community (in the case of scientific NGOs) or of governments’ guiding hands, plus rules and experts (in the case of scientific IGOs). In all these accounts, the organizations in question are regarded more or less as mechanisms through which other agencies act. They are not depicted as purposive actors with an autonomy, power or culture of their own, even if regime-theory has been criticized for giving too much prominence to experts while obfuscating the role of the nation states that invest them with authority.

In contrast to this, a sociological strand of theorizing takes its point of departure in Weber’s view of bureaucracies and focuses squarely on issues of legitimacy and power. Its advocates seek to explain a much broader range of impacts organizations can have, among others by virtue of their role in constructing actors, interests and social purpose. Emphasized are complexity, multiplicity and flexibility, with actors incorporated as endogenous to the processes of change. In this perspective it becomes interesting to consider how fora for international interaction, once they are created, take on a life of their own, exercising power autonomously in ways unintended and unanticipated by scientific associations or governments at the outset. The same can be said about conventions or regimes introduced to regulate and standardize intercourse between firms internationally in the fields of trade or intellectual property rights; norms are taken to have significant repercussions on the character of the interface between science and industry, and on the use of expertise in other realms.

The constructivist approach associated with sociological institutionalism thus explains the emergence of the relatively autonomous powers of new international fora, in terms of the rational-legal authority they embody, emphasizing the new interests for the parties involved, and the concomitant learning process in which certain organizational models become diffused across the globe. New bureaucracies as they develop are seen to provide a generic cultural form that shapes the various forums in specific ways in their respective domains (firms, scientific NGOs, and scientific IGOs). New actors are seen to be created, responsibilities specified, and authority delineated, defining and binding the roles of both old and new actors, giving them meaning and normative values. In this model, culture, imagery, and rhetoric are held to be forceful ingredients in the life of international organizations, especially in the way these play out their roles in constructing social worlds with a global reach (Finnemore 1993, Barnett and Finnemore 1999). With the foregoing in mind, the next section highlights some empirical facets, with particular regard to the two most obvious institutional mechanisms (and associated with them, a few typically prominent actors and programs) pertinent to internationalization of—mostly academic, but also governmentally directed—science (as distinct from internationalization of R&D in industrial enterprise—for this see National Innovation Systems).

5. Two Institutional Mechanisms: Scientific NGOs And IGOs

The numbers and influence of scientific NGOs and IGOs have grown tremendously since the 1980s. Now they not only find themselves interacting, but also pulled in different directions by lobbies of both transnational corporations (TNCs) driven by the profit motive, and nongovernmental civic society organizations (social movement NGOs). The latter are frequently fired by an ethic of equality and justice. Truth, politics, money, and human equality or justice, then, are the four ‘logics’ that meet in international forums, when strategies to tackle global problems are negotiated, e.g., Rio 1992; in the process new international groups of experts join the scene. This is an important field for future studies (Rayner and Malone 1998).

Analytically, it is useful to draw a distinction between autoletic and heteroletic organizations, especially between ones meant to serve science as an end in itself, and ones that are created and sustained by governmental action (Elzinga and Landstrom 1996). This is parallel to the distinction between policy for science, and science for policy, serving to mark institutional separation of science from politics, an aspect central to arguments regarding the integrity and objectivity of expert knowledge under strain.

5.1 Scientific NGOs

In general, nongovernmental mechanisms operate directly between research communities of different countries, without the intervening medium of governments. They are autoletic, the premise being that communities of scientists are best be left to themselves to organize their transnational contacts for common goals. A unique example is the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), the umbrella organization that in 1931 sprang from an older cosmopolitan ideal (Greenaway 1991). It coordinated the Second International Polar Year (1932–3), the forerunner of a series of programs of global, often multidisciplinary studies that began in 1952 with the plan for the International Geophysical Year (1957). Present-day successors are the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) and the World Climate Research Program (WCRP). These cut across disciplines pertinent to research into global environmental problems. Each has several subprograms dealing with specific themes and aspects of global climate change.

Other major programs cover biodiversity (DIVERSITAS) and the International Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change program (IHDP), cosponsored with the International Social Science Council (ISSC), ICSU’s smaller sister organization for the social sciences, created in 1952. A milestone event is the World Conference on Science in Budapest (ICSU 1999), sponsored jointly with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one of the world’s most wide-ranging intergovernmental organizations. Since its foundation in 1945 UNESCO has worked constantly to link the peripheries to the centers of science.

5.2 Scientific IGOs

Scientific IGOs typify the second (heteroletic) type of mechanism for internationalization. They promote scientific interchange via governmental channels. The point of departure is not scientific knowledge production as such, but the use of science for a particular purpose that form the basis for concerted action. In such contexts science is made a vehicle for the promotion of cultural, economic, political, and other goals at regional and global levels. UNESCO has already been mentioned. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are two of many others within the UN family; in the domain of technology too there are many IGOs, some of which set and regulate standards. The World Bank is another significant actor. A recent addition is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which follows up on the science produced under the auspices of IGBP and WCRP, harmonizing research-based statements in advice to governments. This has important repercussions for scientific and technological pursuits.

Some IGOs serve stakeholder interests in specific regions of the world, OECD being an example. Since 1963 it has been a pacesetter in developing R&D statistics, and science and technology policy doctrines, contributing to some harmonization between countries. A recent innovation was the creation of the Forum for Megascience (1992), renamed the Global Science Forum. It is responsible for periodical reviews of very large-scale projects so costly (in the order of billions of US dollars per year) and complex that they require multinational collaboration. Thence science and international diplomacy must meet to produce unique management cultures (Watkins 1997). Megaprojects can be concentrated at one site (e.g., CERN) or distributive (e.g., the Human Genome Project). Deep ocean drilling, climate change, thermonuclear fusion experimentation, as well as Antarctic research are further examples. Antarctica is a continent shaped by science as key vehicle in an international regime outside the UN (Elzinga, in Crawford et al. 1993).

6. Intermesh And Thematic Integration

Proliferation and interpenetration of scientific NGOs and IGOs over past decades has gone hand-in-hand with a corresponding growth in numbers of civic NGOs and corporate lobbies. These also interact with scientific bodies, adding to the hybrid criss-cross of connections in which scientific and political agendas converge and blend. Leading scientists respond to the strain by constantly reemphasizing the need to protect the objectivity and integrity of scientific knowledge claims (Greenaway 1991). Conflicts have emerged around attempts to commercialize and privatize national databases, with both ICSU and IGOs, like the WMO, coming out strongly in favor of a policy for open access to information that is invaluable for world research on global problems. Similar tensions have evolved over intellectual property in biotechnology, where scientists are more apt to be of two minds.

In the wake of globalization, in Third World countries in particular, both scientists and politicians have reacted against the design of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) as negotiated within the World Trade Organization (WTO). Around these and other issues, new tensions arise to pull scientists in several directions along the four different ‘logics’ (delineated at the beginning of Sect. 4). Thematic integration of research agendas is a second qualitative dimension needing further study. How problems are framed, data, as well as concept formation involves interpretation and epistemological imperatives. This is apparent in research on global climate change, where large international scientific programs (IGBP and WCRP) work hand-in-hand with IPCC to orchestrate problem sets, preferred methodologies and modeling criteria. Core sets of concepts spun in the world’s leading scientific countries with epistemic communities of climatologists around General Circulation Models (GMCs) have a bearing on the type of data field workers should look for, and the format in which the data are cast; special funding programs exist that enroll scientists from the scientific peripheries.

Creating global consensus around a core of scientifically accepted knowledge and streamlining homogeneous accounts to spur concerted political action have epistemological implications beyond science. As activities, they contribute to the formation of common world views. Concepts such as ‘global warming potential’ (of greenhouse gases) help to build bridges between science and political decision-making. The very notion of ‘global climate,’ as well as ‘Earth system science’ are other examples where conceptual work facilitate cognitive integration, both over disciplinary boundaries in science and in interfaces with citizens at large (Jasanoff and Wynne, in Rayner and Malone 1998). They change our world picture in a reimagining of humankind in its encounters with nature (e.g., ideas like anthropogenic ‘fingerprints’). Representations of local climates, the atmosphere, and circulations systems in the oceans are linked up with representations of human ecology (e.g., land use), which in turn are linked to conceptions of risk and truth. Internationalization of science resonates with gradual reorientation of perspectives and scientific practices in unitary fashion. To what extent alternatives to expertise as avenues of knowledge production are foreclosed remains a contentious issue.


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