lørdag den 22. november 2008

Internationalism in science

Dobbeltforedrag i Videnskabshistorisk Selskab

Tirsdag den 2. december 2008

kl. 16.00 / 4 p.m.

Professor emeritus Aant Elzinga,
Institutionen för idéhistoria och vetenskapsteori, Göteborgs universitet:

Modes of internationalism in science

Kaffepause kl. 16.45-17.00
Coffee Break, 4:45-5 p.m.

kl. 17.00 / 5 p.m.

Dr Patrick Petitjean,
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) & Université Paris 7

Needham and Unesco, 1946-1948: an attempt to refound the international
scientific cooperation

Auditorium 9, H. C. Ørsted Instituttet,
Universitetsparken 5, 2100 København Ø

Abstract (Elzinga):
Historically speaking internationalism in relation to science has been promoted in two institutionally distinct forms. One is via non-governmental organizations, examples of which are the Union of Scientific Councils (ICSU, now called the International Council for Science), and the World Federation of Scientific Workers (WFSW). ICSU was founded in 1931 (after a post-world war I cold war in science) as the umbrella organization for scientists professional associations at the international level. The motive was to promote science in its own right.
The WFSW emerged after the Second World War as a trade union type of organization in the interest of the working conditions of scientists and promoting an idea of the social responsibility of scientists, an idea strongly influenced by the "social relations of science movement" of the
1930's. The latter positioned itself against the then prevalent idea that science has no politics. The social responsibility movement thus opposed a mainstream view that science is and should be neutral vis a vis important economic and political issues and debates in society at large. The
movement of the 1930's in turn contained two major strands, a Liberal and a Marxist one that coexisted in an uneasy alliance in opposition to a counter-movement that promoted an idea of disembodied science, the Republic of Science (an antidote to J.D. Bernal's The Social Function of Science).

Intergovernmental science-related organizations are ones where scientist have been appointed by their own national governments to represent those governments' interests in international negotiations to pool scientific resources or deal with political or technical problems of mutual interest.
Unesco is an example of such an organization, so is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established by WMO and UNEP. European agencies that have an intergovernmental character are CERN (nuclear research) and ESO (astronomy). In recent years the term science diplomacy has gained currency when referring to scientists providing advice to governments in
international forums.

In the presentation I shall review some of the debates in the 1920s relating to the advantages and disadvantages of non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations when it came to the interface between science and political action. The significance of the movement for the
social responsibility of science in the 1930s will also be discussed, among other with respect to how of boundaries between science and society were defined and managed. Finally it will be argued that since the 1970s and 80s there has been a hybridization whereby non- and intergovernmental scientific organizations partly began to merge around common tasks but
while at the same time trying to uphold strict boundaries between the scientific and the political. An example is in the arena of climate change research where both the stakes and the uncertainties are high. There is also a tendency to confuse globalization with internationalization. The point will be made that when it comes to science, globalization and
internationalization are two different phenomena.

References: Aant Elzinga and Catharina Landström (eds.) Internationalism and Science (London: Taylor Graham 1996); Aant Elzinga, "Internationalisation of Science and Technology", in Neil J. Schmelser & Paul B. Baltes eds. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioural Sciences, Elsevier, Amsterdam 2001, vol. 20, pp. 13633-13638.

Abstract (Petitjean):

In the short period between the end of the anti-Nazi war and the cold war, some space existed within the UNESCO Natural Sciences section to attempt a re-foundation of international scientific co-operation with a progressive orientation rooted in the social relations of science movement of the 1930-40s.

This re-foundation included a "periphery principle" (science is not the same when seen from the "North" or from the "South"), which turned UNESCO towards developing countries, and a dedication to the social aspects of science and history of science inside the natural sciences section. But the social and political context was not as fine as expected. Most scientists rejected these priorities ("parochialism", Needham called that), the USA were hostile, colonial powers were attempting to mobilize UNESCO for their own goals, and the USSR, which was in a period of deep nationalist isolationism against western culture, fought against UNESCO, preferring a domesticated intellectual international movement (the Wroclaw conference, 1948).

Probably as important as the context, was the consequences of the ideological background of this group of scientists. It was a coexistence of: a rough materialism for which most explanations laid in the economical infrastructures and (but it depended also from the changing diplomatic
agendas) in the "class origins" of scientists; an idealism, shared by most scientists, according to which science is "neutral", only the good or bad applications of science were to be considered. Most scientists of this group, even the most politically radical, were not far from the 19th
Century positivism, with an "universal community of scientists" and the idealization of the scientific work ("in its endeavour, science is communism"). As Capitalism is prohibiting a true development of science, the struggle for science IS the struggle for socialism. The World
Federation of Scientific Workers had no features of a new scientific internationalism.

When the political context changed, the "periphery principle" was easily absorbed within UNESCO by a new paradigm of international scientific co-operation in the 1950s, the Technical Assistance programs proposed by Truman with his Point IV (Discourse of January 1949): a de-politicized science, subordinated to the economical development, to diffuse the
American model of a "free" society.

Source : The Joint Establishment of the World Federation of Scientific Workers and of UNESCO After World War II - published in Minerva (summer 2008)