Videnskabshistorisk Selskab

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

Modes of internationalism in science

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.

Tirsdag, den 2. december, kl. 16.00

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