Vol 8 N° 4 [October–December 2010]
2. The growing role of knowledge in the global economy
11 UNESCO steps in to help Pakistan
11 An island kicks the oil habit
12 A science observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean
12 Social sciences growing in emerging economies
13 21 new World Heritage sites
14 Jatna Supriatna on what Indonesia is doing to safeguard its biodiversity
17 The rise of innovation in India
21 The adventures of Patrimonito
24 New releases
The democratization of science
The UNESCO Science Report 2010 is being launched on World Science Day on 10 November, the theme of which is Rapprochement of Peoples and Cultures this year. In the following pages, we publish excerpts from the introductory chapter and that on India. Among the many trends identified by the report in its world tour of the status of science, one that stands out is the growing democratization of science.
The rapid spread of technologies has opened up a dynamic space for the development of capacities worldwide. Even countries with a lesser scientific capacity are finding that they can acquire, adopt and sometimes even transform existing technology and thereby ‘leapfrog’ over certain costly investments. One example is investment in infrastructure, such as land lines for telephones. Technological progress is allowing these countries to produce more knowledge and participate more actively in international networks and research partnerships with countries in both North and South. This trend is fostering a democratization of science worldwide. In turn, science diplomacy is becoming a key instrument of peace-building and sustainable development in international relations.
The report depicts an increasingly competitive environment, one in which the flow of information, knowledge, personnel and investment has become a two-way traffic. China and India, for instance, are using their newfound economic might to invest in high-tech companies in Europe and elsewhere to acquire technological expertise overnight. China plans to recruit 2000 foreign experts over the next 5–10 years to work in its laboratories, research institutes, leading enterprises and universities.
If more countries are participating in science, we are also seeing a shift in global influence. Driven largely by China, India and the Republic of Korea, Asia’s world share of gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) rose from 27% to 32% between 2002 and 2007, largely to the detriment of the Triad composed of the European Union (EU), Japan and the USA, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. China’s world share of GERD rose from 5.0% to 8.9% over the same period. In absolute terms, other large emerging economies are also spending more on R&D, among them Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.
The ‘Big Five’ composed of the Triad, China and Russian Federation nevertheless still account for three-quarters of researchers. If China is a hair’s breadth away from counting as many researchers as the EU and USA, Brazil and India are taking energetic steps to remedy a shortage of skilled graduates. Brain drain is a growing concern for many developing countries. At least one-third of African researchers were living and working abroad in 2009, for example.
The growing role of science diplomacy has strong implications for UNESCO. For more than 60 years, UNESCO has fostered international collaboration to promote the sharing of scientific information and data. Today, as UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova writes in her Foreword to the report, at a time when science has tremendous power to shape the future of humanity and issues are of an increasingly global nature, ‘it no longer makes much sense to design science policy in purely national terms.’
Assistant Director-General for Natural Science