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II.3  Setting Priorities
in a New Socio-Economic Context


The overarching question to be dealt with in the meeting will be: what issues should governments address in priority to manage science systems in the new socio-economic, market-oriented, global context?

The meeting, to be chaired by H. van Ginkel, Rector of the United Nations University (Tokyo), will be introduced by a series of contributions by panelists with different perspectives and experiences. T.Gaudin (France) will discuss the future of science in the 21st century; J. de la Mothe (Canada) will survey current issues in science policy management in advanced societies; J. Rostrup Nielsen (Danemark) will present an industrialist’s viewpoint. H. Vessuri (Venezuela), K. Gulamov (Uzbekistan) and S. Al-Athel (Saudi Arabia) will provide insights on trends and policy options in their own regions.

The debate will be focussed on a few questions:

  • What are the most important factors shaping the science enterprise in the next decades?
  • How can science respond to the different needs of the world regions?
  • How to pursue long term goals in a policy context which favours short term benefits?
  • How to influence science funding and human resource developments in function of identified priorities?
  • How to deal with the increasing commercialisation of scientific research and related property issues?

Chair: Hans van Ginkel Rector, UN University; Netherlands
Rapporteur: Jean-Eric Aubert OECD; France

Session co-ordinator: : Jean-Eric Aubert OECD, France
Local secretary: A. Havas National Committee for Technological Development, Hungary


Feasibility of science prospective: what priorities ?

Thierry Gaudin
Prospective 2100, France

Regarding long term forecasting for science, one should first keep a sceptical attitude: the paradigm shifts during the 20th century, such as relativity, genetics or fractals appear as unpredictable. How can we assume any prediction about those of 21st century? Anyhow, if we follow the general statement that a global change is occuring in our civilization, namely a secular shift from the industrial society to the cognitive society, we can assume that mechanics, physics and chemistry, key disciplines of the industrial world, might be replaced in their central position by cognitive sciences and life sciences. One should also observe that the cognitive paradigm is putting forward metrology as the starting point of the cognitive social process, and leads to a post scientist representation of knowledge, in which the diversity of recognition and exchange, by several different subjects, requires more attention than the so called "objectivity" which refers to a unique process of acquisition and validation of knowledge.

Science and priority setting in open societies

John de la Mothe
Faculty of Administration, University of Ottawa, Canada

The emerging social and economic context is widely typified by its global, interdependent, and knowledge based condition. It is known for its penchant for free trade, open markets, and a dominant logic of commercialization. These dynamics have delivered critical shifts in how societies view and use science, much of which was characterized by Bush’s endless frontier (1945) and Popper open society (1945). As a result, it is now more common to speak of innovation gaps and information have nots than breakthroughs and eureka. Within this context, this paper will have two thrusts. First it will assess in detail the efforts in Canada to set priorities in science, to build capacities, and to strike an appropriate balance in its national science and technology efforts. In so doing it will discuss key current issues in the management of science and science policies with specific reference to the federal science based departments and agencies (dealing, for example, with health, environment, natural resources, fisheries and oceans, etc.). Second, it will draw comparative touchstones for other nations both in reference to the Canadian experience and to the classical debates in science policy, particularly to the Austro-Hungarian contributions of Schumpeter, Polanyi, Hayek, and Popper.

Setting priorities in a new socio-economic context:
an industrialist's view

Jens Rostrup-Nielsen
Vice-President, Haldor Topsoe, Denmark

The industrial innovation process is complex. The comparative advantage is the capability to utilize knowledge rather than creating knowledge.

The focus on core business and shareholder valve may result in short-termism, which may harm the renewal of industry. Long term research is needed to create options for the companies to respond to a rapidly changing world.

Industrial R&D has seen major cut backs in mainly large companies, which has resulted in outsourcing and the creation of small high tech companies. Another trend is globalisation with time also involving the research base in 3rd world countries in the global networks.

Technology push / market pull is being replaced by society pull or regulatory push. A trend to "social shaping" of the innovation may well be justified in defining the needs, but it could easily to short-termism by requiring that research should be relevant to present perceived needs by the political system. It is important to maintain room for explorative long-term research questioning new present knowledge and creating a basis for future options.

The biggest challenge to governments is to formulate and implement an integrated science, technology and innovation policy, balancing the framework for promoting entrepreneurial spirit, the "social shaping" of technology and leaving room for ambitious and free long-term research.

Science and technology priorities and policy issues:
the Latin-American experience

Hebe Vessuri
Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research, Venezuela

To refer to the Latin American experience in S&T one could profitably ask how science has developed in the region, and why. There is quite a lot of incidental detail available on the first question, as there is a growing body of empirical knowledge about it produced by sociologists and historians of science and economists of innovation. The second one, requires a synthetic overview benefiting from the understanding provided by the first one. I would propose to tackle it indirectly by dealing with yet another question : what happened to science in Latin America, while in the world it was growing into a major productive force. By way of an answer I would propose two main theses that will structure my presentation :

  • The limited and somewhat frustrating development of S&T capabilities in Latin America and the Caribbean after WW-II was but part of a broad process of economic and political change set in motion for dealing with a post-colonial world and has to be viewed in this context. Research, particularly that funded with development aid money, tended to be focused on short-term technical fixes, rather than helping countries to increase their self-sufficiency by building up local research capacity.
  • The new conditions of globalization (as well as their specific domestic environment after fifty years of "development") facing the particular countries of the region, means that we enter a new world, which is not mapped yet but whose culture, rhetoric to the contrary, seems to be characterized by exclusion and concentration. To ensure a more integral participation in the new international scenarios, Latin America has to aggressively refurbish its S&T establishment. Research appears to be no longer considered as "a luxury toy for rich countries", but a fundamental component of economic success in all countries. Nevertheless there is still more talk about North-South collaboration than action. Private capital has replaced development aid as the main source of external finance for developing countries and lobbies for science in Latin American countries are weak. New thinking in S&T policy geared to induce a desirable transition could have the potential of exercising significant influence on knowledge and institutions.

I will present what I consider to be four of the most pressing existing and emerging needs which condition S&T policy in Latin America: 1) The regional demography of science and technology, 2) Relevant science for specific needs and conditions, 3) Politics, democracy and learning processes, and 4) New patterns of knowledge flows and the complexity of requirements for resources mobilization in a globalized economy. I will then try to illustrate my argument by means of an example of the development of Catalysis capabilities in several Latin American countries.

Central Asia: science in transition

Kadyr G. Gulamov
Vice-President, Academy of Sciences, Uzbekistan

Science in Central Asia has deep historic roots. During the Muslim Renaissance scholars from central Asia made an out-standing contribution to the scientific knowledge and human culture, thus providing the social basis for the modern science.

During the soviet times in some directions science and education achieved remarkable results here, but their development was distorted by ideological factors and the central planned economy.

Nowadays the science in new independent countries of Central Asia, as well as society in general, is in the process of deep transformation. The main goal of scientific policies of new states is, preserving everything positive achieved so far, to transform the organization of most urgent problems of socio-economic development.

Different countries use different approaches and mechanisms trying to get a proper balance of scientific activities in universities, academies of sciences and the industry as well as to increase the market orientation of R&D. Measures are undertaken to enhance the international scientific community in decision making process and education of younger generation.

Government of new states pay special attention to the development of thematic – this is related with the needs to reconsider in broader aspects the history of Central Asia, restoration of national values and creation of new democratic institutions.

Setting priorities for science and technology
in Saudi Arabia and its impediments

Saleh Al-Athel
President, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

Science and Technology play a substantial and important role in the economic and social advancement of nations. The ability to manage and develop science and technology is a distinguishing characteristic of developed nations. This is evident by the existence of strong relationships between scientific and technological capabilities of these countries, their economic strengths and the role they play in world economy. Saudi Arabia, perceiving this importance and the prominent role that science and technology play in supporting the national social and economic development, focused its attention and concern in the development plans to the establishment of the basic structure for science and technology. The main objective was to enable Saudi Arabia to pursue the development of science and technology and to catch up with the developed nations without scarifying its social values and cultural heritage.

In continuation with this same perception of the important role that science and technology play in social and economic advancement, the development plans focused on the establishment and support of centers, programs and institutions of scientific research and technological development in Saudi Arabia. In the forefront was the establishment of an independent body to be concerned with science and technology in Saudi Arabia. The primary function of this body, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), is to define the national priorities and set the policies for science and technology and establish the fundamental structure for scientific research and technological development in the Kingdom.

This paper will tackle the important pivots in the procession of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the development and management of science and technology. It will discuss the general outlines of the Kingdomís policy towards the development of science and technology as it was established in the development plans. It will review the establishment of KACST then commence with the preparation of the comprehensive national plan for science and technology. The paper will then throw light on the methodology for the preparation of science and technology priorities in the Kingdom and its execution mechanism. It will conclude by focusing on the handicaps (shortcomings and difficulties) that faced the Kingdom when preparing and executing these priorities.


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