American Power After Afghanistan
How to Rightsize the Country’s Global Role
With European industrial civilization comes European science. It is a package deal. The question whether a culture thus superseded or repressed had its own form of science has become purely academic: the process of economic growth and social development is entirely predicated on the "rational materialism" of post-Renaissance Europe and its North American colonies. This fact may well be deplored, but can scarcely be denied. The very word technology, denoting a practical technique that has been studied and transformed in the light of scientific rationality, betrays our values and intentions as it displaces the crafts from town and village, from workshop and field, throughout the world.
Nevertheless, European science, both intellectually and practically, diffuses very slowly and unevenly into the culture of a developing country. This is not because it is firmly resisted by alternative metaphysical systems to which it seems antagonistic, but because the actual agents of diffusion are weak and uncoordinated. In Western Europe and the United States, scientific knowledge is a natural product as well as a fuel of the advanced industrialized society; in a country such as Paradisia-the pseudonym conceals no particular country, but refers perhaps to a whole class of medium-sized states such as Ghana or Iran, Korea or Peru-it is a foreign import, an exotic plant that has not yet established and seeded itself in new soil.
Modern science comes into Paradisia, from distant Europe or the United States, along three distinct channels. In the first instance, historically speaking, it came through the academic channel, into schools, colleges, and universities. Whether these institutions are hundreds of years old or are quite modern is irrelevant; the natural sciences were not introduced into the academic curriculum in Western countries until the nineteenth century, and did not play a very large part in formal education until quite recently. Paradisia took its time in following the lead of the powerful metropolitan country-shall we call it Dominatia?-in whose political or at least cultural sphere of influence it then lay captive, so that the teaching of physics and chemistry, botany and zoology, in a few secondary schools and colleges, was perfunctory and of little practical significance. Until the Second World War, the only genuine academic centers of scientific knowledge and practice would have been in some small schools of engineering, medicine and agriculture, where external standards of technical expertise could be imposed by expatriate professional practitioners.
The expansion of secondary and higher education in Paradisia in the past 30 years is immensely impressive, and much has been changed. In particular, the creation or expansion of fully fledged, independent universities, offering bachelor's and master's degrees in all the major academic disciplines, has transformed the opportunities for advanced instruction in the basic sciences. The student of a sophisticated subject such as nuclear physics or genetics need no longer go abroad as he once did for even the most elementary training. On the campus of his national university he will find Paradisians with doctorates from MIT or Cambridge, Paris or Moscow, in precisely these subjects. Yet the number of students who actually receive such instruction is often pitifully small, perhaps no more than a few dozen graduates in science in the whole country each year-a fraction that can only be expressed, like the concentration of a trace impurity in a chemical compound, in parts per million of the total population.1
Some aspects of scientific technology enter Paradisia along the technical channel, carried by a flood of imported or locally manufactured industrial products-automobiles, transistor radios, pharmaceutical and agricultural chemicals, electric power plants, etc. Starting with elementary practical skills, such as driving a bulldozer or installing plumbing, there is a natural progression through the expertise of the motor mechanic, machine-tool operator, or electronic technician, to the more "intellectual" tasks of the civil and electrical engineers or factory managers. Daily life in Paradisia (especially in the cities) has become dependent on such people, who are in very short supply. At the lowest levels the need is met by self-taught practice or crude apprenticeship, but the facilities for rational technical training at the middle level are almost nonexistent. Deploring this defect-but not regarding it as any of their business to cure-the multinational corporations that dominate trade in sophisticated industrial products bring in their own technical experts for after-sales service, or set up complete "turn-key" factories where almost every operation is automated or prescribed in a manual for the benefit of unskilled local operatives. Indeed, motivated by prestige, the rulers of many developing countries demand sophisticated and even fully automated production methods, despite their capital intensity in the midst of unemployment. The "science" that infects Paradisia along this channel is often quite out of touch with a coherent, rational, applicable body of knowledge.
Finally, science is injected into Paradisia through a third channel-government organizations dedicated to particular technological applications and deliberately charged with specific "missions" to serve as sources of modern scientific ideas for economic, agricultural, medical and industrial development in particular technological areas. Typical of such organizations would be an Atomic Energy Commission with the task of bringing all the benefits of nuclear energy to Paradisia. With its own little research reactor (usually a gift from a benevolent great power), reasonable technical facilities, a fair degree of autonomy within the government machine-and a substantial fraction of the total science budget-this is often the only real center of modern scientific technique in the whole country. By training its research workers abroad, and through its affiliations to the International Atomic Energy Agency, it maintains adequate links with the scientific world at large.
Even though the research that is done in such an establishment may be of very low quality by international standards, it may serve as a vehicle for a broader scientific effort than its nominal mission would suggest. But for all the political goodwill, high hopes, and considerable expenditures that have gone into such organizations, they have made very little impact on the general social development of countries such as Paradisia. Indeed, the over-ambitious promise-which naturally could not be fulfilled-to transform the economic and cultural situation by the magic wand of a highly sophisticated scientific technique has done a great deal of harm, discrediting "science" in the eyes of politicians, intellectuals, and practical men.
In all that follows it is important to keep in mind that these three channels carry little traffic, and are almost unconnected with one another. Of course, if one were content to stay in the superficial world of words and titles, one might get the impression that science development has a prominent role in Paradisia. Like almost all developing countries it has at least one organization proudly proclaiming the importance of science. To reinforce this impression, speeches and pronouncements on development policy, both in Paradisia and in the many organizations for international aid, abound in the reaffirmation of the importance of "science-and-technology" or "R and D."
Behind the facade, however, one often finds no more than the fragments of a scientific community, disorganized, disunited, of limited professional competence, poverty stricken, intellectually isolated, and directed toward largely romantic goals-or no goals at all. This is a harsh judgment, especially when applied to the activities of a small group of exceptionally hard-working, sincere, and dedicated people, and to the results of high-minded efforts over several decades by essentially well-meaning organizations such as international agencies and government bureaus. Indeed, the truth about the state of science in many developing countries is so hard to bear that it does not easily pass the lips of the proud Paradisian himself nor of the courteous foreign expert enjoying the hospitality of a short visit. The printed word on development carries scarcely a hint of what is so often said in private among close friends and colleagues.
And yet the task to be undertaken is not hopeless. The example of Japan, whose industrial power is now matched by the intellectual resources of a first-class scientific community, beckons on such great nations as India and Brazil. Since the Second World War, Australia and Canada have "taken off" scientifically, and are no longer mere intellectual provinces of more powerful empires. In countries as politically diverse as Argentina and Romania, centers of scientific excellence are beginning to make their mark on the international scene. Just as the category "developing country" includes a great variety of economic, environmental, cultural and political circumstances, so also it may cover a very wide range in the conditions of science, technology and higher education.
In the present discussion, it is taken for granted that European science should become a dominant cultural force throughout the world. But there are many thoughtful and good men who assert that development of this kind is by no means beneficial in ultimate human terms and who oppose science itself as the very source of the malady. This point of view is not untenable, although it makes too little of the irrationality and possible inhumanity of alternative metaphysical systems, and does not allow for the decoupling of the cognitive, cultural and attitudinal content of science from many of its current applications. If we ignore this attitude here, it is not because it is absurd or despicable but because it is very far from what is demanded by enlightened Paradisians who see very clearly that without the help of science the road leads only to disaster. And it is not our business, here in comfortable Dominatia, to tell them that they cannot have what we so manifestly enjoy.
In the effort to discover the reasons for the disparity between aspiration and achievement in science in Paradisia, one becomes aware of a combination of factors, involving, on the one hand, a lack of understanding of the nature of science and its evolution, and, on the other hand, a confusion in the goals and processes of development. To these must be added indifference to some of the crucial potential elements in scientific progress, and organizational and administrative practices which are quite mismatched to real needs.
The attitude of politicians, economists, and even of many scientists toward the role of science in development is clouded by fundamental misconceptions. After an initial period of euphoria, in which it seemed that all the practical problems of poverty, hunger and economic backwardness would be solved at a stroke by the new understanding that would flow from the establishment of modern science in an old country, a reaction set in. The rhetoric was displaced by skepticism and cynicism: despite lip service to the contrary, there is now widespread disbelief that science can contribute significantly to development, except at the level of immediate practice.
This skepticism is largely due to the extended time scale and subtlety of both the development process in general, and the contribution of science to it. In all walks of human life, short-term considerations tend to win out over potential long-term benefits. This tendency is epitomized in the use of the word "relevance," which has come to mean direct connection with an immediate material problem. In this sense, scientific research is often felt to be "irrelevant" for the less-developed countries by comparison with problems like providing food for today and tomorrow.
Taking a broader view, however, national development must be seen as the process whereby the material, spiritual, cultural and psychological well-being of the country and its citizenry is improved and assured into the future. To carry out this process, one must tend both to the needs of this year and to the foreseeable requirements of the next few decades. Furthermore, one must cater for both material and non-material needs, of which the former are but instruments for the fulfillment of the latter. No society, whatever race, religion, ideology or century it belonged to, ever considered the only purpose in life to be to provide its members with food and creature comforts. The nature of non-material aspirations changes from society to society, and has its own evolutionary dynamic, becoming what we call the history of mankind. In considering the role of science in our own epoch, in relation to many different countries with very varied cultures, we must always think of development in this broad sense. This will become very clear when we discuss the factor of morale.
What then is the justification of science in Paradisia in this enlarged concept of development? As is often the case with important and successful human activities, a number of different arguments combine into a broadly based and solid rationale. One might start with the long-term character of science and education. Most of those who doubt the relevance of science to present conditions in the developing countries will agree that these countries are likely to need indigenous scientific activity three or four decades from now. That is to say, Paradisia ought by then to be able to share in the give-and-take of research in the pure and applied sciences, contributing to and drawing knowledge equitably from the international pool. If such a level of respectability and solvency in the world marketplace of knowledge cannot be achieved overnight, it is a realistic goal for half a century hence.
The development of a viable national infrastructure in the sciences is a lengthy process, even where it is favored by material, cultural and social factors. In both the United States and Japan, for example, it took several decades to progress from an embryonic, imitative and subordinate scientific infrastructure to significant power in world science. In the less favorable initial circumstances of many developing countries, the same process can scarcely be more rapid. Thus the process must be started immediately. As the elderly French marshal told his gardener, when informed that an ornamental tree would take 100 years to grow to full stature: "Then we have no time to lose; plant it today!"
Yet there are still those who seem unconvinced of the urgency of the need for an indigenous scientific community in a country such as Paradisia. With scientific knowledge and technological know-how available for all on the world market, would it not be easier to import and use whatever is needed, without building "local production facilities" in these commodities? This commercial metaphor is appropriate, since the essence of this argument is an appeal to the principles of classical liberal economics-the open market, free trade, economies of scale, and the division of labor. Let the great knowledge factories of the advanced countries export their great surpluses of information, fact and theory, in exchange for cocoa, bananas, oil and copper, and eventually, in exchange for industrial products manufactured in the newly developed nations.
At the most elementary level, this analogy is entirely fallacious. Scientific knowledge lacks many of the necessary attributes of a commercial commodity, and cannot be fairly bartered for material goods and services.2 It is not possible simply to "import" science and technology in the absence of an indigenous scientific and technical community. And even if this were possible, it would be unsatisfactory and undesirable for economic, political and psychological reasons.
In importing scientific and technical information (for example, through patents), one first needs to identify the purpose for which importation is necessary; then one must select appropriate items from a wide and varied catalogue; finally one must acquire, absorb and adapt existing science and technology to the task at hand. These processes cannot be carried out effectively without a substantial indigenous scientific infrastructure. This is evident, for example, from the history of Japan, where the large-scale importation of scientific techniques in recent times was preceded by decades of development of an indigenous scientific and technological community.
Particular stress must be laid on the adaptation of science and technique to meet local needs. New research, applied and basic, may have to be performed locally or regionally before the major problems faced by a given country on account of its particular geographical location or social history can be dealt with. Rice cultivation in Southeast Asia, soil desalination in Pakistan, ranching in East Africa, deep-sea fishing in Peru are examples of important human activities which cannot be understood and improved merely by the application of general biological and ecological principles taken from the international scientific literature.
Beyond the solution of specific material problems, the existence of an indigenous scientific community is even more essential for science to achieve a broad social impact. For example, the natural sciences are an essential component in education for the medical, engineering and teaching professions. In principle, such education could be carried out by persons whose only contact with science was a one-time university degree. Practice shows, however, that without the benefit of continued personal involvement in scientific research, such people not only quickly fall behind the fast-growing content of the sciences but also become divorced from the spirit of science as the art of problem-solving. Evidence of this is unfortunately all too obvious on the Indian subcontinent, where the stifling system of rote learning and regurgitation for examinations is closely connected with these ubiquitous shortcomings in the science instructors. It is not surprising that the doctors, engineers and teachers educated in such a system lack initiative and imagination in their professional work.
The educational role of the natural sciences goes far beyond the training of particular professionals. The development process as a whole is based on the assumption that change in time is a regular and desirable feature of social life, that human fate can, at least to some extent, be shaped by the application of knowledge and effort, and that the experience of others before us can be helpful to us in making further progress. By contrast, the traditional milieu of a less-developed country often is imbued with a static view of life, a fatalism in which events are determined by incomprehensible extra-human factors, and a compulsion to repeat previous practices rather than improve them. Thus, contact with modern science, with its expanding and cumulative character, can have a very broad cultural and attitudinal impact. To put it another way: those who oppose development on the material plane as a challenge to traditional culture are quite right to see science as a fifth column sapping this culture at its spiritual roots.
There is, however, yet another facet of science which takes us back to the earlier discussion of non-material aspirations. In post-Renaissance European culture, the pursuit of scientific knowledge is considered to be more than a means to a better material life: it is an important medium for higher activities made possible by the partial satisfaction of our immediate needs. The immense efforts made to answer "irrelevant" questions concerning the nature of the Universe, the origins of life, the laws of sub-atomic physics or the topology of n-dimensional algebraic varieties are not directed toward greener grass, more lavishly buttered parsnips, or better mousetraps; they are actuated by religious and aesthetic impulses of harmony, coherence, comprehension and intellectual order by which all who partake of our civilization are bound to be moved.
In this context, it is essential to realize that the huge gap between Dominatia and Paradisia is as much psychological as material. When we talk about the continued dependence of the less-developed countries on the advanced countries, we do not mean only that formal political authority has become economic dominance; we mean that the advanced countries continue to exert an overwhelming influence on the rest of the world in intellectual, cultural, social and spiritual ways. This non-material dependence is quite as demeaning, frustrating-and ultimately alienating-as economic and political exploitation. For this reason, continued scientific dependence on the advanced countries is an unacceptable future for any self-conscious developing country. We would be wise to encourage genuine competition (and cooperation) in our own game, rather than risk the very real possibility of repudiation of the whole scientific enterprise by the majority of mankind!
Finally, we come to the factor of morale. In the enormous effort to close the gap, a crucial element is a belief that the task can be accomplished and that it is a purpose of human life worth sacrificing for. This inner strength and spiritual fortitude is a potent force in all human activities. While high morale may rest primarily on philosophical and other non-material factors, it can be strengthened by instances of success. In the matter of social development, scientific achievement can well serve as an indicator of such success. Thus, the Nobel Prize of Raman or Houssay is tangible evidence that India or Argentina can compete favorably with the United States in some areas of scientific research, even if it is not likely to catch up in the near future in steel production or in the number of TV sets. It must be admitted that the recent Indian detonation of a nuclear device, diplomatically deplorable and militarily irrelevant as it may be, has had the same effect on the self-image of the Indian scientific and technological community. Such spectacular successes are not necessarily expensive and yet help bolster the morale of the country across the whole broad front of development.
In summary, the conventional wisdom that fails to see an effective role for science in many countries at their present stage of development misses the point in several respects. It conceives development only in immediate and narrowly material terms. It also thinks of science in narrow terms, failing to appreciate the broad impact of its problem-solving attitude and its cumulative, optimistic, self-reliant spirit on the development of a country. This same conventional wisdom underestimates the time and effort needed to plant science firmly on new soil, and thus neglects the long-term task of establishing an indigenous scientific infrastructure in the less-developed countries-an objective that should, in reality, have the highest priority.
What are the major defects of science in Paradisia, and what are the obstacles to curing them? Here again, it is necessary to have a good grasp of the meaning of science as a multifaceted human activity, and to dig deeply beneath the surface, to uncover the real weaknesses and to devise genuine remedies.
The greatest obstacles to science development are the obstacles to social and economic development in general-poverty, ignorance, and maladministration. It scarcely needs to be said that the material facilities-laboratory apparatus, workshops, repair services, technical staff, buildings, secretarial assistance, power supply, transport, chemical supplies, electronic spare parts, climatic protection, computers, audio-visual aids, photographic equipment, books, experimental animals, electron microscopes etc., etc., etc.-are grossly inferior, in almost all scientific institutions in Paradisia, to what would be regarded as appropriate in Dominatia. Yet this does require continued emphasis, for there are many scientists in the advanced countries who lack the personal experience, or the testimony of their foreign colleagues, or the small quantity of imagination required to grasp this point. Modern science in Dominatia is affluent and competitive; the profligate style of its operations, geared to the anxiety of the professional scientist to "get there fustest with the mostest," is a luxury that cannot be extended over the whole scientific community in a poor country with a low standard of living and a very modest tax base. It is very difficult indeed to do good science, at the international standard, on one-tenth of the real resources available to one's contemporaries elsewhere. There is little consolation in the thought that the Cavendish Laboratory, in the great days of Lord Rutherford, spent only a few thousand pounds a year on material facilities; the comparison is with the physical sciences in the United States today, where the overhead costs, per Ph.D., run to something like $50,000 per year.3
It is important, also, to realize how unevenly such facilities may be distributed among scientific institutions in the same country. As we have already observed, money for equipment and other technical resources tends to flow more freely into the "mission" channels within the government machine than it does to equally qualified scientists in academic circles. In India-a land notable for princely wealth alongside utter destitution-there are several laboratories as lavishly equipped as any in Europe or the United States, in the same cities as universities where even sealing wax and string put a burden on the departmental budget. Such inequities, and the lack of corporate identity among those who allow them to exist, are further obstacles to science development.
A constant topic of complaint among scientists from all developing countries is the administrative climate in which they must do their work. The standard pejorative term is "bureaucracy"-by which is meant a whole complex of time-wasting, irrational and rigid procedures, accentuated by a hierarchical and authoritarian decision-making apparatus, that hinder the simple spontaneous initiatives demanded in active research.4 Because the results of an experiment cannot be foreseen, the needs of future research cannot be anticipated over the long time scales that become customary in more routine administrative tasks. But the very absence in the general culture of the attitude of mind characteristic of science makes these needs incomprehensible or deeply suspect in the political sphere, so the unfavorable climate persists against all protests.
And behind the administrative morass of the scientific and academic institutions, the governmental system stretches away into regions of more opaque motive and deeper ignorance, headed often as not by politicians, high civil servants, businessmen, or soldiers who do not even understand the difference between fundamental research and technological development, or the connection between the two.
Then we must also look at the scientists themselves and their response to the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves. After all, the fundamental deficiency is the lack of adequately trained people at all levels-technicians, lecturers, research workers, professors, directors of laboratories, and even ministers of science and education. As we have already remarked, secondary school, college and university teaching of science is not very inspired in Paradisia. The teachers themselves are so ill-trained that only the best pupils feel the excitement and grasp the meaning of their subjects. Up to the level of the bachelor's or master's degree, teaching is often pedantic, and learning may be little better than memorizing standard bookwork. Practical laboratory and field work is hampered by lack of equipment and other resources. The student emerges from such a course with a few technical tricks and only the vaguest notion of what it is all about. It is not surprising, therefore, that those lucky few that then go abroad for graduate study find the research training leading to a doctorate very heavy going. Personal problems of living in another country and having to grapple with a foreign language do not make it any easier. The experience of Ph.D. supervisors in advanced countries is clear: the graduate student from a developing country can reach the same scientific level as his contemporaries in all branches of sophisticated modern science, provided that he is given plenty of time to break away from the habits of rote learning and become a self-reliant and independent research worker.
Generally speaking, the young scientist who returns to Paradisia with a Ph.D. from a reputable institution in an advanced country is competent to do research in the sort of institution where he was trained. But science in Dominatia is quite different from what is possible, at the present time, in Paradisia. Although he may be perfectly familiar with the general economic and social conditions of his country, the returning scientist is seldom prepared for the extremely hard task that lies ahead of him. Disillusionment, defeat, flight abroad, or cynical engagement in academic politics are familiar symptoms of this deficiency.
The real problem with his training is that it is much too narrowly technical. With a Ph.D. in, say, algebraic botany, the newly trained scientist sees himself as a professional algebraic botanist (specializing in cubic roots!) and can imagine no other goal than to set up a research laboratory in this topic in the University of Paradisia or in some appropriate division of the Paradisian Council for Science Research. Although he may be reasonably self-winding within his own field, he still lacks self-confidence and self-reliance in both the practical and intellectual spheres.
Thus, on the one hand, he may not be accustomed to improvising experimental equipment with his own hands: his early education, perhaps as a relatively well-to-do member of Paradisian society, is unlikely to have encouraged the development of simple practical skills, while research in Dominatia is performed with sophisticated, expensive apparatus purchased ready-made. One of the most depressing sights to be seen on a brief courtesy visit to a university or government laboratory in a developing country is a large and complicated piece of apparatus, such as a spectrophotometer, or a liquid helium plant, that was bought at considerable sacrifice to support the research of some bright young man returned from abroad, and is now lying under dust sheets, out of repair for lack of maintenance or discarded when that same bright young man took a job back in the United States. By the same token, the best evidence of a sound scientific basis is an experiment going ahead competently, with home-made equipment-not at the primitive level of sealing wax and string, but simply constructed in the departmental workshop, incorporating pieces of technical bric-a-brac, such as meters, pumps, radio sets etc., that can be easily picked up in any contemporary city.
On the other hand, the conventional graduate school program is seldom seen by the student as training in the general art of research. He is not encouraged to regard himself as competent to undertake investigations and to solve problems of all kinds within the widest scope of his discipline. The remarkable experiences of the Second World War, when nuclear physicists demonstrated their skills in the interpretation of aerial photographs, and zoologists made important contributions to radar technique, are quite forgotten. The cobbler, he would say, must stick to his last: on with the determination of cubic roots by the method of algebraic botany.
This is an extremely important point, for it brings us to one of the gravest weaknesses in the development of science in countries such as Paradisia-the extraordinary incoherence and inconsequence of the research that is actually attempted, especially in academic circles. There is seldom any effort to link a research topic with any local industrial, agricultural, geographic or otherwise practical issue, or to direct it toward significant ends within the discipline itself.
There is no tradition of purposeful research, mainly because there are no external users around to convey their needs and wants to the scientists, and there is no established culture of such links between the academic and the practical. Thus the doctrine of academic freedom, according to which every professor should be quite at liberty to work at any scientific topic that pleases his fancy, is carried to an extreme. As Stevan Dedijer has said, "Even 'applied' research becomes pure research in developing countries because there is no application."5
The student who wins an overseas scholarship is not directed into a particular line of research that might be strongly favored in the future, but is encouraged to apply for a place at the most prestigious university in Dominatia, to take a Ph.D. in whatever happens to be the current fad in advanced science. After a few years, the young men return to staff the department, and begin to compete for facilities for a miscellany of unconnected research topics. The very obvious human difficulties of arranging cooperation under such circumstances are heavily compounded by the attitude of technical specialization and expertise that is now characteristic of the scientific life.
One can go further, to uncover a most unpleasant psychological phenomenon-the justification of the esoteric by its own evident uselessness. Like a member of Thorstein Veblen's Leisure Class exhibiting his power by his extravagant "conspicuous consumption," the Paradisian professor, completely out of contact with local needs and local culture, persuades himself that he must be doing a very important job by the very fact that, on the face of it, it is entirely irrelevant. By the transcendence of its claims to give some ultimate benefit to humanity, he protects his research, which is incomprehensible even to his colleagues, from assessment in terms of common sense.
As we have already emphasized, the criterion of immediate relevance should not be applied too strictly to the program of scientific research in a developing country. What may seem a grave practical problem today may look quite insignificant in 20 years' time. But in the effort to establish science in a new cultural environment a choice must often be made between many possible lines of research. In the circumstances such a choice ought not to be made on the basis of ill-informed and wildly uncertain guesses as to what will prove to be scientifically important in the future, but with concern for its immediate or potential applicability to material problems or connection with local cultural or environmental features of the country. But this obvious principle comes into conflict with the debased metaphysic and value system of the conventional Dominatian graduate school, where technical specialties and highly fashionable "breakthroughs" are exalted, at the expense of a general philosophy of science as a means of satisfying our insatiable curiosity concerning nature in all its aspects and the solution to practical human problems. The most pathetic request to be heard on a visit to Paradisia comes from scientists asking: "What research should we be doing?" The only proper answer to this is reminiscent of Cornelius Vanderbilt's reply to the man who asked about the cost of running a yacht: "If you have to ask that question, then you are not competent to undertake it!" But this is only a symptom of the failure to internalize the scientific attitude and the scientific method, which are equally applicable to, and obtain equal satisfaction from, the solution of all apparently difficult problems and unanswered questions.
The weaknesses of science in the less-developed countries are not due entirely to poverty, an unfavorable cultural environment and deficiencies of education; the individual scientist also is isolated from his fellows by a lack of solidarity within the local scientific community and weak links with the outside world.
Science is a collective undertaking. There is much truth in the cliché that the progress of science is like building in brick; the contributions of individual scientists throughout the ages are laid one on another, the bricks in each course being created to rest upon those previously built into the structure; without constant cooperation among the bricklayers, progress is slow and the architecture goes awry. Such is, indeed, the fundamental source of the creative power and objectivity of the "scientific method."6
This objectivity underlines another characteristic of scientific activity, namely universalism or (in this wicked world of sovereign states) internationalism. To the earth-bound layman, there is something almost indecent and treasonable in the ease with which scientists from different countries, political systems and philosophical outlooks can communicate and interact with one another on scientific matters. Scientists have an international language (a jargon compounded of mathematical symbols and Broken English), commute tirelessly to countless international conferences, communicate through truly international journals, and migrate from country to country with very slight disruption of their scientific output. That is not to deny that they are men of our times, subject to all the imperatives of nationalism and patriotism and to the terrors and wrongs of war, tyranny and exile; but the work about which they care and their true ties of community are directed outward to the "invisible college" of their scientific discipline. Without such ties and the recognition of their research by significant other scientists, they are afflicted with anomie, and wither on the vine. In this whole discussion of science in developing countries, the key word is isolation. On account of the collective, cumulative and relatively objective character of the natural sciences, constant contact with fellow scientists is a necessity for fruitful scientific work. Such contact includes ready and quick access to journals, reports and reprints, interaction with visitors, attendance at conferences, opportunities for short visits to other institutions, periodic sabbatical leave to be spent at important centers for basic and applied research, opportunities for collaboration in research with scientists in other institutions, etc. In all such activities, scientists in the less-developed countries are handicapped-by poverty, by geographical distance, by political and administrative barriers.
It is hard to grasp the significance of this isolation without feeling it for oneself. The tough-minded experimental physicist from Dominatia, on his first visit to Paradisia, is not unprepared for the lack of technical facilities, and can imagine himself rolling up his shirt sleeves and improvising his own apparatus. But how can research be possible in a country where the Physical Review comes a year late, where the best library has no more than tattered copies of the undergraduate textbooks of a generation back, where the last visit of a foreign physicist was 18 months ago, where there is nobody within 500 miles who can understand or criticize the work one is doing, where there has never been a conference or a seminar where research results are discussed, and where the next opportunity for foreign travel seems at least two years in the future? It is easy to predict that the scientific productivity even of our Dominatian colleague would decay rapidly to zero under those conditions!
As we shall be arguing below, the international scientific community could do a great deal to open up channels of communication with scientists in the less-developed countries. But the improvement of local communications and cooperation within the small scientific community in each country cannot be catalyzed from outside. Whatever the social and psychological causes, science in Paradisia is gravely weakened by the lack of a corporate spirit among the few serious scientists in the country. Pretentiously titled research councils and academies do not, in fact, succeed in welding the research of individually weak groups into a rational program. The academic, technical and mission channels by which science diffuses into Paradisia have little connection with one another. Government laboratories do not collaborate with universities, and neither party seems to concern itself about imported technology. Personal rivalries and institutional conflicts that almost seem to spur creativity in the much larger scientific community of an advanced country are crippling within a small group with very limited resources. This is a subject on which it is difficult to make general remarks, for the historical and cultural circumstances differ markedly from country to country, and the outsider rarely has the opportunity to discover the facts and comment fairly. To recall an old scandal, however, there is no doubt that great harm was done to Indian science in the 1930s by the schism that tore apart the Indian National Academy of Sciences under the dictatorial presidency of Sir C. V. Raman-an episode that exemplifies the dangers of authoritarianism in a small group that lacks a corporate identity and yet does not interact strongly with society at large.
The establishment of science in the less-developed countries is a heavy burden on the scientists of those countries. So heavy is it, indeed, that many of them cast the load from their own shoulders, and emigrate to the major centers of research in the advanced countries. Given their personal circumstances, who is to blame them? Being accustomed to job mobility ourselves, and not scrupling to buy their services as students, technical assistants or colleagues, we are in no position to preach to them on patriotism and their duty to their own people.
But we certainly owe more sympathy and understanding to those who stay in, or return to, Paradisia to work at science. When it comes to the plight of scientific colleagues, former students, the authors of scientific papers that they cite, participants in their conferences, Dominatian scientists seem to close their minds. The technical scientific press, for example, is almost completely silent on the issues discussed in the present article.
The first thing to be done, then, is to bring this whole matter into the public consciousness of the scientific communities of the advanced countries. It is not our job to tell the scientists of Paradisia how they should go about their work, but we should certainly create a platform for a wide debate on these controversial issues. In the last 30 years, many actions have been taken on the basis of a very poor understanding of the nature of science and of development. Many of these misconceptions spring from romantic notions about research, or grossly optimistic assumptions about its potentialities, that can be traced back to the ideology current among scientists of a previous generation. Perhaps, with the rise of movements for social responsibility in science, we are not now ruled by that ideology in quite such narrow terms. But it lives on unreformed, in many distant countries, among the influential elders of government and academic science, who are now under strong attack from younger scientists who resonate to the radical critical call.
Although the critics are often no wiser than those whom they attack, this controversy is, nevertheless, the first sign of genuine vigor and spiritual health in the scientific communities of many developing countries. But the matter is, as we have tried to point out, not at all simple, and first-order, short-range slogans like "relevance" and "academic freedom" need to be qualified, compromised and brought into a coherent synthesis if there is to be real progress. Although each instance of the debate has its local reference, it is really a matter of worldwide concern, in developing and advanced countries alike. A well-informed public discussion in the international scientific press, at international conferences, in the international agencies, and within the scientific communities of the major advanced countries is called for, to build up an appropriate doctrine-a body of principles, examples, priorities and ideals-to replace the stale and shallow clichés of "the conventional wisdom."
It must be emphasized again that science is not an industrial organization or bureaucratic institution; it grows and lives by close interpersonal relationships-collaboration and competition, teaching and learning, mastery and apprenticeship. To the extent that science in the developing countries is a natural extension of the international scientific community, it must depend on just those person-to-person links that make this community a reality. Scientists in the advanced countries have a responsibility to inform themselves of the circumstances of their foreign graduate students and to direct them into fields of research that will not be futile and sterile when they return home. They have a duty to respond favorably to requests for advice, and to put themselves to trouble to lecture and teach abroad, in partibus infidelis, as they would to their Dominatian students. A small number of academic scientists in Europe and North America do indeed have high standing in this respect, as sympathetic and understanding friends of science in the developing countries, but this cannot be said of the scientific community as a whole.
In this context, it is perhaps worth remarking that the United States is at a disadvantage compared with Britain and other former colonial powers where there is a long tradition of expatriate teaching, technical and medical work, and research in Third World countries. In almost every department of a British university one may find academic staff who have taught in Nigeria, or practiced a profession in Kenya, or spent some years in an administrative post in India or Pakistan. This tradition is now decaying, as each developing country fills its professional and governmental positions with its own citizens. But there still remain valuable channels of personal contact, such as the custom of sending professors from Britain to many Commonwealth universities as external examiners to maintain academic standards and to advise on curricula.
Although a small but growing number of American scientists have had opportunities to observe science in developing countries at first hand, it is more difficult for them to appreciate the problems and the needs. And one must not suppose that a prestige visit by a Nobel laureate, giving two popular lectures, dining with the Minister of Education and the Rector of the University and then flying on, is an adequate substitute for months or years of patient teaching by a younger, less-celebrated scientist, who may finally come to understand how his temporarily adopted country really works. No single act of deliberate policy could do more for science in the less-developed countries than a political, administrative and fiscal device that opened up a wide range of temporary scientific appointments, by fellowship or exchange visit, in such countries, and made them attractive to young scientists in the advanced countries as a normal stage in a research career.
A particular responsibility for the state of science in Paradisia rests upon those Paradisian scientists who have emigrated and who now work in the advanced research laboratories and universities of Dominatia. The phrase "brain drain" is an unkind metaphor which misrepresents a very complex political, economic, and psychological phenomenon.7 The case of an academic research scientist, for example, may be quite different from that of a physician or engineer, in that, in spite of evident need, there may be no opportunity at all for him to employ his talent in his own country, and little to be gained for his fellow-countrymen if he were to attempt to do so. Furthermore, the intrusion of politics into scientific activities also can result in the uprooting of talented researchers into migration or exile, as recent examples in Argentina, Chile, and Cuba demonstrate. Apart from general factors of standard of living and personal freedom which may make this form of exile preferable to life in one's native land, one should perhaps see this as a symptom rather than a cause of the weakness of science in Paradisia.
Nevertheless, patriotic duty cannot be entirely shrugged off, and the time may come when return seems a credible personal policy. It seems best if this can be arranged in parallel with others of like mind, so that a group of experienced scientists come back to Paradisia as a research team, forming the nucleus of a viable new institution, as has happened recently in Brazil and in the Republic of Korea.
But what happens next? The sociology of this characteristic human situation has not been carefully studied, but one can observe two significant features. On the one hand, jealousy and tension can arise between the returned prodigal and the "good boys" who have stayed at home (or returned after taking a Ph.D. abroad). Since the latter know the local political ropes and have been digging themselves well into the establishment, the return of a distinguished scientist from long exile may lead to nothing but the frustration of high hopes and the stifling of his own creative talents. On the other hand, such a person brings with him an invaluable commodity-personal knowledge of the way in which science in an advanced country really works. We have spoken of the "diffusion" of science into the less-developed countries; it must be recognized that what is transferred is a sensibility, a style of action, a system of interpersonal relations which cannot be learnt from books but which is only acquired by many years of immediate experience. One of the dangers of trying to spread science too quickly is that these characteristics of the scientific method will not be adequately internalized by, shall we say, the Ph.D. with no more than three or four years in a graduate school, and are not, therefore, carried safely back home. If he is modest and thoughtful, wise and strong (poor fellow-it is a hard task!), the Paradisian who comes back to a senior appointment after many years at Bell Labs or Berkeley, at Oxford or Saclay, can bring into his university department or research laboratory the high standards of scientific achievement and the rationales of technique, education and administration that one takes for granted in a modern scientific institution.
The scientific community is loosely organized and governs itself through a variety of institutions such as professional institutes, learned societies, academies, etc., from the local and national level up to such international federations as the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). It is through such bodies that cooperative efforts on behalf of science development in the Third World should properly be directed.
Unfortunately these organizations take almost no interest in such matters. The multidisciplinary American Association for the Advancement of Science, other than occasionally holding a meeting in Mexico City, has yet to show results of activity in science development in spite of a sizable grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to explore the possibilities in this direction. The American and British Institutes of Physics are not directly involved in international scientific cooperation, while the American Association of Physics Teachers has half a dozen activists working on volunteer overtime on an annual budget of a few hundred dollars. A similar situation prevails in national organizations of chemists, biologists and other scientists. The National Academy of Sciences in Washington and the Royal Society in London are somewhat more active, but mainly because they are the official channels through which some governmental aid funds are distributed.
This state of affairs is not altogether surprising. Naturally enough the dominant concern of scientific communities in advanced countries is to further the progress of science (i.e., the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge) in the short run at a maximal rate. Consequently, they operate on the "rich get richer and the poor get poorer" principle: those individual groups, institutions, and countries which are already proficient and successful in doing science are made the primary foci of the benefits of the worldwide scientific infrastructure, and those which are just starting and have little achievement to show are neglected. The proposition that science could advance much faster if the "other" three-quarters of humanity made a proportionate contribution to the scientific community cuts little ice. And although scientists are often involved in political and social matters entirely outside their range of competence, they generally show little interest in the suggestion that the internal practices of the international scientific community could be altered without significant detriment to their own work but with major benefit to the eight percent of the community that happen to reside in less-developed countries. Through their lack of imagination and their utter self-interest, the leaders of the scientific community miss the opportunity to make momentous social and political contributions to humanity.
An enormous contribution to science in the developing countries could be made simply by enforcing equity within the world scientific community-that is, by treating the scientist in Paradisia on an equal footing with his colleague in Dominatia. To illustrate the present lack of equity, consider scientific communications. Access to journals in Paradisia is limited because the most important journals are published in the scientifically advanced countries, because they are expensive and must be paid for in hard currency, and because they are heavy and quick access by airmail costs more. Reports and reprints reach Paradisian research centers only sporadically, because most of these documents originate in scientifically advanced countries, are expensive to ship abroad, and are produced only in limited numbers which usually are sent to the most prestigious research groups, i.e., those in advanced countries. Scientific conferences are usually held near the major world centers of scientific activity, so that scientists from developing countries have difficulty in finding sufficient travel funds to attend them.
Moreover, at conferences with attendance by invitation only, scientists from the less-developed countries are under-represented since they have not had the opportunity to accumulate the visible credentials (i.e., published papers) that would seem to justify such invitations. Scientific centers in the developing countries are infrequently visited by other scientists because they are geographically remote from the standard interconference travel itineraries of the majority of scientists.
The same strictures apply to science education, the tools of scientific research, science organization, scientific manpower development, and to all other aspects of the scientific enterprise: the less-developed countries are not only far behind, but are handicapped in their access to the communal tools which are needed to make further progress. It is not sufficient, within the world community of science, to give the rich and powerful precisely equal opportunities with the poor and weak to spend their money and cast their votes. Only a deliberate policy of internal social justice can keep this community together in what may be a very hard and divisive political era. What would be the annual cost, for example, of sending free copies of the major scientific journals to all accredited scientific institutions in the less-developed countries? Perhaps ten million dollars (who knows?), which is only a tiny fraction of yearly expenditure on scientific information in the advanced countries. The problem is not whether it ought to be done, but in deciding which of many appropriate social institutions-industry, government, the professional organizations, etc.-should actually bear the cost.
Unfortunately, at the international level where such matters should really be discussed, the professional organizations are weak, poorly financed and politically divided. Scientists from the less-developed countries themselves should be much more vocal and aggressive in shaping policies and plans within the world scientific community. It is regrettable that the existing literature and activity concerned with the problems of science in development are dominated by contributions from scientists outside these countries, and that representatives of Third World science seldom plead their case before meetings of the international scientific community.
Since science development is a worldwide task, whose characteristic problems are not confined to a single country or region, a large effort surely ought to be made by the international agencies established under the aegis of the United Nations. The Office of Science and Technology at the U.N. headquarters is concerned with international agreements having scientific ingredients, and the other specialized agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization are charged with the progress and propagation of science-related technologies and practices. These agencies certainly contribute a great deal to the diffusion of scientific knowledge along "mission" channels to the less-developed countries, but their activities do not impinge directly on the growth of indigenous science in those countries. In a complete survey one might also mention regional organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Organization of American States, which are active in some aspects of science policy, scientific exchanges and communications.
In principle, however, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is supposed to be the primary organ for scientific cooperation and development. It has programs in science education, including some efforts at curriculum development, and in science policy, which generate poorly distributed documents (occasionally of high quality), and a few formal and repetitive conferences. In fact many of its activities are grandiose in conception, technically ill-informed, inadequately financed and largely irrelevant to the immediate if mundane needs of scientists and technologists in the less-developed countries. As with most of the U.N. agencies, UNESCO programs are hampered by the need to satisfy political conditions-"neutrality" and parity of national prestige-and by a heterogeneous international civil service of very uneven quality, so that the projects that finally see the light are often non-controversial, unimaginative and a poor value for the money that is spent on them. Very few of the U.N. science activities directly involve rank-and-file scientists from the advanced countries, or even from the developing countries, upon whom the main burdens and responsibilities for their own science development must finally rest.
An exception, which might serve as a model for other institutions, is the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, which is maintained jointly by UNESCO, the IAEA and the Italian government, (with important contributions from the U.N. Development Program [UNDP], the Swedish International Development Agency, the Ford Foundation and other agencies). The ICTP provides a place where working scientists from the developing countries can stay for several months at a time, carry out research, participate in advanced courses and seminars, and make personal contact with the leading members of the international scientific community.8 Despite a modest budget and limited administrative resources, the ICTP has already performed a valuable service as the means by which many of the younger physicists in some of the less-developed countries have been kept alive professionally in their own countries. It is also unique as a high-level scientific institution where scientists from the developing countries gather together in their own right; it has been interesting to observe the growth of a corporate awareness of their common problems in this group over the past decade, and the extent to which the romantic view of science for its own sake has been modified by the demand that it should be directed to more immediate human goals.
Unfortunately, the ICTP stands practically alone as an international institution dedicated to the creation of strong indigenous science in the less-developed countries. Similar institutions oriented toward the experimental sciences would require larger funds and more sophisticated administrative and technical bases. The existing international research institutes connected with the Third World-the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya, and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines-are not perhaps on a sufficiently large scale to show their full possibilities.
It is interesting to note, however, that the idea of creating very large and sophisticated international research institutes to tackle particular technical problems is now very fashionable, and budgets to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars are glibly sketched out by high-level committees. Whether many of these splendid dreams will come to fruition remains to be seen; what we must ask is whether these will be, once more, mere offshoots of the scientific establishment of the advanced countries, or whether they will make a contribution to science development in the broadest sense.
National governmental development agencies often have much larger financial resources than parallel international organizations, and hence could be a vigorous source of assistance to less-developed countries in building their science. Yet in general such agencies are dominated by narrow, short-term thinking, focused primarily on technology, and usually enjoy a monopolistic position in their country which encourages a monolithic structure reluctant to experiment. Although science development is within the mandate of many of them, it remains very much on the periphery of their concerns. These agencies have failed to involve a significant number of scientists in their activities, either from the "donor" or from the "recipient" countries. As a result, many of the programs that do exist fail to be of real help to the working scientist in Paradisia.
The gist of our argument is simply stated: insufficient thought and effort is being given to creating and maintaining indigenous scientific activity in the less-developed countries. The actions of the countries concerned are uncoordinated, and are often based on very poor grasp of the real issues. The world scientific community is negligent of the plight of this small fraction of its members. The international agencies lack the resources, and the big aid programs, such as those of the U.S. government, lack the understanding, to act effectively. A highly significant fraction of general social and economic development, with enormous long-term leverage, is being left to the mercy of a variety of haphazard forces-political whim, crude economic theory, intellectual fashion, administrative convenience.
It is evident, however, that this is not a problem that can be solved simply by the expenditure of very large sums of money under the guidance of a committee of science policy experts. When we talk of a "scientific community" in Paradisia, we refer to a few hundred highly individual, highly trained and intellectually independent people, whose attack on the problems of nature cannot be commanded like the advance of a battalion of infantry. Only careful personal attention to their aspirations, needs and capabilities can really help them or direct their energies in the right directions. The cost of such attention is much higher in professional scientific grasp and human understanding than it is in dollars and cents. How much easier it is for a leading scientist in Dominatia to advise his government to give a $50,000 instrument to the University of Paradisia than it is to spend a few days there, explaining tactfully that the experiments proposed for this instrument are now obsolete and suggesting worthwhile alternatives! How much simpler to use the Paradisian graduate student as another hand in a Big Science research team than to devise a Ph.D. topic that will train him to build his own apparatus and to think for himself!
The prevailing style of social and political action is thus quite unsuitable. It involves large institutions, organizational charts, massive budgets, and professional administrators. This style can be highly successful in managing a project which is purely technical, which has primarily in-house or directly contracted extramural components, and which operates on a large budget. But science development has no reliable technology, cannot be done in-house, cannot rely on large contractors, and does not, and need not, operate on huge budgets. It is a program aimed at improving social and human conditions, for which the administrative machinery for "putting-a-man-on-the-moon" is entirely inappropriate. The proper aim is to encourage and stimulate the latent potential at the grass roots of the world scientific community. If only ten percent of the world's scientists could be effectively involved in cooperation with the scientific communities in the less-developed countries, a great stride would have been taken across the gap.
But in addition to the mobilization at the grass roots of the worldwide scientific community itself, there is also a need to reorient the existing developmental organizations toward the actual need of science building in Paradisia. Such a reorientation would involve both fresh action and fresh research on which such action can be based. We need a better quantitative assessment of scholarships and fellowships for scientists from the less-developed countries to study in the advanced countries, or of the cost to distribute the major learned journals to all the institutions that ought to have them. We must have a better understanding of the ways multinational corporations could contribute to science development, or of the ways the U.N. agencies could bolster science in the less-developed countries by farming out their research activities to universities and research institutions in those countries. We would want to have a realistic estimate of the cost of research facilities needed to reattract to their home countries Paradisians who now are working as trained scientists in Dominatia. Generalities about these questions are available, but hard information to serve as a basis for specific action is scarce.
It is insufficient to relegate these investigations entirely to developmental organizations. Here also, the involvement of individual scholars is needed, whether scientists themselves, or economists, historians, sociologists, or political theorists. At the moment there are very few of these who regard the worldwide social phenomenon of science development as a worthy subject for research. As a result, whatever decisions are taken by developmental organizations are, by default, often based on a combination of preconceived academic notions, wishful thinking, and administrative convenience.
It is not the purpose of this article to suggest specific organizational frameworks for the reorientation advocated here, even though the perceptive choice of such frameworks is essential to success. Preceding such a choice, we must have a widespread awareness of the problems of science development and their great urgency. That is the aim of this discussion.
1 For figures of researchers per million population, see M. J. Moravcsik, Science Development, Bloomington (Indiana): International Development Research Center, 1975, Chapter 3B. For the leading scientific countries the number is 1,000-3,000, while for Paradisia it is perhaps 20-100.
2 For a more direct attack on the attempt to represent knowledge as a quantifiable economic category, see J. M. Ziman, Book Review, Minerva, July 1974, p. 384.
3 For figures on the cost of research per researcher in various countries, see M. J. Moravcsik, op. cit., Chapter 6B. For India, for example, the comparable figure is $8,000 per year.
4 Edward Shils has described the problem well. "The organization of laboratories . . . will have to make provisions to avoid the frustration of this scientific disposition by the dead hand of a desiccated and embittered older generation or by an unsympathetic and non-understanding bureaucracy." "Scientific Development in the New States," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Feb. 1961, p. 48.
5 Quoted by Dilip Mukerjee, in A. B. Shah (ed.), Education, Science Policy, and Developing Societies, Bombay: Manaktalas, 1967, p. 376.
6 See Robert K. Merton, The Sociology of Science, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973, and J. M. Ziman, Public Knowledge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1968.
7 See, generally, Committee on the International Migration of Talent, The International Migration of High-Level Manpower, New York: Praeger, 1970.
8 See J. M. Ziman, "The Winter College Format," Science, Jan. 29, 1971, p. 352.