The Globalization of Knowledge and Modern Science

The Globalization of Knowledge and Modern Science

Anna Perlina, Jürgen Renn, Margareta Tillberg

Other involved Scholars: 

Angelo Baracca
Hans Falk Hoffmann (CERN)
Arie Krampf : Albert Presas i Puig


Photo taken from an ATLAS collision event in which a microscopic-black-hole was produced in the collision of two protons.<br>
Reproduced by kind permission of CERN

To assess the relevance of an investigation of historical processes of globalization for the present situation, a fourth focus of the globalization network is dedicated to the great challenges that humanity faces today when dealing with knowledge. These challenges are partly consequences of socio-cultural evolution, such as the climate and energy challenges, and in particular of the powerful knowledge that has accumulated during this evolution, such as the exploitation of fossil fuels. Dealing with the consequences of such unplanned, global experiments with our planetary system requires more knowledge than can be produced by the dominat modes of knowledge production of socio-economic evolution, such as state-supported basic research or market-driven applied research. We thus face an emergent process in which the global production of ever more and increasingly diversified knowledge about humanity’s interaction with nature becomes crucial for human survival. Within the framework of the globalization project, this emergent process is analyzed as an epistemic evolution. In this process, political developments do not merely shape the conditions of knowledge diffusion, but policy-making regarding these global challenges critically depends on the generation of new knowledge and knowledge-based assessments. In this focus, a variety of modes of epistemic evolution are analyzed with regard to the coupling of social and political developments and the diffusion of knowledge.
A special investigation has been dedicated to the knowledge that is transmitted with the establishment of nuclear programs both at the national and international level. The associated transmission processes have been analyzed in relation to their transnational elements, their characteristics in various national contexts and the intervention of individual actors. A central outcome of this research has been that standard models for knowledge diffusion can hardly be applied in this case. The proliferation of nuclear programs often followed local patterns and was shaped by the interaction of specific political, economic and technical conditions which require case-specific adaptions of diffusion models (Angelo Baracca, Albert Presas i Puig).
A further research endeavor dealt with CERN as an example for a particular mode of epistemic evolution by means of an unbiased international large-scale research organization (Hans Falk Hoffmann). CERN demonstrates the possibility of knowledge production under the boundary conditions of an absence of immediate political, military or economic implications. The results of the investigation have raised the question of whether the CERN model can be transferred to other areas, for instance, to the domain of energy supply and climate change, where—in contrast to high-energy physics—strong political and economic interests may condition or even constrain the necessary knowledge production.
Another area of research focused on current developments towards a global information infrastructure based on the new information technologies. In principle, for the first time in history, the Web enables a global, dynamic representation of human knowledge with a strong, self-organizing potential. The ways in which the Web can provide a completely new way of representing and disseminating knowledge have been investigated (Malcolm Hyman, Jürgen Renn).
Additional research related to this focus ventured into the collaboration and transfer of knowledge on industrial management and the interface between humans and their technical environments. The investigation was centered on knowledge transmission within the USSR, between the USSR and other COMECON countries, and between the USSR and the West (Margareta Tillberg).
Another study has investigated the transfer of economic knowledge to developing countries during the 20th century analyzing the reception, localization and appropriation of economic knowledge within the local context (Arie Krampf).
A research endeavor undertaken in cooperation with the University of Havana focused on the history of the development of physics in Cuba from its origins until the present day. The study has investigated not only the influence of the USSR and the European Socialist countries on the development of physics, but also traced the active participation of several Western physicists and technicians during the 1960s (Angelo Baracca).
A dissertation project is focusing on the role of linguae francae in experimental psychology (Anna Perlina).