chapter  3
17 Pages

Governance and the New Production of Knowledge

Introduction It may be, as John de la Mothe has observed (de la Mothe and Dufour 1995), that the practice of science and technology policy in some countries - classically defined in strict terms of funding for research - is in the doldrums; that is, it is in a state of intellectual depression or lack of fresh air. This may be due to the perennial tension between supply and demand; between the institutions which conduct research and governments which try to develop policies to meet social needs. But as de la Mothe and Paquet have subsequently noted (1995, 1996), to formulate the practical or operational issue in this way, however, is to adopt a view - as has been adopted by several governments - in which scientific research and the policy-making processes are seen as being fundamentally separate or opposed. In this operational view, the processes that lead to the production of new knowledge - whether in scientific or technological domains - are working adequately. The difficulty is to harness, in increasingly effective ways, these outputs to socially useful purposes and this is what policy-makers are continuously attempting to do. Thinking on science policy has, by now, gone through at least three phases of development, but in no phase has the possibility that the knowledge production process changed radically ever been considered. Instead, the view that knowledge production is essentially a distinct set of activities from the policy process has continued to predominate. As a result, most of the effort has gone into making the linkages between supply and demand more effective. Despite working with a deficient model, science policy has none the less made a difference. For example, the way in which research problems are identified and funded is now a much more complex process than was envisaged by Weinberg in his seminal papers on the criteria for scientific choice. To have modified what the scientific community regard as important scientific problems is no mean achievement. Yet as policy thinking moves beyond production, the distribution of knowledge assumes greater importance. As will be shown below, these issues grow out of a transformation of the knowledge production process itself, and call into question many of the assumptions that have guided thinking in the earlier phases. For this reason, it will be useful to set the stage by referring to some of the characteristics of earlier science policy thinking.