|Science and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)|
|Session IV: The control of space and power|
|Toward a clearer definition of the role of science and technology in transformation|
|Osama A. El-Kholy|
A systematic approach to the definition of the role of s e t in transformation
I have chosen to embark on an exercise in prospective analysis which starts by analysing the subsystems in a manner that does not ignore the overall view in attempting to understand the changes in these subsystems and their relations, and which differentiates between the dynamics that are influenced by outside forces or those beyond direct control, and those that are known with certainty. It also will be necessary to identify - even though tentatively - basic projects, leading sectors, and "germs of the future." The next step would be to pull these subsystems together in one consistent overall view.
The proposed sequence of steps (Figure 2)14 includes:
- elaboration, through brain-storming and questionnaires, of all the visions and objectives that society could be striving to achieve.
These are used for guidance on the long-term of transformation.
- survey of available studies in the different fields and evaluation and definition of the basic issues and problems whose treatment will formulate the overall picture of the future. Also included is an investigation of theoretical and statistical relations between these issues and variables, first by specialized analysis of each one separately, and next in a multidisciplinary group effort to define such relations.
- through these studies, a check is made on the consequences of the objectives and visions elaborated in the first step, that is, an assessment of the extent to which the observed policies serve to achieve the objectives.
- linking up of the elements of accumulated knowledge in a reference scenario - once as extrapolation of present policies and courses of action, and a second time through simulation models, for defining those conducive to fulfillment of objectives.
FIG. 2. Procedure for Prospective Analysis
- charting the time paths implied by each of these so far static scenarios and defining the points in time when basic decisions have to be made to implement new policies in technology choices and structural changes. This would be deduced from the simulation models and completed by scenario-writing.
- next would come presentation, before a wider multidisciplinary group, revealing weaknesses and contradictions necessitating return to any of the previous steps, in a process of successive approximation.
- completion of qualitative and quantitative forecasts leads to definition of the prerequisites of technology that permits the structural changes envisaged and that would be sustainable economically, keeping in mind available and forthcoming technology, its problems and development tendencies world-wide, and the specificity of local natural and human resources, and size of productive units.
The outcome of the activities outlined above would be the desirable "model" for transformation which would have specified:
- the material structures to be achieved.
- other non-material aspects of a coherent and integrated system, admittedly in an approximate manner.
- some overall indicators of the technological content of this system.
Elaboration from this leads to the scientific-technological requirements and their time-phasing so that the required structures are achieved, bearing in mind the length of gestation periods and unavoidable delays.
Figure 3 represents a procedure for this elaboration which takes into consideration a number of elements that are decisive in defining the role of science and technology. Some of these are:
1. Linking-up with development objectives and the search for relative advantages and appropriate technology.
2. Rational rates of expenditure on R e D that take account of world tendencies, gaps in basic scientific knowledge, and reduction of the brain drain.
FIG. 3. From Objectives to R e D Plan
3. Mobilization of resources for fulfilling the above two elements and the creation of a regional basis that would provide greater chances for attaining development objectives in the primary stages and permit admission to the world of "big science" later on.15
4. Reasonable awareness of future tendencies in science and technology. This is necessary background for long-term planning, for defining gaps to be compensated by transfer, and for development of educational training systems.
I conclude by attempting to clarify some ideas in Figure 3.
In moving from objectives to technological content (marked (1) on Figure 3), I use models (national, sectoral, or regional) to ensure the maximum possible consistency between the different variables. To define the role of S e T. such models16 should allow considerable personal judgement and non-quantifiable variables, since these are closely related to the long-term and overall view of the future of S e T. Appendix II discusses this matter at some length.
Should I choose, however, not to use models and to resort to exploratory techniques, it will be necessary to use questionnaires for brain-storming and scenarios for definition of the main variables and the important relations without resorting to statistical techniques or mathematical formulations. Appendix III sketches these activities which refer to the step marked (2) on Figure 3. If we rely entirely on such methods, then action would start from "Objectives and Policies" directly and not through "The Model.''
In either case, the end product is a definition of actions, in the scientific-technological domain, called for to bring about desirable transformations. These actions are derived primarily from society's objectives and policies. The end product is based on a proper evaluation of the present state of society which considers the international scene and its implications and possible useful inputs, is dynamic and time-conscious, and is unfettered by the inappropriate rigour of quantifying the unquantifiable. It accounts for this crucial element through human judgement and foresight. It also is coherent and internally consistent, as well as related to other decisive factors outside the domain of S e T.