Mapping Possibilities in Response to Information Needs
of Science Policy-making for Development
outline proposal for a data collection project
on "world problems"
- / -
Report prepared for the Science Adviser to the
Commonwealth Secretary General. In partial fulfillment of a consultancy assignment
under Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation
(CFTC/APL/13.3, CFTC/CSC/8, 19 May 1978). Presented to the 6th
Conference of the World Future Studies Federation (Cairo, 1978) with
the kind permission of Christiande Laet, Secretary, Commonwealth Science
The purpose of this document is to report briefly on a preliminary investigation
into the problems of mapping satisfactorily for policy purposes the domains
of science and technology as applied to development (1). The matter in question
is clearly of ever increasing concern within the international community as
a whole, as indicated by a number of initiatives, many of them now being timed
to focus discussion in anticipation of the United Nations Conference on the
Application of Science and Technology to Development in 1979.
Nature of the problem
The problem of information in the field of science and technology as applied
to development processes is reviewed in Annex 1 under the following headings
A. Quantitative aspects
B. Logical aspects ; classication
C. Operational aspects ; organizations and information systems
Multiplicity of classification schemes
- Failure to indicate functional relevance
- Unspecified omissions and partial inclusions
- Macro-level definition
- Multiplicity of organizations
- Unrelated information systems
E. Behavioural aspects
- Comprehension overload
- Communication mode preferences
F. "Mythical" aspects
G. Ignorance and lack of systematically ordered information on :
- Interorganizational antipathy
- Interorganizational terrtoriality
- Interorganizational rivalry
- Pre-logical biases
- Development processes
- Application processes
The first three of the above points are those most frequently discussed when
examining the question, since they also tend to be those most susceptible
to solution by modifying institutions or their policies and through appropriate
use of information science and technology. The last four are those which
are much less frequantly discussed, partly because they include factors which
undermine or oppose conventional solutions to the information problem.
This review shows that there are many severe obstacles, themselves intimately
interrelated, which prevent a significant improvement in the accessibility
of such informationfor policy-related purposes. It is not the purpose of
this report to comment on conventional efforts to improve the situation or
their relationship to the UNESCO/ICSU World Science Information System (UNISIST),
SPINES, or the various development information systems. Whilst these may
or may not achieve their respective objectives, in the light of the points
in Annex 1,it would appear to be useful to investigate completely new approaches
which may result in information tools which respond to the problem at a more
Information selection and presentation
The heart of the problem seems to lie in the general attitude to information
selection and presentation. This is reviewed in Annex 2 where it is argued
that much of the problem results from the reliance on word-oriented information
systems. However in reviewing the alternatives, including computer manipulation
of diagrams it is shown that existing approaches fail to respond to the
basic difficulty of how to improve the relevance of the questions asked to
the problem complex faced by the policy-making process. How is the policy-maker,
and those with whom he must communicate, to acquire a better "grasp"
of the problem complex and the opportunities for improved application of science
and technology to development?
Some criteria for a desirable solution
The kind of information assistance required could usefully have the following
characteristics ( 2) :
contain a large number of elements relevant to science, techno- logy
- elements well-packed for comprehensibility
- presentable in different (but integrated) forms corresponding to the tolerance
of complexity of the expert, the non-expert and the general public
- disposition and presentation of elements should have a mnemonic value such
that familiarity with the whole pattern may be gradually acquired and not
- disposition of elements should reflect the knowledge of experts and not
a superficial, "glossy",media-oriented impression of aspects of
- disposition of elements should reflect in a dynamic manner the processes
in which they are involved and any evolution in those processes over time.
- presentation should be complete, covering the whole range of elements,
and not partial ; although partial extracts from that whole could be made
if required, maintain their relationships to it
- disposition and presentation of elements should reflect alternative perspectives
and the behavioural dynamics to which they give rise
- preparation and construction should lend itself to computer assistance
(exploiting a data base) but constrained from a perspective of communicability
Happing: possibilities offered for a solution
The procedure known as "mapping" suggests a number of possibilities
for incorporating the features identified above.
"Mapping" for policy purposes has been used very loosely, even
to include a compilation of national science policy surveys in which the "integration"
accomplished is limited to the physical assembly of the statements within
the same document (3 ). This usage will not be considered here since it is
precisely this type of approach which is of such limited value in the light
of the points in Annex 1 and 2.
Before outlining the approach suggested here, it is
that the senior editor of one of the largest scientific publishing
houses advocates the use of a spherical
representation of the body
of knowledge in discussing information transfer implications (see
The question is therefore whether a mapping technique
used in conjunction with this spherical representation as a basis
for incorporating the desirable features identified. The model
identified in Annex 3 does not attempt to do this although a number
of pointers are included explicitly or implicitly. It does not
consider the implications of the large amount of quantitative detail
which need to be represented, or how they are to be
Approaching the question from another angle, there is much to be learnt from
cartography and the history of geographical map production. The first two-dimensional
maps were extremely sketchy and are not too different from the primitive sketches
that are produced in graphic models (see Annex 2 ). Of great interest are
the "terminological graphic displays" and sub-displays produced
as a user guide to the UNESCO SPINES Thesaurus ("a controlled and structured
vocabulary of science and technology for policy-making, management and development")
of which the overall display is reproduced as Annex 4. These lack many of
the features indicated above (as well as being subject to other weaknesses
identified in Annex 1 and 2 ) as does the courageous series of concept diagrams
included as an anonymous addendum to the integrating volume of the new French-language
What all these efforts lack is what might be termed a
"topographical richness" onto which the massive amount of detail to be
incorporated may be "hung" - including logical continuities and
distinctions, as well as behavioural indications arising from territoriality. But this topographical
richness must be so represented as to facilitate comprehension at whatever level of detail is
appropriate, and the mnemonic features must be preserved.
The radical approach advocated here is therefore to
the possibility of abandoning the schematic graphics (such as in
SPINES) in favour of mapping the conceptual territory on a spherical surface with conventional topographical features. On the basis
of a preliminary investigation, it seems to be possible to incorporate most of the features indicated above.
A further question is whether this approach can
reflect the four aspects of the application
of science and technology to development. Again, preliminary investigation indicates
that this is possible by using four separate spherical representations. Each would contain
cross-referencing co-ordinates to the
others where relevant. In other words
the relationship between a
particular scientific discipline, a particular technology and a particular development process would be either explicit or implicit
from the context. Clearly conventional projections onto plane surfaces could be used as well as transparent overlays, if required. But
the relationship to the overall representation would be preserved.
A number of different approaches to selecting and
presenting information can be interpreted as indicating a
convergence on a
solution which could offer many more satisfactory features to
assist policy-makers in their comprehension of the domains of
science and technology in relation to development processes.
The approach advocated requires further exploration to determine in detail
exactly how the different features could be incorporated and the limits imposed
by this approach.
Annex 1: Review of the information problem
A. Quantitative aspects
It is understandable that there is a very large amount of "scientific
and technological" information which may be considered relevant to "development".
Even if it is only (say) 1 % of the literature, this would amount to
60 to 70 newarticles and reports per working day (1970)
- a cumulative total of 200,000 to 300,000 journal articles (1970)
- 80,000 to 140,000 new documents per year (1985 est.)
But there is also avery large quantity of information about
the application of science and technology to development and much new material
is being generated inanticipation of UNCSTED 1979(4a The question
is whether such information can be mastered and by whom, even if those who
should have access to it have no problems in obtaining or assimilating it,
which is seldom the case ( 5 ).
The usual practice is to ignore the mountain of documents already in existence
and to prepare a quick "study of the key issues" based on some of
the "key documents" available. Such an approach is then justified
by policy-making deadlines and similar pragmatic constraints. It is adequate
if it is assumed that the few documents selected from society's prolific production
cover the relevant issues. This assumption is however only valid if the majority
of the studies is assumed to be of inferior quality,of limited relevance or
a duplication of those selected (6). There is no procedure whereby this can
be proven in a particular case since relevance is defined more in terms of
what the agency is constrained to do than of what-needs to be done according
to any wider perspective.
B. Logical aspects: classification
Multiplicity of classification schemes: The device developed to ensure
access to "relevant" information in any particular case is the (document)
classification system and the associated thesaurus. There are many such systems,
often based on the practice in international agency libraries or departments.
As such they reflect a variety of perspectives. Effective integration, even
at the conceptual level, has not proved possible (7 ).
Failure to indicate functional relevance: These remarks would be unnecessary
if it was possible to use each such system to identify "relevant"
documents. This is not the case (unless the user knows the document in advance),
for the ambition of the classification system is generally limited to identifying
the standard subject categories to which the document relates, usually
on the basis of its title. Now policy matters and development problems are
not experienced as subjects nested neatly in logical hierarchies, but rather
as action domains embedded in a network of interrelated issues where the relationships
recognized depend in part upon the objectives and sensitivity of those concerned.
The logical relationships between issues classified as subjects do not therefore
reflect the functional relationships between interacting issues (e.g. problem
A aggravates problem 8).
Classification systems threfore assist in locating
an issue but not on issues "relevant" to it.
omission and partial inclusions: Classification
systems fail in another respect. For
example, with a scheme
purporting to cover "science", the user is seldom explicitly
informed what categories have been omitted as not pertaining
to science according to those who conceived the scheme ( 8).
On the other hand, a scheme purporting to cover "development"
may also incorporate large portions of "environment", and viceversa each defining the other as a subset but failing, necessarily, to specify what is omitted as irrelevant ( 9).
A factor contributing to this problem is the
widespread disagreement as to what "sciences" should be considered as
the social sciences frequently omitted in the anglo-american,
tradition as pseudo-sciences. This
conflict is embarrassingly
explicit in Unesco activities (10).
Macro-level definition: This links on to a further difficulty, namely
the considerable intellectual effort devoted to the definition of "science"
and its characteristics by philopher of science of various persuasions (11).
This is usually undertaken without taking into account the views of those
sensitive to non- western cultural spectives on science (12). A corresponding
effort is being devoted to defining (or, more recently, to "redefining")
"development" (13). Unfortunately these exercises focu on the "macro-concept"
and fail to identify or to distinguish the "sciences" which constitute
science (14) or the "development processes" which constitute the
development process (15). The result is a large number of excellent studies,
grouped within various schools of thought, but of very limited relevance to
policy formulation concerning the application of science and technology to
development. The studies reveal scholarly disagreement at their macro-level
of focus (There are pre-logical or temperamental biases which contribute to
this disagreement. There are referred to under point E.) and fail to decompose
the concepts to a level which is of practical significance (16). Exercises
in the redefinition of macro-concepts such as the "development process"
within the politicized intergovernmental context, may mark a change in orientation
but the nature of any relationship to the many unspecified development processes
remains subject to confusion and discord.
Interdisciplinarity: Although "science" remains a focus
of constant attention and a convenient label for a blurred domain, and although,in
contrast, individual disciplines are relatively well- defined, the interdisciplinary
relations even amongst the sciences remain a no-man's-land and a question
of embarrassment or disdain within any discipline (17).This disdain is particularly
tragic when extended through the "pecking order" of disciplines
to the "applied sciences" and "technology". Yet the need
for genuinely in terdisciplinary applications of science to development is
well- recognized and the weekness of superficial or token initiatives is acknowledged
(18). But relevance of disciplines to a problem situation can only
be settled non-scientifically now by weighted voting techniques in expert
panels - if the politics of the situation resulted in their effective representation
on the panel,
C, Operational aspects: organizations and information systems
Multiplicity of organizations: The application of
science and technology to development involves national and international
organizations. The intergovernmental number over 300 already, and the nongovernmental
number over 5,000 (19) ; the national remain unnumbered and unestimated within
any country, in striking contrast to their populations (20). Clearly only
a percentage of these will be considered of relevance to the development process
by those producing the directories in connection with UNSTED 1979, but the
criteria by which relevance is determined will in all probability exclude
many bodies which will continue, to contribute if only in their own eyes,
to that process. The problem remains of providing some overview of which
aspects of science and technology which organizations (or divisions of organizations)
help to make relevant to which aspects of the development process - currently,
potentially, and whether or not their initiatives are perceived as counter-productive
by evaluating bodies, and irrespective of whether or not their activities
are coordinated through some umbrella body or programme.
Information systems: Here again there are many unrelated systems of
differing degrees of relevance to development processes. The additional
problem which emerges more clearly than in the case of organizations is the
lack of integration between the operational "modes" which, the information
systems are designed to serve. It is typical to find little, if any, system-level
integration between information systems (even within the same agency) for: research, policy formulation, programme management, public information,
education/briefing, and documentation - even when all of them are concerned
with facilitating the same development processes. The reason is that the
responsible organizational units in each case perceive the processes differently
and have: no reference framework within which to interrelate them. The
information systems are not designed to facilitate comprehension of their
own content (by those not oriented to their format and especially non-westerners)
or of the content of systems with which they should be integrated.
Comprehension overload: "Consider this dilemma: while our technological
abilities to generate and disseminate potentially useful data have increased
manyfold in the past few years, man's physical capacity to register and to
process potentially informative data has probably increased very little, if
indeed at all" ( 21). In policy circles, a widely favoured response to
this constraint is to use inefficiencies (or even abuses) in procedures, and
the consequent "lack of time", to filter out the majority of communications
- and to require that the remaining issues be stated very briefly (22). The
argument being that if the matter is important enough it can be stated briefly
(however complex the chain of reasoning required to substantiate it) - and
if it is too complex for this, it can be safely ignored because few people
will have the attention span to be able to understand in order to protest
(23). It is unclear how many problems (such as "environment" and
"resources") may have been "recognized" too late for other
than crisis action, because of this approach.
Issue reductionism: A more rational approach to the dilemma is to
require that potential policy problems be identified and "evaluated"
so that the 6 (say) "key" or core problems selected can be reviewed
for action in the policy formulation process (24). The seventh and remaining
problems must await until they themsel- ves reach crisis proportions (or acquire
a political champion) before they are recognized (25). The only clue to the
reason why 6 to 10 key issues are always selected seems to lie in evidence
that this is "the maximum number of different possibilities among which
the human mind can meaningfully discriminate" (26). It is also, roughly,
the maximum number of divisions of any agency ad- ministration which would
have to deal with a set of problems (27). Beyond the 6-10 limit lies confusion,
according to current me- thods - irrespective of the number of probelemes
Communication mode preferences : Another severe problem is the limited
value of the written word for communication. Many will not read until they
have heard, although others refuse to "waste time" listening unless
they have found the basic points worthwhile through reading. Others demand
a quantified argument, possibly expressed through equations, graphs or matrices.
Others are "innumerate", and demand visual images, diagrams, and
films before they can comprehend an argument (28). To complete the circle,
the latter are viewed with disdain by those who favour the discipline of the
written word not recognizing that they themselves are "visually illiterate"
(29). Policy makers and those with whom the must communicate may belong to
any of these categories, although the prevalence of a particular category
may be culturally deter- mined.
E. Behavioural aspects
Interorganizational antipathy : The behaviour of agencies, orga- nizations
and professional associations is not simply governed by programme directives,
statutes and principles. The well-known antipathies amongst the UN Agencies
and their competition for resources, are a matter of common knowledge as is
the case amongst their creators, namely the equivalent national agencies (30).
Such behavioural phenomena, often reinforced by political consideration (e.g.
vis-a-vis the World Bank or "non-universal" bodies such as the OECD,
the Council of Europe or the Commonwealth), are seldom acknowledged in writing
(31). They are however evident in the absence of reciprocal arrangements
and, more important, in omissions from documentation by each concerning other
bodies relevant to the application of science and technology to development.
The data provided deliberately concals the behavioural phenomena, whether
advantageous or disadvantageous to development and field-level coordination.
In this sense, "positive, cooperative" public information and protocol
statements may be counter-productive by concealing a situation which those
less well-informed need to take into account if their initiatives are to succeed.
Interorganizational rivalry: Another aspect of this problem is evident
in the information systems, classification schemes and thesauri produced by
such international bodies - or even within their own divisions. With respect
to the application of science and technology to development, each has its
own (resources permitting) and will argue in all seriousness that they are
the most relevant to its particular programme objectives (32). Needless to
say the lack of relationship between them does not facilitate the development
process with which they are,in principle,ultimately concerned (33).
Interorganizational territoriality: Related to this question is the
marked tendency for issues to constitute the arena for inter- institutional
territorial dynamics. With the division of intellectual and operational space
into smaller and smaller compartments and the multiplication of institutions
and professions which assume the management of each such territory, results
the formation of a feudal system which governs the majority of science- related
enterprises. Under the pretext of division of labour, each intends to be
master of its own domain and to defend its position against, enemies from
without and emerging institutional and professional rivals from within (34).
Because the arena is ill-defined and unmapped it is difficult to comprehend
When a new issue emerges, suddenly providing an
unoccupied institutional territory, each body makes every effort
to demonstrate its right to a portion of that territory, either
by "reinterpreting" its past initiatives to show relevance or by
redefining existing initiatives under appropriate labels. The
succession of special UN Conferences (environment, water, population, habitat, etc.) may be seen as catalyzing such responses,
whether they are made in a spirit of cynical opportunism or per :
ceived as a fresh opportunity through which it may at last be
passible to define "the good, the true and the beautiful". And
in this sense all the past unresolved issues get redefined under
new labels in the hope that they may be resolved within the new
framework. UNCSTED 1979 is one such
opportunity and the same
dynamics will be repeatedunless such dynamics are
portrayed for comprehension.
Pre-logical biases : Finally, it is appropriate to note the existence
of pre-logical or temperamental biases which determine individual (and, by
extension, institutional) preferences for the nature and organization of information
of information presented namely the kinds of explanation that are felt to
be satisfactory. As such they characterize not merely the physical theory
that a society develops but also much of the legal, political, and social
behaviour of that society. There is evidence that such pre- logical biases
may prevent logical consensus, such as on the nature of "science"
or "development" (35).
F. "Mythical" aspects
Information on the application of sciences and
technology to development is also distorted by a number of myths whose nature
may be well described but rarely,if even, in the same context.
There is the myth that science based on western values
and universal (36) - and that indigenous practices and folk wisdom are dangerous or charming nonsense. There is the myth that there
is a scientific or technological solution to every "real" problem - other problems being subjective.
There is the myth equating development with economic growth
which conceals the problems of development and the limits to
growth. There is the myth that cultural
development is a direct
consequence of the application of science and technology to development, since it is assumed that the acquisition of science
enhances a culture rather than eroding its values (37).
There is the myth of the problem as existing
susceptible to "properly organized" remedial action. There is
the myth that it is only the lack of "political will" and the
importance attached to non-scientific and non-rational arguments
that prevents problems from being solved.
As mentioned earlier, there is the myth which limits
to the 10 key sciences, and 10 key technologies as relevant to
the 10 key development problems, as though each was nicely ordered in administrable units, theough it is widely recognized that
it is their interrelatedness which is fundamental to any action
strategy. This links to the myth which
conceals the fact that
existing institutions, and their associated bodies of knowledge,
are (despite of Ashby's Law) adequately structured
to respond to
complex problem networks (38).
Underlying this is the myth that
the fundamental problems are always "out there" and never in the
attitudes, procedures and structures with which they are perceived and engaged. And there is the myth
that if a responsible
body is created to focus on a problem, then action will be seen
to have been taken and because it will then cease to be perceived :
as a key issue for policy purposes, it may be assumed to be under
As in any primitive culture, such myths are necessary
a semblance of order in the face of a reality to which no better
response has yet been developed. New approaches are required and
both science and technology should be used to assist in their
and lack of systematically ordered informatic
The kinds of information available relevant to the
of science and technology to development reveal a number of important gaps :
Scientific disciplines: There is no framework within which is
collected together the succinct descriptions of the special insights, sensitivity
or integrative characteristics of each scientific discipline :
in what way is it relevant to understanding or facilitating which development
processes ; what is its unique contribution (Even systematic identification
of the key concepts - and associated distinctions - unique to each discipline
has not been made, nor is any attempt made to register systematically the
lams or theories which govern the use of those concepts)
conversely, what are its special "blindspots" or "handicaps"
as perceived by others and the excesses to which they give rise if uncontrolled
by other factors (Namely, what tend to be the negative consequences for
the development process resulting from irresponsible practice of the discipline
or its inappropriate institutionalization).
- on what other disciplines is the discipline dependent for its own effective
development and appropriate application, and conversely which other disciplines
are dependent upon it
- estimates by country or world-wide of (a) the number of practitioners of
the discipline, (b) institutional costs of training a practioner, and (c)
annual institutional budget to enable a full-time practioner to practise effectively.
Where such information is available, it is scattered through a large number
of publications. This is irrelevant to the practitioner of any particular
discipline, whose education slowly gives him the mastering of a very small
portion of this literature by which the dependence of society on his expertise
in guaranteed. But, to protect such dependence, the distinction is not made
between (a) knowledge of the key aspects of the discipline (noted above) which
should be widely available, at least within a policy environment, and (b)
knowledge of how to use and manipulate them, which is the special skill of
the practitioner. The information available in specialized encyclopaedias
and dictionaries is either too diffuse, too detailed or inadequately ordered
in order to facilitate understanding of the relevance to development processes.
Technologies : There is no framework within which is collected together,
and systematically ordered :
the succinct "primitive", description of each technology,
whether "outdated", modern or advanced,
- its special relevance, if known, to particular stages in development processes
- the interdependence between one technology and another in terms of (a)
operations, (b) maintenance, and (c) substitution (whether by more advanced,
less advanced, or same level)
- dependence of the technology on the expertise of practitioners of particular
- the negative consequences to the economic, social and cultural environment
which are unique to that technology as perceived by others and the excesses
to which it may give rise if uncontrolled by other factors
- estimates by country or world-wide of (a) the number of users of the technology,
(b) institutional costs of training users, and (c) annual institutional budget
to operate and maintain the technology.
- level of education required to operate and maintain the technology
(specially in terms of the concepts and laws of a discipline with which familiarity
Without systematically ordered information such as this, rational policy
formulation is distorted by ignorance and lack of readily accessible overviews.
Development processes: There is no framework within which is distinguished
and systematically ordered :
the succinct description of each development process
- the interdependence of development processes
- indications of the negative consequences of underdevelopment or overdevelopment
of that process, or of its relationship to other processes
- the dependence of the process on technology or various forms of infrastructure.
Application processes : There is no framework within which is collected
together and systematically ordered the succinct description of the different
organizational or other instruments whereby science and technology may be
applied to development processes, with an indication of their unique advantages
and disadvantages in different developing country situations.
Annex 2. Information selection and presentation
In the field of information processing, documentation and classification
there is an almost universal bias towards text and terms, since publications
have titles and normally contain text. This is a very persuasive argument
in favour of word oriented computers and classification schemes. It is associated
with the generation of a plethora of costly bibliographical tools, abstracts,
directories and encyclopaedias (39).
But even if all items in the total body of literature were identifiable and
available at low cost (which is the aim of those who favour this approach),
there still remains the problem of how to improve the relevance
of the questions asked to the problem complex faced by the policy-making
process. Retrieval is not the problem, it merely aggravates this
more fundamental problem. Retrieval systems focus queries in the light of
the user's existing knowledge and biases. They do not orient the policy-oriented
user to knowledge and issues with which he should also be concerned in relation
to his current preoccupations (in the light of qualified or alternative opinions).
They do not bring to his attention where his preoccupation may fit in relation
to other preoccupations. He is given no sense of scale, proportion or orientation
- he merely gets what he asked for however much difficulty he has in formulating
his question in appropriate words.
Explanatory power of diagrams: It is ironical that within any book
or article, whenever the point to be made is too complex to be expressed in
words, the author resorts to a diagram of some kind. This ensures that various
elements, are brought into appropriate relationship within a whole of which
the reader has an overview, from that overview the reader can then select
(a) how he wishes to explore the elements interrelated therein, and (b) those
he considers significant as meriting further examination. Yet existing information
systems are completely incapable of producing or manipulating diagrams as
an aid to policy-making.
Computer - generated diagrams: The exceptions to this statement are
interesting as indications of the kinds of technology not available
to policy-making in relation to the development process :
air-traffic control radar display screens
- computer-aided architectural and engineering design displays
- factory process control flow displays
- electronic circuit analysis and design displays.
In each such case there are complex problems of choice and decision analogous
to those in a policy-making situation. The examples are given to show that
a technology is in use to manipulate such information. Unfortunately, however,
that technology cannot yet be used satisfactorily in relation to development
processes because the information is in the wrong form. The information available
to policy-makers is contained in a multitude of lengthy reports supported
by tables and diagrams. These can of course be put straight onto sophisticated
computer systems in toto. But the basic problem still remains how to ask
the question relevant to the policy process - it is not a retrieval
problem. Information systems give no assistance inthisrespect.
Media - oriented techniques: To go to another extreme, those concerned
with facilitating understanding of complex issues by the public (and this
may well include decision-makers) use media-oriented techniques. Great emphasis
was placed on films at the UN Human Settlements Conference. Books attempting
to describe social change make much use of mcluhanesque illustrations (40
). But despite the gain in visual interest and emotional appeal, the value
of such superficial displays for policy-making itself must be questioned.
Aesthetic constraints too frequently conceal important issues.
Mathematical models : Another extreme is provided by the computer-
based mathematical model interrelating hundreds or thousands of equations.
These may be satisfactory where no policy problems have been avoided in constructing
the model and there is consensus that it reflects the social reality it purports
to model. This is rarely the case. Furthermore such models tend to be incomprehensible
to all but their creators and critics. Again they do not help the policy
maker to determine which questions to ask, but only answer those he chooses
to ask (many "answers" having been built into the design of the
Graphic models: An intermediate approach involves the use of graphic,
two-dimensional, non-mathematical models. Such models are a symbolic representation
of the various aspects of a complex event or situation, and their interrelationships
(41). They are analogies which policy-makers may use to clarify their thinking
about a relatively complex situation. They range from organization charts
through to system flow charts, including the many kinds of schematic diagram
that are prepared on flip-charts or slides for presentation purposes. They
are widely and successfully used. Their main disadvantage is that only a
limited number of elements and relationships can be incorporated in the model
if their comprehensibility is not to be lost - the extreme case being the
complex system or circuit diagram only comprehensible to the expert. None
of these approaches is immediately relevant to improving the information problem
in relation to the development processes. Each of them indicate: constraints
and some offer clues to a new approach.
Annex 3 . Model of the growth of science
Extracted from: Arie A Hanten. A suggested growth model of science and implications
for information transfer. Journal of Research Communication.
Studies, 1, 1978, pp. 83-98.
It has been suggested that science is a body of
grows on its epidermis (Price, 1969).
This means that science mould
grow along the research fronts, based on knowledge acquired by earlier research. In this respect there is
a difference with the humanities, which also gram from within.
However, it may be that the
latter will change to some extent. I
just refer to the social sciences which in recent decades have taken a strong intermediate position between natural science (and technology) and the humanities and
which by applying more advanced methods also demonstrate increasing
epidermal growth. But since I am a
natural scientist, I prefer not
to go too deeply into this and rather stick to my own
analogy: A very rough analogy
that could be used is that of the
growth of science to the growth of a crystal placed in a saturated
solution: as the crystal increases in size, the new material is
deposited on the surface, so that the rate of increase of the total
weight of the crystal per unit time is proportional to the amount of
surface area (Moravcsik, 1975). This
analogy has in recent years
been used in a number of analyses of science and appears to be useful in understanding interrelationships between major lines in the
development of science.
The analogy is based on the assumption that new
material is deposited on the surface of the body of knowledge at a constant rate
per unit area. This rate of deposition
may change, for instance,
when the trend in the amounts of manpower or resources made available to be employed for scientific research alters. However, a small
"speed-up" or "slow-down" factor would
not greatly affect the quantitative conclusion: one keeps a growth curve which is very close to
an exponential law. It requires a
drastic "speed-up" or "slow-down"
factor to change the quantitative conclusion.
Up to the middle of
the twentieth century, however, drastic alterations is controlling
factors have not occurred, and hence the historical quasi-exponential
behaviour of the growth of science emerges as a necessary consequence
of the behaviour of a multidimensional system with a uniform surface
deposition of new material (Moravcsik, 1975, p.83).
model of scientific knowledge: This analogy
induced me to experiment with a growth model of scientific knowledge,
in which the latter is represented by a roughly spherical body, expanding at its outside. A regular
crystal of great size approximates
this shape. The velocity of growth is
determined by controlling
factors as mentioned above.
Adoption of the model of a more or less spherically
body of scientific knowledge passes aver the rather subtle and complicated question of differentiating between scientific activity and
scientific progress (Moravcsik, 1973, p.268), although it is in many
ways relevant to the problem area.
Strictly speaking, the exponential law has been established for the time variation of scientific
activity, notably expressed in the volume of published work,
the epidermal growth model appears to pertain to the rate of scientific progress.
An important question is whether it is acceptable rationally to
think of the body of scientific knowledge as a sphere. Should it
not rather be described as a kind of thorn-apple or perhaps something
looking like a raspberry, with growth in 'thorn
points' or in up-
doming areas being ahead of the overall advance of the in-between
areas on the epidermis, or as some other three-dimensional body with a more irregular shape than that of a sphere ?
A non-spherical shape of the body of knowledge might
developments in some major scientific disciplines were systematically subordinated to those in other disciplines, for instance because
some would only be of academic interest where-as others would provide
many practical applications. However,
this is not really the case.
On an overal view, the physical, chemical, space, earth and life
sciences are all characterised by an intricate intermingling of pure
and applied research.
On the other hand, when looking at science in much
closer detail, it is clear that more research effort is put into the examination of some subjects than in studying others.
Similarly at the
next higher level, more time and money is invested in certain subject fields than into others. However,
this does not automatically
imply that themes which receive less attention do proportionally lag
behind (Fig.3). Neither does it mean
that whole subject fields that
are less blessed with funds and manpower do remain behind as indentations in the epidermis of the research front.
In addition to advances made in the subject field itself, there are usually also
emanation effects from surrounding areas which benefit the development of methodology and theory inthe poorer fields. For instance,
much more research is currently done in palaeozoology than in palaeo-
botany. Nevertheless it is not my"
impression that in its essentials
the latter field lags noticeably behind.
The situation in palaeo-
botany should rather be described as having a less dense tissue of
knowledge in its epidermal zone underneath the outer research front.
Furthermore, in the course of time growing points and growing areas
may shift their positions. It is to
this small scale of science
growth in particular that Kuhn's theory about the existence of cycles of science development applies: lengthy periods of normal
science, during which science progresses guietly, and relatively
short outbreaks of scientific revolutions, during which methodological notions and fundamental knowledge change radically (Kuhn, 1970).
At a scale in between those of the shape of the total
knowledge and the specialised scientific subject field, the development of heads on the research front is counteracted by the regular
emergence of unifying concepts and the budding of interdisciplinary
fields of research.
Examples of unifying theories which have greatly influenced research in a
particular discipline include the concept of organic evolution, the theory
of relativity, cybernetics. A more recent example of a unifying concept of
wide relevance in an entire major discipline, that of the earth sciences,
is plate tectonics. The latter is a hypothesis which provides a kinematic
model of the outer part of the earth and links together a number of earlier
concepts, such as the idea of a rheological stratification of the upper mantle
and crust of the earth, the idea of continental drift and the idea of sea-floor
spreading (cf. Le Pichon et al., 1973). Such wide concepts affect the position
of the research front in the discipline concerned, in that they put a new
and coherent plane skin over the projecting heads and also stimulate the filling-in
of holes enclosed underneath this new skin, in between these heads, and the
reexamination of large amounts of data already obtained.
It is to this large size of scale that Popper's
that the progress of knowledge can be described as a process of
revolutionary change and not mere accumulation (Popper, 1962, 1963).
I will return to this in a later section of this paper, when talking about developments within the body of knowledge.
Interdisciplinary fields of science fill up areas
between advancing areas of research and integrate knowledge and experience
from these different areas. Examples of
interdisciplinary scientific fields are abundant: geophysics, biochemistry, geochemistry,
physical chemistry, engineering geology, medical physics, etc. Also
the recently blossoming environmental sciences should be mentioned
in this connection. In particular their
ecosystem approach is a
clear case in that it integrates knowledge from botany, zoology, soil
sciences, hydrology, chemistry, atmospheric science.
In conclusion, there is indeed a basis for stating that the total body of
scientific knowledge can be described by the model of a growing sphere.
|The SPINES Thesaurus Global Graph of Graphic Displays
Reproduced from: SPINES Thesaurus; a controlled and structured
vocabulary of science and technology for policy-making, management and
development. Paris, Unesco, 1976, 3 vols.
1. Union of International Associations. Yearbook of World Problems and
Human Potential. Brussels, Union of International Associations
and Mankind 2000, 1976, 1136 pages (The author has been concerned with various aspects of this problem as
director of a project which produced the (which discusses a number of points with
2. The author has explored the background to these criteria in the publication
cited in (1), and also:
- Criteria for an adequate meta-model. (Paper presented to a session of the 4th
Conference on General Systems Education, Connecticut, 1971) 4 p.
- Relationships between elements of knowledge. (Working paper for the Committee
on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis) 1971, 150 p. [text]
- Knowledge-representation in a computer-supported environment. International
Classification, 4, 1977, 2, pp. 76-81 [text]
- Computer-aided visualization of psycho-social structures (Paper presented
to a symposium of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Philadelphia,
3. In the Final Report of the Unesco Consultation on Science and Technology
Policies in the Caribbean Region, Georgetown, 1977 (UNESCO/NS/ROU/408, para
82), the: "Unesco representative stated that he had taken note of the
CSC Secretariat's interest in entering this field. He mentioned that within
the context of preparations for the Conference of Ministers
of African Member States responsible for the Application of Science and Technology
to Development (CASTAFRICA), convened by Unesco in Dakar on 21-30 January
1974, a vast operation of this sort had been carried out by Unesco, according
to a methodology which had been provided well ahead of time to all CASTAFRICA
national liaison officers. The "mapping" -- a term which he judged
might be understood -- had in that instance been the putting together and
confrontation of national replies from national science and technology policy
bodies, as to areas of convergence and mutual wishes of cooperation."
The results of this exercise are published by Unesco as: Science and Technology
in African Development (Paris, Unesco, 1974). The methodology used identifies
from survey replies specific fields in which different groups of countries
wish to collaborate. The information is presented in the form of lists.
4. Georges Anderla. Information in 1965; a forecasting
study of information needs and resources. Paris OECD, 1973.
5. Robert Jackson. Capacity Study of the United
Nations Development System. United Nations, 1969 (prefaced with the phrase:
"Few Ministers will have time to read this Report...", p. VIII).
6. This would imply a considerable waste of resources in the production of
studies in this domain.
7. These problems have been reviewed by the author in:
Anthony Judge. International Organizations and the Generation of the Will to Change; information
systems required. Brussels, Union of International Associations, 1970 [text]
Anthony Judge. Acquisition and organization of international documentation. (Introductory
report to an International symposium on documentation of the United Nations
and other intergovernmental organizations. Geneva, UNITAR, 1972) [text]
8. See previous paragraph (note 7). In the proposed International Standard
Nomenclature of Fields of Science and Technology [UNESCO/NS/RDU/257 rev 1).
reproduced in Unesco's Method for priority determination in science and
technology [Paris, Unesco, 19763 and in the CASTAFRICA study [see note
3), no indication is given of what fields have been omitted, whether the list
is complete, or what relationship it bears to the Unesco thesauri (see note
9. Consider the relationship between the OECD Macrothesaurus and
the categories of the UNEP Information Referral System.
10. With respect to the World Science Information System "the position
of the ICSU/Unesco Central Committee was that UNISIST should devote its primary
effort to the basic sciences...and at the same time be sympathetic to a progressive
inclusion of the applied and engineering sciences - and eventually the social
sciences - on an equal footing with the former" [UNISIST Report, pp. 135-6).
But the Unesco Statistical Yearbook (1976) includes as "fields
of science" the "social sciences" and "humanities"
[p. 6093). The SPINES Thesaurus does not mention the social sciences.
11. "...science is many-sided, and eech tends to regard it from the
standpoint of his own particular experience and interests." Scientific
Thought, Paris, Unesco, 1972, p. V.
12. See: La Science et la Divarslte des C ultures. Paris, Unesco,
13. The Development of development Thinking. Paris, OECD, 1377 (Liaison
Bulletin, No. 1).
The Unesco Interconcept Advisory Committee is using "development"
in a pilot project to investigate the multiplicity of definitions in the social
Johannes A. Heising. Entwicklung: was ist das? Analysen und Prognosen, 55, Januar 1978, Dp. 27-30
Szymon Chodek. Societal Development; five approaches with conclusion from
comparative analysis. Oxford University Press, 1973.
14. In preparing the section on 1600 "Intellectual Disciplines and
Sciences" of the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential(Brussels.
1976), the author noted the absence of previous efforts to identify the complete
range of sciences ss distinct from fields of study.
15. Many books or, development fall to identify "development processes".
The following identifies 10 "basic processes". H. Chencery and
1. Syrquin. Patterns of Development 1953-1970, Oxford University
Press (for the World Bank), 1975.
16. This is a basic concern of the Committee for Conceptual and Terminological
17. Georges Gusdorf. Past, present and future of interdisciplinary
research. International Social Science Journal, 29, 4, 1977, pp. 560-600.
18. See note 17.
18a. "No scientist will admit that voting plays a role in his subject....Scientists,
especially physicians, frequently come to different results so that it is
up to the relatives of the sick person (or the inhabitants of a certain area)
to decide by vote about the procedure to be adopted." Paul Feyerabend.
Against Method: outline of an anarchist theory of knowledge. London, Verso. 1977, pp. 302-307.
of International Associations. Yearbook of International Organizations. Brussels, Union
of International Associations, 1978, 17th edition.
20. David Norton Smith has estimated there are some 5 million voluntary
bodies in the USA.
21. Lee Thayer. Communication andCommunication Systems in Organization,
Management, and Interpersonal Relations. Irwin, 1968, p. 202.
22. Winston Churchill made it very clear that all
issues should be put to him
on a single sheet of paper.
23. Little investigation of attention span has been
made in relation to
policy information, despite its crucial importance.
24. In a recent Assessment of Future National and International Problem
Areas for the US National Science Foundation , 1000 initial
problems are subject to various filtration processes to reduce them to "six
critical future problems".
25. The editors of the "World Problems" section of the Yearbook
of World Problems and Human Potential [1976) discuss this phemonenon.
26. Method for Priority Determination in Science and Technology.
Paris, Unesco, 1978, para 2.4.3 Early research is reported in the paper:
George Miller. The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on
our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review,
63, 1956, pp. 81-97.
27. Antony Jay. The Corporate Man.London. ( The stage at which national government required more than 6-8 ministries
should mark an important evolution in the governability of the country).
28. Harold D. Lasswell. The transition toward more sophisticated procedures.
In: Davis B. Bobrow and J. L. Schwartz [Ed). Computers and the
Policy-making Community; applications to international relations.
Prentice-Hall, 1968, pp. 307-314. "Why do we put so much emphasis on
audio-visual means. Partly because so many valuable participants in decision-making
have dramatizing imaginations."
29. Rudolf Arnheim. Visual Thinking. Faber, 1970, p.
30. "...what exists today is inter-Agency rivalry for projects."
Capacity Study of the UN Development System. 1969, I, p. 76.
31. Peter Snithers. Governmental Control;
a prerequisite for effective relations between the United Nations and non-UN
regional organizations. New York, UNITAR, 1972.
32. Consider the lack of relationship between the Unesco SPINES Thesaurus
produced by the Science Policy Division and Unesco's valuable Classification
of research and development activities in terms of development objectives
produced by its Office of Statistics.
33. See note 7.
34. Points made by Georges Gusdorf (see note 17], particularly in an article
on Interdisciplinarity for the French-language Encyclopaedia Universalis.
35. Investigated by W. T. Jones with respect to the long-standing debate
on the "romantic period" and then applied to various sciences:
The Romantic Syndrome; toward a new method in cultural anthropology
and history of ideas. The Hague, Mouton, 1961. He distinguishes seven axes
of bias which determine pre-logical positions and then govern the subsequent
positions taken in any "rational" or "logical" debate.
36. See note 12.
Also: Johan Galtung: A first guide to teutonic intellectual
style (Working paper for the United Nations University GPID Project,
37. Jean Ladriere. The Challenges presented to Culture by Science and
Technology. Paris, Unesco, 1977.
38. Discussed in Yearbook of World Prob1ems and Human Potential.
39. The number of such reference tools is now so great
that reference guides
are required to them.
40. Don Fabun. Dimensions of Change. Glencoe Press, 1971.
Frederic Vester. Unsere Welt; ein vernetztes System. Stuttgart, Ernst Klett,
41. Gordon L. Lippitt. Visualizing Change; model building
and the change process. Fairfax, NTL Learning Resources Corporation, 1973
Walter Herdeg. Diagrams. Zurich, Graphic Press, 1974;
Jacques Bertin. Semiologie Graphique; les diagrammes, les
reseaux, les cartes. Paris, Mouton, 1967.
1. Francis Levy. Le Traitement Automatise de l'Image. Paris, La
Documentation Francaise, 1977, 460 p.
2. Harold L. Wilensky. Organizational Intelligence; knowledge and
policy in government and industry. Basic Books, 1967.