Previous Fora / 2003

Science and knowledge

World Science Forum - Budapest

Knowledge and Society

8-10 November 2003



Some of the present versions of the session summaries are working material. The finalised versions will be posted at the Forum’s homepage on the web.


Science and Knowledge

Radical changes in the production and organization of scienctific knowledge have emerged by the end of the twentieth century, as well as in the social context of science. Most important aspects of the new situation are the following.

Evolution of Science I: disciplinary structure

Information, environment, cognition as subject of research; nanoscience, biomedicine, biotechnology as fields of research are characteristic of the tendency embodied in

- joint efforts on new priority fields for research with outstanding societal importance, forming subject-driven integration of disciplines, and

- new interaction of classic disciplines, where the so-called inter-, or transdisciplinarity is the norm, the latter meaning a synergistic approach breaking traditional boundaries.

In this context, natural and social sciences, having new roles, are equally involved in forming common frameworks. The process of establishing interdisciplinarity is often accompanied with internationalization, where largely heterogenous researh groups, teams are being formed, breaking through disciplinary as well as national boundries.

Evolution of Science II: technology and the flow of scientific knowledge

The evolution of scientific knowledge production has led to the removal of not only disciplinary but institutional boundries as well. In the new context, knowledge production transgresses the academic boundaries. Direct cooperation between universities and the industry have resulted in new models of this interaction, such us industry clusters around universities, maintaining independent university research cooperating with industry, instead of involving the latter as a mere funding contributor. The new framework is capable of balancing the different research conditions (institutional structure, temporal dimension and so on.) of the two sectors, while re-defining the concept of invention and knowledge transfer (most technologies evolve from existing knowledge, new, revolutionary concepts are rare), and necessitating a reconsideration of the relationship between basic and applied research.

Evolution of science III: social contextualization

The deep social contextualization of science is reflected in the influence modern science bears on society on the one hand, and the increasing need for the social accountability of science on the other. The latter has become a requirement of restoring the trust of the public in scientific research. The growing complexity of knowledge and the uncertainty yielded have raised new ethical questions. The issue of the freedom of the scientist is reformulated in terms of the responsibility of the scientific community. The optimal balance is implemented in independent but self-reflexive knowledge production that is aware of its societal implications. Besides public attitudes, informing the process of decision-making also constitutes a problematic and crucial aspect of the social context of science. The often counterintuitive, contradictory results, the different predictive potential of probabilistic and solid types of scientific knowledge, and the fact that the decision process is more complex than simply applying scientfic information form serious obstacles to the proper involvement of science in decision-making. Realizing the different types of relevance of scientific knowledge is fundamental for a synergistic relationship between science and society.