Special Report
Heterogeneous systems and common objects: The relation between global and national science
Published April 2021

The impact of global convergence and integration has been uneven by social sector but has been especially pronounced in networked communications and in knowledge, which is facilitated by communications. Since the advent of the Internet in the 1990s a global science system has emerged, exhibiting the classical network properties of open entry and rapid expansion and intensification. In turn this has stimulated the growth of national science systems. The paper theorises the global/national interface in science and reviews the handling of scale in recent literature, primarily in scientometrics. It also synthesises the literature’s insights into global science, including factors shaping association between scientists. Global and national science are heterogeneous (national science has a normative centre while autonomous global science is regulated by collegial networks independent of states; global scientific networks grow more rapidly than national networks) but science in the two scales has achieved symbiosis. While the collaborative global scale is often where the scientific cutting edge is located, science is financed nationally. There is a large zone of common objects shared between the systems, including scientists active in both. For the most part the global/national relation in science is not well understood in the literature. Many studies are stymied by normative globalism (e.g. the assumption that international collaboration is necessarily beneficial to quality) or methodological nationalism (e.g. arbitrary allocation of global data between nations for the purposes of comparison, which altogether removes the cross-border global system from empirical scrutiny, despite its dynamism). The paper argues for a multi-scalar approach to analysis of science, and expands on the differences, synergies and tensions between the global and national systems.

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