ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Beyond Modern vs Alternative Science Debate

In recent times, proponents of alternative sciences have been celebrated as well as chastised. This paper critically analyses the modern versus alternative science debate. Postcolonial critiques of Eurocentric constructions of modern science and recent empirical studies provide the context for this study. It does not, however, provide a defence for alternative sciences, because even though their proponents critique modern science and its Eurocentric constructions, their studies, at one level, are over-determined by claims about modern science's unified, universalistic, and Eurocentric character. There is a surfeit of academic analyses of science as well as government policy documents on scientific research in India, but these provide little insight into how particular techno-scientific researches are conducted in India. This article, through a study of magnetic resonance imaging research in India and the US, based on interviews, observations, and analysis of scientific papers, argues that the relationship between scientific practice, knowledge, and culture is contingent upon particular historical and socio-technical contexts.

The Contradictory Spaces of Postcolonial Techno-Science

Postcolonial techno-science as a field of enquiry that crosses geopolitical boundaries as it tracks flows, circuits of scientists, knowledges, machines, and techniques is a critical way of thinking about science and technology and their study that we can endorse with much enthusiasm. But when the postcolonial as a mode of analysis is linked to a fixed site of irreducible knowledge claims, it articulates an ontology that ties knowledge to location as a singular and essential quality of place. Location matters: by refusing to isolate the South from the West in the study of science, one leaves open the possibility of seeing multi-directional influences and channels simultaneously. Postcolonial science studies need a proliferation of historical and sociological accounts of science as practice in order to set a standard against which we can more easily identify "Indian Science" as a discourse that shapes a political struggle that has little to do with science studies, even if it has much to do with India.

Abdus Salam: A Migrant Scientist in Post-imperial Times

Pakistan's Abdus Salam was the first professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, London, and the director of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Trieste for almost 30 years. This paper looks at the conditions that allowed Salam to emigrate and develop a successful career in Europe as both a scientist and a scientific diplomat. The combination of colonial networks and academic policies in British India, on the one hand, and the post-colonial intellectual milieu in certain British scientific circles after 1948, on the other, provided Salam with an opportunity that would have been virtually unthinkable for the previous generation of Indian scientists. As a Pakistani theoretical physicist in Britain, Salam became one of the most authoritative and influential advocates of science for third world development. Yet, in post-colonial Britain, being from a former colony also put certain limits on Salam's aspirations. Salam's diplomatic and political career as a United Nations officer resulted from his conviction that supranational institutions represented the only chance to overcome the kind of discrimination that marginalised third world scientists in the post-imperial era.

Outsourcing the American Dream?

The growth of the Indian IT sector is widely seen in the US as the result of the "export" of "American" jobs. Ignoring the context of changes within India, American media represent the Indian IT boom as the effect of problems within American political, economic and educational structures. This paper examines how India and Indian IT are represented in relation to America's position within the global economy. On the one hand, IT outsourcing to India is seen as a "natural" result of free market capitalism, but, on the other, it is an "unnatural" disturbance in the balance of power between the US and the rest of the world. I argue that this ambivalence can be better understood by examining how freedom, mobility and autonomy are powerfully articulated in constructions of American national identity. Indian IT workers are threatening not just because they are "taking" American jobs, but because "the American dream" seems to have migrated to India as well. The retreat into economic nationalism and calls to strengthen territorial boundaries suggest the inability - or refusal - to imagine mobility in relation to American national identity in terms other than that of unhindered movement into temporal and spatial frontiers.

Outsourcing Identities

As vans with tinted windows creep at night into middle class, urban neighbourhoods in India, spiriting away young men and women to work until dawn at multinational call centres, identities are transfigured, the local making uneasy room for the lucrative global. Following the short-lived dotcom boom in India (2000-02), Information Technology Enabled Services- Business Process Outsourcing was first considered by many infotech industry watchers as a capricious venture, liable to crash due to poor infrastructure. The phenomenal success of BPOs, particularly call centres, continues in 2005, offering high-school and college English-speaking graduates quick employment with comparatively high wages. Through empirical research, this article addresses the transformation of Indian urban labour into a global proletariat. The paper focuses on the role call centres play in unmooring local identities to construct transnational labour identities for a neocolonialist workplace.

Who Speaks for the Governed?

Global disparities over access to information and communication technologies formed the basis of the call for a UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society that took place in two phases in Geneva (2003) and Tunis (2005). In addition to the private sector and state delegates, accredited civil society organisations were for the first time invited to the table to participate in debates over financing ICT for development, ensuring cultural diversity, the future of intellectual property rights and debating the merits of a new system of internet governance. This article critically examines the role of civil society in proposing a "humanitarian agenda" that contests the dominant neoliberal mode of governance within the WSIS process. Specifically, the article considers why narrow claims for recognition - expressed in the right to freedom of information - eclipsed more expansive claims for both recognition and redistribution in terms of access to ICT infrastructure and content. It draws from feminist insights into the normative dimensions of global social justice after more than two decades of theory and praxis around transnational activism and the challenges of deliberation through difference.

Role of Mathematics in Biology

Unlike physical objects, which can be accounted for as the necessary consequences of the operation of natural laws, living matter is the product of an essentially ad hoc process known as evolution. There is a fundamental difference between an explanation based on physics, chemistry and systemwide regulation and an evolutionary explanation. What makes living matter special is a history of change. Variation - rather than fixity - is of the essence. It is because of this that biology is unlikely eventually to have a mathematical structure all its own, say in the manner of theoretical physics.

On Subjectivity in Mathematical Economics

The rapid rise in the use of mathematics in economics has often been attributed to a search for objective rigour. But if we look beyond individual models to the overall practice of mathematical economics the role that subjective judgments play becomes quite evident. This paper looks at the response to this subjectivity and addresses the issue of the quality of subjective judgments in mathematical economics.

Perspectives on Mathematics

This collection of seven papers is an indication of the kinds of issues involved in understanding mathematics in a broader perspective. What we hope to achieve is to generate insights into understanding one of the most creative languages humans have created and instil a more balanced response to mathematics as a language, culture and a living presence amidst all of us.

Applying Mathematics

What does it mean to apply mathematics? Why is mathematics considered as essential to natural sciences? Why do scientists consider the applicability of mathematics as something mysterious? The applicability of mathematics is mysterious and unexplainable only if we subscribe to a particular view of mathematics, namely, mathematics as a logical, axiomatic and formal system, which deals only with a platonic world and not our real one. In contrast, there are enough reasons to believe that mathematics is a fertile lived-language, sharing many characteristics with other verbal languages. Thus, to understand the applicability of mathematics, we need to first understand the applicability of languages, for example, the 'applicability' of English. The paper discusses some common characteristics in applying English and mathematics and offers a particular model to explain why mathematics seems to be so effectively applicable in science.

Non-Linear Models of Social Systems

This article presents a non-linear modelling framework to capture the intricate dynamics of social systems. Within this framework it is possible to capture both gradual and abrupt transitions in social systems. In the context of social dynamics, the relevance of self-organising behaviour and complexity theory are highlighted. Social systems are essentially complex structures capable of self-organisation, exhibiting a rich variety of features like bifurcation, hysteresis and multiple equilibria. Conventional linear approach is too simplistic a framework to capture and deal with such phenomena. A number of specific models are discussed. These describe the qualitative changes in a variety of social systems they simulate and also explain the forces that govern their evolutionary behaviour.

Elementary Mathematics

This article discusses the nature of the difficulty in learning and teaching elementary mathematics from the viewpoint of the psychology of learning, focusing on some key topics such as number operation and algebra and how children learn these concepts. The paper also seeks to examine the reasons why many topics in school mathematics seem difficult and to make the point that what is difficult can still be taught and learnt. What is required is often the coordination of a culturally developed sign system with an intuitive base. This coordination is a process that happens naturally and spontaneously if children are given opportunities and situations they find motivating.

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