Using secondary data sourced originally in Web of Science and Scopus, the paper begins with four empirical tendencies in world science: rapid growth in the volume of published science; expansion in the number of countries with scientific capacity so that science is no longer dominated by the traditional duopoly of United States/Western Europe, together with Japan; rapid growth in international collaboration; and diversification of the group of leading research countries, so that power in science is becoming more plural. In part drawing on research in scientometrics, the paper then goes on discuss what lies behind these tendencies – and on what they might imply for the nature of knowledge, for relations of power in science, and for the potential for science to pursue the global common good.
Networked global science is expanding at such a rapid rate that some researchers of science argue that shared global activity is now more determining of science that are national systems funded by governments. Yet most analysis of global science focuses on comparisons and competition between countries (the ‘arms race in innovation’), obscuring the fact of widespread cooperation at the global level. What drives networked collaboration between scientists: is it shared knowledge accumulation, or is it self-interest and making careers as is suggested by theories of ‘professional attachment’? Who are scientists loyal to, their disciplines or national governments? Is science subordinated to global capitalism or does it have autonomy? Can science in a nation-bound world survive government or corporate efforts to suppress its key messages on global issues? And how should we understand the recent rise of national science outside the traditional duopoly, not only in China, South Korea and Singapore but in countries such as India, Iran and Brazil? How open is science to emerging countries? What does multi-polarity mean in science? Will Anglo-American hegemony in global knowledge continue or is it already breaking down?