Hegemony and inequality in global science: Problems of the centre-periphery model

The autonomous global system of science, grounded in collegial networks of scientists, English-language publishing and cross-border authorship, is expanding at a rapid rate and has fostered the growth of national science infrastructure in a growing number of countries. The global geo-politics of science is changing: the United States remains the leading country but there are several strong systems outside Euro-America and China excels in total volume of papers and in some STEM disciplines. Paradoxically, however, this pluralisation plays out within a continuing Euro-American (and predominantly Anglo-American) science world regulated by an inside/outside binary. Global science remains unequalising and homogenising, primarily Anglo-American in its language, leading institutions, disciplinary and publishing regimes, agendas and topics. Other languages and insights are shut out, including endogenous (indigenous) knowledges. Scholarship on science has yet to effectively address these issues. Quantitative studies in scientometrics are under theorised. The dominant conceptual framework for explaining global science is world-systems theory and its centre-periphery model of national systems. However, this framework has passed its use-by date.

In this webinar, the speakers will critically review the centre-periphery model and its applications in science studies. The model is locked within the Eurocentrism it opposes and is unduly determinist. It cannot grasp the dynamics of the specifically global aspect of science; and radically under-estimates the potential for agency outside the ‘centre’ countries, as shown by the capacity of states on the ‘semi-periphery’ and ‘periphery’ to lift science and the scope for ‘peripheral’ scientists to operate autonomously. Advocates of world systems theory in science are forced into recurring modifications, or looser core concepts, signs of an obsolete paradigm. The presenters will argue for a critical focus on global hegemony, instead of the critique of the world as a centre-periphery formation, encompassing cultural factors as well as political economy, and for an ‘ecology of knowledges’ approach to science and knowledge systems.