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SCIENCE FOR THE THIRD WORLD: AN INSIDE VIEW ADOLFO MARTÍNEZ-PALOMO* The great disparity between science in the developed countries and the "science of the poor" started only a little over a century ago. Many of the great ancient civilizations, among them the Egyptian, Persian, Indian , Chinese, and Mesoamerican, developed in regions now occupied by countries of the Third World. It should be remembered that it is in these areas that there arose the use of fire and the invention of the compass, the domestication of animals, agriculture, irrigation, the exploitation of metals, the invention of writing and paper, the decimal system and calculus, and the use of gunpowder [I]. The differences between the developed countries of the north and the underdeveloped nations of the south are not due only to the lack of utilization of the resources of science and technology in the latter. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the virtual inexistence of science is one of the cultural deficiencies that maintain the condition of underdevelopment among the poor peoples of the world. Many of the countries in which the first civilizations arose, and with them the first products of science and technology, are today submerged in misery. The imbalance is such that three-fourths of the inhabitants of the planet subsist with only a fifth of the available resources. More than 800 million human beings live in abject poverty, defined by the presence of malnutrition, illiteracy, transmissible diseases, high infant mortality, and short life expectancy. While some nations are painfully freeing themselves from these conditions, others are declining, thereby ushering in the class of the "new poor" of the postindustrial era [1, 2]. The Third World is composed of more than 120 poor countries, none formally aligned with either the Soviet Union or the United States; they only bear 2 percent of the total cost ofscience and technology. The other ?President, Academy of Scientific Research, Mexico, and Section of Experimental Pathology, Center for Research and Advanced Studies, A. P. 14-740, 07000 Mexico, D. F., Mexico.© 1987 by The University of Chicago. AU rights reserved. 0031-5982/87/3004-0549$01.00 546 I Adolfo Martinez-F'alomo ¦ Sciencefor the Third World 98 percent is contributed by the developed countries, which, up to the middle of the nineteenth century, had economic markers not very different from those that are now considered typical of underdevelopment [1, 3-7]. The investment in science in the developing countries is, broadly speaking, 10 times less than in the rich nations in terms of the percentage of the gross national product that is allocated for this purpose . The result is that the Third World produces a feeble kind of science, of doubtful quality, that has not succeeded in playing a decisive role in the general development of these poorer nations and that functions in isolation, cut off from their productive activities. Nevertheless, it continues to hold forth a promise of cultural development and is one of the few ways open to these peoples by which they can attain access to more decent living conditions. The Feebleness of the Science of the Poor We have said that Third World science can be labeled feeble. What is the extent of this weakness? The scientific output of these countries has been analyzed by Eugene Garfield and his Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) in Philadelphia [8]. In reviewing the total scientific output in the year 1973 (approximately 353,000 articles), they found that 48 percent was produced by a single country—the United States. Furthermore , these North American articles received 60 percent of the citations in the international literature over the 6 years following their publication in 1973. If the production of the United States is added to that of England and the developed countries ofthe British Commonwealth, Western Europe, Japan, and Scandinavia, it is evident that the countries ofthe First World are responsible for the greater part of scientific output; namely, 84 percent of the total number of articles and 90 percent of the cited references published in 1973. It is worth digressing a little in order to consider the magnitude of North American investment in science. For the year 1982, a budget of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 546-557
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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