Comparative Technology Transfer and Society 2.1 (2004) vii-xi
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In This Issue
This issue of Comparative Technology Transfer and Society explores two paired examples of technology transfer; two contemporary and two historical. The first two articles have a common contemporary theme: technology transfer activities related to space exploration in general and the International Space Station (ISS) in particular. Space activities are well-suited for studies of technology transfer. Although the activity retains some of its original patterns of international competition for the sake of national prestige, it has increasingly become an activity whose expense and complexity force nations to pursue cooperative ventures if they wish to play the game at all. The second pair of articles, on the other hand, steps back 50 years in time to examine the relative success of efforts to transfer technology across national boundaries in the aftermath of World War II. One case study looks at the British furniture industry, whereas the second focuses on Canadian efforts to gain advantages from technologies developed in Nazi Germany. Despite the obvious differences in time and topics, all four articles not only open the black box of technology transfer activities, but also share an interest in the obstacles and pitfalls that help to explain instances of failed technology transfer.
The first two articles—The Political Context of Technology Transfer: NASA and the International Space Station, by W. Henry Lambright and Agnes Gereben Schaefer, and The Role of National Culture in the Space-Based Technology Transfer Process, by Mike H. Ryan—explore aspects of the impact of national politics and culture on space program outcomes. Neither article deals specifically with direct failures, but each demonstrates the complex challenges and conflicts involved with transfer activities related to space technology programs, especially amidst the need to balance international cooperation and competition. In their introduction to the first article, Lambright and Schaefer describe the ISS as "the largest, most expensive, and most complex civilian international science and technology project in history. An orbiting scientific laboratory and potential manufacturing facility, ISS will be the size of a football field when finally completed. . . ." (Lambright & Schaefer, 2004, p. 1). They note that in its 20-year history the station has survived the Cold War, post-Cold War, and globalization eras, its enormous complexity (16 nations are involved in its construction), and tremendous cost ($35 billion to the U.S. alone). They conclude that
For those interested in the political context of technological development projects including technology transfer—the flow of hardware and techniques from one entity to another—ISS stands out. It illuminates virtually all issues associated with science and technology in the contemporary era. . . . In addition to being influenced by domestic politics, the Station has also been affected heavily by international security concerns. The evolution of the ISS reveals much about how these external political forces can shape huge research and development projects. ISS also demonstrates the sometimes surprising ways that concerns about technology transfer contribute to the politics that shape the direction and pace of large projects.
(Lambright and Schaefer, 2004, pp. 1-2)
After reviewing literature from several fields (technology transfer, public administration and policy, international relations, and the social construction of technological development), they review the history of the ISS: conceptualization, presidential adoption, international partner enrollment, and U.S.-Russian implementation. They recount these historical events as a fascinating policy story enlivened by bureaucratic intrigue, difficulties related to safety and cost, and the perhaps inevitable conflict related to the tensions between two former Cold War antagonists concerning information sharing and national security. By tying this historical account back to the streams of literature that frame the case study, Lambright and [End Page vii] Schaefer conclude that large, complex projects inevitably represent compromises among conflicting values and cultures—primarily between science and technology and those related to domestic and international policy making that influence the outcomes of transfer projects. Not only does policy affect technology, but technological projects like the ISS can also come to acquire a political identity that in turn influences domestic and international politics. Finally, they propose a research agenda to explicate how...