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Natalia Ivanova

Academician, Doctor of Economic Sciences, First Deputy Director, IMEMO RAN

What will happen to science in one hundred years? What problems will it address? Who will be more in demand: physicists, biologists, economists or psychologists? Which science will prevail: fundamental or applied? The Austrian economist J. Schumpeter believed that one hundred years is a too of a short time frame for serious forecasts of major social processes. Complex interrelationships between science and society complicate forecasting, but do not make it impossible.

What will happen to science in one hundred years? What problems will it address? Who will be more in demand: physicists, biologists, economists or psychologists? Which science will prevail: fundamental or applied? We do not often ponder these questions; the future is too far away. Moreover, the Austrian economist J. Schumpeter believed that one hundred years is a too of a short timeframe for serious forecasts of major social processes, e.g. the destiny of capitalism and socialism. Perhaps, this observation is also correctfor science, whichen compasses social, political and economic conditions of intellectual activity. Complex interrelationships between science and society complicate forecasting, but do not make it impossible.

Learn, my son; 'tis science 
Which gives to us an abstract
Of the events of our swift-flowing life.
Some day, perchance soon,
All the lands which thou
So cunningly today
Hast drawn on paper,
All will come under thy hand.*

A.S. Pushkin

Detection of Long-term Trends

Photo: Institute for the Future in Palo Alto
Future of science, 2021

For economists and theorists of science, long-term trends are represented by Comparing dynamics of resource provisions and the pattern of resource distribution according to different fields of knowledge and types of scientific organizations. Modern statistics makes it possible to assess these parameters globally, i.e. for the majority of the countries of the world. What do we see in reality?

First, on average, scientific fields are developing faster than economies overall. Over the last twenty years, the surplus rates of global spending on science have been almost 1.5 timesas much as the world GDP growth rate. The number of scientific workers increased from 4 million in 1995 to 6 million in 2010,driven mainly by developing countries. The advanced countries are characterized by stable high science-intensity indicators (for example, the national spending on science to GDP ratio) at about 2.5-3% (according to economists, an optimal level is 3%). In the leading developing countries, this indicator is normally lower, but is growing fast (e.g. in China, it increased from 1% in2000 to 1.7% in 2012).

In Russia, R&D expenditures amount approximately to 1% of GDP, and by absolute figures of funding for science, we are lagging behind the U.S., Germany, France and also, China [1, 2]. The persistence of this trend in the future is quite undesirable, since it denies this country one of its main competitive advantages in the modern world – reliance on knowledge as a universal strategic development resource. One may assume that there is now an understanding of the high priority of scientific development in Russia, and the task of its further support will be addressed in the years to come.

Photo: envisioningtech.com
Envisioning emerging technology for 2012
and beyond

Second, a gradual change in the structure of research is taking place. The priority of engineering and technical research, typical for most of the 20th century, has given way to domination by the “life sciences” network, which mainly serves public health. The humanitarian sciences have also expanded. This long-term turnaround, which will continue into the future, can be explained by at least two factors. The first is the growing requirement of new knowledge about the ways to extend lifespans and individuals’ working capacity under conditions of an increasing median age of the world population. The second is the growing number of areas in the humanities (from philology to history and philosophy) that are mastering classical scientific research methods (primarily derived from mathematics), which is in turn transforming them into true “sciences” in the current meaning of that word. The humanities, which in a number of countries until now have not even been included in the category of “Science” and funded mainly from charity funds, are gradually developing into scientific disciplines consistent with strict criteria and scientific rigor. Over the last century, this has happened toeconomic theory, which has finally split off from “philosophy” (Adam Smith and Karl Marx were regarded as philosophers); in the futurethe same will probably happen to political science, psychology, and other fields.

Third, the scale of funding of scientific and innovation activities is rapidly growing in the entrepreneurial sector of the major industrial economies. Today, the most science-intensivesectors are considered to be information technology and pharmaceutics, where science intensity (R&D cost to sales ratio) reaches 15-20%. Major transnational corporations as a rule rank among the leaders in spending on scientific research. Scientific and innovation projects implemented by these companies, or strategic innovators, require a volume of funding comparable to the scientific budgets of some major countries, i.e. several billion dollars a year.

Foundations of Functionality

Institute for the Study of Science of RAS

From the view of the organization of scientific activity, two trends can be singled out: one is stable, and the another -- unpredictably dynamic. The first trend is the preservation of a historically immutable model of science as an interaction between professor and student. This model was formed in the Ancient Greece, and survived centuries with some variations; it will most likely remain the basis of training and the transfer and accumulation of knowledge. The second trend is the invasion of Internet-technologies into the foundations of organization and operation of all types and forms of scientific activities. Perhaps, this technology in the long run will produce the “creative destruction” (radical innovation as defined by Schumpeter) of many of the yet to be disrupted foundations of scientific activity. We are already observing this at present through the proliferation of scientific publications (including new speeds and possibilities of information search), forms of scientific communication (social networks, Skype, etc.), and methods for monitoring, processing and storing data. Quite possibly computers and IT could be compared by their impact with the introduction of printing, which radically revolutionized education (the storage and transfer of knowledge) and science (the generation of knowledge). Back then, science reached beyond the limits of monasteries and palaces, allowing a transition towards mass education and research in universities. The 20th century witnessed the establishment and rapid expansion of new forms of scientific organization – specialized institutes and independent laboratories, “Big Science” facilities and medical centers. The Internet has already led to the emergence of such new forms of scientific activity as virtual laboratories, global scientific networks and electronic publications.Obviously, this is just the beginning.

Institute for the Study of Science of RAS

The functioning principles of corporate science are changing quickly. Along with support to in-house scientific centers and laboratories, the concept of outsourcing knowledge, discoveries and technologies is being applied on a wide scale. Modern information and communications technologies significantly simplify and accelerate the search for required solutions. In actuality, this is an issue of establishing a “venture fund” – a new type of company, which develops new products on a regular basis by buying outside laboratories, inventors or patents and/or acquiring external innovation companies, technologies and ideas. The most indicative examples in this respect are, for instance, -- Google, Cisco Systems, Apple – which “are growing” by means of continuously acquiring start-ups.

Although the role of business in science is limited to innovation and venture support to outside cutting-edge scientific research and development, a reverse impact of science on business may happen soon. The management model of the CERN project serves as one such example, as exemplified by the construction and operation of the Large Hadron Collider(LHC).The projects of this class have replaced the Big Science of Cold War times (the atomic and missile projects of the U.S. and USSR). Unlike in the past, modern large-scale projects are implemented under conditions of full transparency but significant scarcity of resources. This has compelled scientists to work out new models of interaction that allow them to operate within reasonable budgets and timeframes. It has turned out that instead of the military or professional managers with MBAs, PhD holders are more suitable for this function. They better address tasks of higher complexity. Thus, many major companies are already showing interest in the LHC experience and are trying to adopt its principles for managing their operations. Probably, the idea of convergence proposed by academician Andrei Sakharov as a way for interaction and development of different social systems will be used in the coming century to develop synergies between classical science and big business.

Fundamental and applied science

Heating with Radium.
Illustrations by French artist
Villemard in 1910 of how he imagined the future
to be in the year 2000

In the opinion of the former President of the Royal Society of London, who likes to quote the Nobel Laureate Jores Alferov, science is all applied, simply some applications are introduced quickly, and some--over centuries. This seems to be the best answer to the question of whether the science of the future will grow increasingly abstract and remote from the life of people or be more tuned towards applications.

Nevertheless, people have always been and continue to be excited by future technological “miracles”. For instance, numerous assumptions as to what technologies would become common gave renown to the novels of Jules Verne and this type of forecasting became very popular in France. About 100 years ago, a cycle of forecasts was published in the form of postcards, a joint creation of forecasters and artists who depicted the “bright future”. The National Library of France (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) has posted an amazing 1910 post card series online that represents early 20th century public perceptions of what would be common in 2000.

It is important to emphasize in this context that technological forecasting over the last 100 years has become a quite respectable professional activity. It is in demand by major companies, ministries and agencies which decide on priorities of allocating money to R&D, and by private, especially venture, companies which profit on the risk and uncertainty of the results of the funded projects. The most popular are the sectoral forecasts that examine the development of technologies in the various sectors of the economy, national security, public health, etc, as well as the social and economic impact of newly introduced equipment. Besides, dependence on the tasks of research, either the assessment of the overall technological condition of a specific sector in the future is examined or its prospects of being influenced by a certain set of “outside” technologies (e.g. nano- or biotechnologies). Forecasting studies use various quantitative indicators (e.g. future market share and volumes, introduction cost etc) and phased timeframes for forecast implementation.

Photo: darcynorman.net
Schools will be equipped with audio books.
Illustrations by French artist Villemard in 1910 of
how he imagined the future to be in the year 2000

One cannot forget to mention also the growing scientific capabilities with regard to such objects of forecast as droughts, floods, earthquakes, comets or other natural disasters. These events have alarmed individuals, governments and all of humanity throughout history, since as the past and present indicate, they can change the development trajectory of regions, countries and civilizations. For “exact” sciences, the capability of forecasting such events has long become acriterion of their relevance. Natural disasters at present are forecasted with more precision than social events. The reliability of forecasts is improving and perhaps in 100 years, we will be able to have not only a very reliable and inexpensive forecast of, for example, annual weather pattern, but also a “schedule” of droughts, floods, hurricanes and storms.

Unlike the assessment of natural phenomena, the development forecast of cohabitation processes for several billion people living together in a space limited by the size of our planet (the condition of society can be expressed either in economic, or historical, or medical terms)most likely will not be possible outside of the framework of canonic limitations (the instincts for self-preservation of species are hindered by the achievementsof civilization). However, systemic attempts to analyze and forecast economic, social and military-strategic processes of global development are being continuously undertaken, including also in Russia [3].

Science is a self-evolving institution within society with great creative potential. The further absolute and relative growth of science as a type of human activity, the humanization of priorities, as well as the further promotion of business scientific intensity, are the main trends which determine its prospects for centuries to come. Therefore, there will be more science in all countries and in all spheres of human activity. However, science itself will significantly change and in many respects will not look like one that we have at present.

1. Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 2012. V.82. №8. PP 16-29.

2. Ivanova N.I. et al. Innovation Dynamics // World Economy: forecast up to 2020 / Edited by A.A. Dynkin. Magistr, 2008. PP 90-95.

3. Strategic Global Forecast 2030 / Edited by A.A. Dynkin. IMEMO RAN. M.: Magistr, 2011.

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  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
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