The Vrije Universiteit And South Africa ~ Good Neighbours And Far Friends: The Netherlands, Europe And South Africa

Science in transition
The 21st century heralds the age of globalisation. Our world is moving towards an integrated and interconnected network which forms the backbone of interaction, communication, transport and trade. It is noteworthy however, that there are manifest examples of globalisation avant la lettre, notably science. The history of our world has convincingly demonstrated that science – as a professional intellectual activity – has grown to maturity in an open world that was not restricted by national borders (Van Doren 1991). Copernicus, Erasmus, Descartes or Einstein; they all illustrate that the search for new knowledge and insights transcends national interests and is not confined to national territories. The global nature of science calls also for international cooperation. To the same extent that the economies of nations are best served by labour specialisation and international trade in an open liberal market, are academic knowledge centres (such as universities and research laboratories) best served by the free exchange of information through scientific collaboration (for example in the form of joint research programmes).

With the advent of modern ICT and the development of fast international transport, our world witnesses an unprecedented rise in interaction and communication among scientists. Distance is no longer an impediment to international contacts. And scientific cooperation follows the laws of international trade, by seeking selectively for those modes of cooperation on a world-wide market that are beneficial to own research interests.

Europe has in the past decades show a remarkable growth towards cooperative science markets among its member states, which would be in the interest of both individual participating nations and Europe as a whole. The so-called Framework Programmes have laid the foundation for new forms of scientific cooperation which were hitherto unknown in Europe. But science is not restricted to the domain of Europe, and supersedes its borders. We already witness the first signs of Transatlantic research programmes, we observe first modest signs of collaborative agreements with Asian countries, and we will soon see the development of common research policies with new emerging economies. And South Africa is one of them.

In this contribution I will first give a concise sketch of changes in the European science domain, followed by an exposition on the importance of investing in the European knowledge society. Then I will outline new pathways in the European research landscape, and subsequently address new research policy tasks and new opportunities for research councils. Finally, I will discuss new chances for scientific cooperation between the Netherlands (and Europe in general) and the emerging economies (including South Africa). The paper will be concluded with a brief overview of Dutch-South African modes of cooperation and will suggest new future endeavours. Read more

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