ben David's Analysis

The basic methodology used by Crawford and ben David goes back to Alphonse de Candolle(17), a Swiss naturalist, who counted the foreigners elected to membership of the 3 major Academies in London, Paris and Berlin. Dividing this by the population of the country concerned, he came up with a statistical measure of the 'unit scientific value' of their populations.

He can thus claim to be the inventor of modern scientometrics, with a procedure which was quantitative, hypothetico-deductive and comparative. He made an approach to the problem from the angle of the scientific community in a small peripheral country, with aspirations to central status. His analysis was restricted to approaching the various national scientific populations with a classification by religion, social class, family tradition; he did not get round to the institutional and organisational background in the national environment.

De Candolle concluded that 'the more the sciences progress, the more difficult it is for peripheral or newly civilised countries to do battle with the ones at the centre'. This early insight emerged again a century later as the main theme of the Ben-David analysis.

Ben-David added new dimensions to the analysis of the comparative development of science in differing national environments:

  • the organisation of science into disciplines, specialities and research schools;
  • the extent to which the status of the people who practice science can be considred 'elite';
  • the division of the world into 'centre' and 'periphery' and the location of the national environment in that context.
The key feature of the organisational analysis in Ben-David is that in the countries which became 'central' (England in the 17th century, France in the 18th, Germany in the 19th and the USA in the latter half of the 20th centuries, roughly speaking) the organisational structures for research were competitive. The competitive environment at the centre produced the innovations which raised the general level. Peripheral countries adopted the innovations, usually with a time-lag, often further delayed by linguistic barriers, and adapted them as best they could. Organisational structures at the centre tend to be copied at the periphery.

The 3 pioneering 'central' States retained their overall centrality, while the overall centre of gravity shifted about among them.

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