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Understanding the emergence of 'open science' institutions: functionalist economics in historical context

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  • Paul A. David

Abstract

This essay exposes the limitations of the 'logical origins' approach that has found favour among economists who seek to understand the workings of institutions in the past present. It pursues a different approach, applying functionalism in historical context to explain the emergence of the characteristic ethos and institutions of 'open science'. The emergence during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries of the idea and practice of 'open science' represented a break from the previously dominant ethos of secrecy in the pursuit of 'Nature's secrets'. It was a distinctive and vital organizational aspect of the scientific revolution, from which crystallized a new set of norms, incentives and organizational structures that reinforced scientific researchers' commitments to rapid disclosure of new knowledge. To understand how this came about, it is necessary to examine the economics of patronage and the roles of asymmetric information and reputation in the early modern reorganization of scientific activities. The rise of 'cooperative rivalries' in the revelation of new knowledge is seen as a functional response to heightened asymmetric information problems posed for the Renaissance system of court patronage of the arts and sciences; pre-existing informational asymmetries had been exacerbated by increased importance of mathematics and the greater reliance upon sophisticated mathematical techniques in a variety of practical contexts of application. Analysis of the court patronage system of late Renaissance Europe, within which the new natural philosophers found their support, points to the significance of the feudal legacy of fragmented political authority in creating conditions of 'common agency contracting in substitutes'. These conditions are shown to have been conducive to more favorable contract terms (especially with regard to autonomy and financial support) for the agent--client members of western Europe's nascent scientific communities. Some lessons may be drawn for contemporary science and technology policy debates, in which the open science mode of pursuing knowledge often seems to be viewed a robust concomitant of the power of scientific research techniques--whereas it is a fragile cultural legacy of western Europe's history, upon which rests the ascendancy of modern science as a driver of long-term economic growth. Copyright 2004, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul A. David, 2004. "Understanding the emergence of 'open science' institutions: functionalist economics in historical context," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(4), pages 571-589, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:13:y:2004:i:4:p:571-589
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    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Dosi & Patrick Llerena & Mauro Sylos Labin, 2005. "Science-Technology-Industry Links and the ”European Paradox”: Some Notes on the Dynamics of Scientific and Technological Research in Europe," Working Papers of BETA 2005-11, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    2. Max Albert, 2008. "Product Quality in a Simple OLG Model of Scientific Competition," MAGKS Papers on Economics 200804, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    3. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2015. "Leaders and followers: Perspectives on the Nordic model and the economics of innovation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 3-16.
    4. Dirk Czarnitzki & Christoph Grimpe & Andrew A. Toole, 2015. "Delay and secrecy: does industry sponsorship jeopardize disclosure of academic research?," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 251-279.
    5. Giampaolo Garzarelli & Matthew Holian, 2014. "Parchment, guns, and the problem of governance," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 27(1), pages 71-80, March.
    6. Rossitsa Chobanova, 2011. "Knowledge as Economic Research Object," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 4, pages 28-54.
    7. Giovanni Dosi & Richard Nelson, 2013. "The Evolution of Technologies: An Assessment of the State-of-the-Art," Eurasian Business Review, Springer;Eurasia Business and Economics Society, vol. 3(1), pages 3-46, June.
    8. Anton, Roman, 2014. "Sustainable Intrapreneurship - The GSI Concept and Strategy - Unfolding Competitive Advantage via Fair Entrepreneurship," MPRA Paper 69713, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Feb 2015.
    9. Bongo Adi & Kenneth Amaeshi & Suminori Tokunaga, 2005. "Rational Choice, Scientific Method and Social Scientism," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0509001, EconWPA.
    10. Dosi, Giovanni & Nelson, Richard R., 2010. "Technical Change and Industrial Dynamics as Evolutionary Processes," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Elsevier.
    11. Haeussler, Carolin, 2011. "Information-sharing in academia and the industry: A comparative study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 105-122, February.
    12. Erkan Gürpınar, 2016. "Organizational forms in the knowledge economy: a comparative institutional analysis," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 501-518, July.
    13. Sotaro Shibayama, 2012. "Conflict between entrepreneurship and open science, and the transition of scientific norms," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 508-531, August.
    14. Lehrer, Mark & Nell, Phillip & Gärber, Lisa, 2007. "A National Systems View of University Development: Towards a Broadened Perspective on the Entrepreneurial University Based on the German and US Experience," Kiel Working Papers 1370, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    15. Perkmann, Markus & Tartari, Valentina & McKelvey, Maureen & Autio, Erkko & Broström, Anders & D’Este, Pablo & Fini, Riccardo & Geuna, Aldo & Grimaldi, Rosa & Hughes, Alan & Krabel, Stefan & Kitson, Mi, 2013. "Academic engagement and commercialisation: A review of the literature on university–industry relations," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 423-442.
    16. Wil Aalst & Martin Bichler & Armin Heinzl, 2016. "Open Research in Business and Information Systems Engineering," Business & Information Systems Engineering: The International Journal of WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK, Springer;Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI), vol. 58(6), pages 375-379, December.
    17. Shibayama, Sotaro & Baba, Yasunori, 2015. "Impact-oriented science policies and scientific publication practices: The case of life sciences in Japan," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 936-950.
    18. Cristiano Antonelli, 2008. "The new economics of the university: a knowledge governance approach," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 1-22, February.
    19. Daniele Schilirò, 2007. "Knowledge, Learning, Networks and Performance of Firms in Knowledge-Based Economies," CRANEC - Working Papers del Centro di Ricerche in Analisi economica e sviluppo economico internazionale crn0702, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Centro di Ricerche in Analisi economica e sviluppo economico internazionale (CRANEC).

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