The Moral Imperative of Money

The Moral Imperative of Money

The moral imperative of money: what investments in science say about a nation’s priorities and ethical compass

Biologia Futura, a Springer/Nature publication, 23 October 2020

by Mohamed H. A. Hassan & Daniel Schaffer

The global scientific community has experienced fundamental irreversible change over the past several decades. The meteoric rise of China as a scientific and technological powerhouse, growing challenges to US supremacy in global science, and a significant narrowing of the North-South gap in scientific capacity have all shaken – and reordered – the liberal, rules-based international order that has framed and shaped global science since the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent demise of the Soviet Union.

While there is a much truth to the notion that the global scientific community has entered a new era, one enduring legacy of times past remains firmly in place: Scientific and technological capacity continues to reside largely within the domain of just a few countries. For example, China, the United States and the Europe Union (with 27 countries) account for two-thirds of the annual global US$2 trillion investment in research and development. Similarly, scientists in the US, China, and EU account for two-thirds of all scientific and engineering articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

In short, scientific investments and scientific output remain nearly as concentrated today as they were 30 years ago. We should be encouraged by a narrowing of the North-South divide in science. But we should also be concerned about a growing South-South divide in science. Deep inequities in scientific capacity continue to be a defining characteristic of global science, a disturbing characteristic that is most evident in sub-Saharan Africa.

The enduring elements of marginalisation and inequity that persist within the rapidly changing landscape of global science demand both attention and action. The article, “The moral imperative of money: what investments in science say about a nation’s priorities and ethical compass,” examines the global scientific community at the dawn of a new era that in some significant ways resembles the old one. It calls on national governments, especially in poor countries, to expand their investments in science and technology and to more closely integrate these expenditures into their national plans for economic development. The article also calls on international organizations to renew their commitments to scientific capacity building, especially among countries that have yet to fully benefit from advances in science and technology or to fully participate in global research efforts designed to address common global challenges. The article is based on the notion that inclusive international science requires strong scientific and technological capabilities in each and every nation.

For additional information about the article, please contact Mohamed H.A. Hassan, or Daniel Schaffer,