For a fairer science
science and policy-oriented research has in recent decades had to address knowledge systems hitherto considered marginal to the mainstream discourse on science. Among the new themes that have emerged, studies focussing on gender relations have uncovered the fact that gender biases are deeply ingrained in the fields of science and technology. These biases are later conferred upon developmental programmes
. Situated within a critical sociology of knowledge, the papers appearing in Missing links argue that the liberating potential of science could be released if the issues of gender and equity were tackled head-on. A critique of the existing culture of science and development is followed by a discussion on the empowerment of women by providing them with better access to scientific and technological knowledge.
The papers are organised around certain key themes related to the gender-specific nature of technical change, and gender inequity in the educational and professional opportunities available to women. These follow from an impressive reconceptualisation of pedagogic material and educational curricula which have thus far provided role models and subsequently shaped the career choices made by women.
In the context of Third World countries, two sets of concerns are of interest. The first has to do with the transformative actions that render science and technology responsive to social needs, a concern that has been repeatedly voiced by a number of social movements and the many debates relating to technological alternatives. Secondly, a deeper cultural, political and philosophical issue relates to an equitable dialogue between science and indigenous knowledge systems. In Third World societies, women are repositories of indigenous knowledge. Decades of developmental aid paradoxically meant for the emancipation of women has led to their being dispossessed of this knowledge. Moreover, with the institution of the new patenting regimes, this condition is likely to be further exacerbated.
Apart from knowledge systems and professional opportunities, the papers also examine the role of funding agencies and implementing bodies. Sandra Hardiness's paper fittingly points out that gender biases are reproduced within development programmes designed to alleviate the condition of women precisely because the androcentric assumptions underlying the culture of science and technology, have never been examined by funding agencies and implementing bodies. A common perspective that all the papers share is that by surmounting gender inequities the path for a more sustainable developmental order shall open up.