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Worldscience: Scientific Experts in Trans-European Networks (1770-1840)

Final Report Summary - WORLDSCIENCE (Worldscience: Scientific Experts in Trans-European Networks (1770-1840))

The fellow has carried out research on highly mobile savants who worked for foreign governments, designing and implementing techno-scientific policies oriented towards control and improvement of the territory and its inhabitants. While often triggered by an increasing international competition, these policies were inscribed into and became fundamental part of a new vision of government as intervention and transformation, endorsed by a growing number of people in positions of power in different corners of the Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Mediterranean space. This vision was not limited to high-ranking government officials, but was shared and promoted by broadly-defined local elites and mobile savants, too. This broadening framework of consensus constituted a space of action and negotiation that worked to the benefit of the savants, allowing them to act autonomously and expand their influence. The period analyzed (approx. 1770s-1830s) appears as a moment of transition towards a slow and difficult birth of the modern Weberian state. The savants and technicians used local and transnational networks and emerging public opinion to carve out an autonomous space for themselves. At the same time, they were often sought after by the statesmen and integrated into governmental action, but the stability and continuity of their position was bellied by the questioned legitimacy of the new policies and institutions. This is a particularly important point, as institutional stability appears as an important factor in the success -in medium and long run- of the work of foreign technicians.

The researcher has shown that personal networks were of a key importance not only in the knowledge transmission across the borders, but also in designing and launching techno-scientific policies, be them specific, short-term projects or institutions aiming at continuity. These networks tended to be organized in clusters on a 'local' and 'national' basis, but major figures in particular tended to interconnect these local clusters to other national clusters and to a transnational intellectual community. The engagement of an expert by a foreign authority/government was often both a result and a way of expanding these networks. Nevertheless, the research has also shown that tightly woven, long-lasting personal networks did not guarantee a long-term stability of institutions launched with their help. Other factors, such as stable legal framework and wide consensus about the legitimacy of the policies and/or institutions that carried them out, seem to have intervened in ensuring the continuity of techno-scientific policies.

The new institutions were hybrid, eclectic organisms, far from being simple products of transfer of foreign patterns. Local administrative, intellectual, economic and techno-scientific traditions played an important role in shaping the new institutions, as did the need for ad hoc solutions that would take into account the resources and limitations of a specific socio-political context. We may argue that it is more useful to understand the new institutions as local products with foreign ingredients, all of them being part of a transnational transformation of the conceptual pillars and institutional structures of political power.

Besides academic community, policy-makers can be considered as one of the possible target groups of the results of WORLDSCIENCE project. The research has revealed certain patterns and trends in the inter-cultural transfer of technical knowledge and skills and in the integration of this knowledge and skills into governmental action. It also provides information on factors that intervene in a successful implantation of new institutions and in an efficient management of the investment into public works and technical education.

Civil society represents another target group for the findings of the fellow's research, particularly for what it has revealed about the changing place of expert knowledge in political decision-making. The fellow would like to pursue this line of research in the future, focusing on technocracy and democracy in the Mediterranean and combining, again, a comparative and a transnational perspective.

The fellowship has represented an important progress in the fellow's career. She has strengthened and expanded her international professional networks, thanks to the institutional partnerships of her host institution (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Spain, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Middle East Technical University, etc.) as well as due to her individual initiative (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Technisches Univesitat Berlin, Universidade de Evora, etc.). Besides universities and research institutions, the fellow has also established contacts with non-academic institutions such as the Railways Museum in Spain. The research stays and the travel budget provided within the project have been essential for a fruitful and efficient networking and long-term international collaboration. This collaboration has been confirmed by the researcher's participation as co-organizer of sessions at two international congresses that will take place in autumn 2012 (conference of the European Association for Urban History in Prague, and conference of the European Society for History of Science in Athens).

The scientist in charge has guaranteed the researcher the opportunity to advance her training. She has given two seminars at the University of Potsdam, both closely linked to the research project: 'History of the Ottoman Empire in a Comparative Perspective' (winter semester 2011/12) and 'Global Networks in the History of Science and Technology' (winter semester 2010/11). Furthermore, collaborating with the Marie Curie Initial Training Network ENGLOBE coordinated by the University of Potsdam, the researcher has acquired knowledge of international project management as well as skills concerning the supervision of doctoral students.

Marie Curie Fellowship has had an utmost importance for the fellow's future career. During the period of her fellowship, she has received a positive evaluation from the spanish national agency for the evaluation of quality and for accreditation (ANECA) that permits her to apply for posts of ayudante-doctor at universities in Spain. She has been offered prestigious fellowships by an academic institution in the USA and by a public research grant programme in France and has received support of research groups in several countries for fellowship and research contract applications. Finally, she has decided to accept the three-year contract she has received as a result of competitive process of selection at the Institute of Philosophy of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (Spain), a partner organization of the University of Potsdam, the researcher's Marie Curie IEF host institution. This permits the researcher a successful reintegration. Before the contract starts, she will work for six months at the Centre d'etudes turques, ottomanes, balkaniques et centrasiatiques of the EHESS in Paris, funded by the Research in Paris programme.