Managing social systems (science being one of them) is effected through the decision-making mechanism. Decisions are made on the basis of estimating various parameters of the system in question, first of all – of their functioning efficiency. Efficiency is a generalized measure of the quality of systems and processes.
Depending on the specific purposes of the estimate, different algorithms are used to calculate the efficiency: that of “aim-result” orientation (involving comparison of the result with the aim, plan, norm); that of “result-expenditures” orientation (correlating the result with the expenditures required to attain it); that of “results- results” orientation (consisting in comparison of the different results on condition that the expenditures on both sides are adequate or similar) and so on (1).
A sound choice of criteria to appraise the efficiency of a research is possible only if science is viewed as a purposeful system closely tied to other subsystems functioning in reality; such a system should be viewed as having its own hierarchy of purposes, its own entry, exit and process. The mane purpose of science is to produce new scientific knowledge and to introduce it into practice. As for the results of a scientific research, they serve as indicators of attaining this mane purpose. Intermediate products of scientific activity have informational nature.
The classics of philosophy viewed cognition as a reflection of objective reality. Reflection is a universal property of matter, while information is one aspect of reflection – a reflected totality of material objects with all the ties and relations inherent to them (2).
Progress in nature proceeds through accumulating (generating) information by the developing systems; regressive (entropy) systems, unlike the developing ones, are characterized by a loss of information. In terms of the Universe, these tendencies of material motion should be viewed as instants of auto- fluctuation. In the process of development, self-governed systems form subsystems which specialize in preservation, accumulation and utilization of information. Thus, the piece of information needed for living organisms’ reproduction is coded on DNA molecule. Brain is the most advanced of natural informational facilities, while consciousness is the highest form of reflection. At the level of consciousness, matter has acquired the “second power" reflective capacity - that of reflecting the very process of reflection. This qualitative leap forward made it possible to control the cognitive process in the active, purposeful manner and to apply efficiently the objective laws of material world to historical practice.
The social community's cognitive activity is aimed at extracting bound information from material objects in order to transform it into free, ideal information. In its ideal form, an individually secured piece of information becomes available to all, fit for proliferation in time and space, for general use.
It is important for self-governed systems to accumulate not all information that comes their way, but only useful one, i.e. the one which promotes the optimum efficiency of its functioning and development. Of greater value is that kind of information which promotes generating new information. In this context, science may be viewed as a specialized subsystem functioning within the frame of the most advanced system on the Earth - that of human society - and generating the most valuable information - scientific knowledge.
The process of producing scientific knowledge consists of two basic operations: 1) extracting new, earlier unknown information from the object of the investigation and .2) its theoretic (logical) elaboration. Value of the resultant knowledge depends on these operations. The newer the knowledge obtained, the greater its difference from the past knowledge, the higher its theoretical level (informational capacity) - the more significant is its contribution to the totality of mankind’w scientific knowledge.
We have elaborated the progressive scale which comprises five classes of scientific information graded according to its theoretic level from the description of separate facts (things, properties and relations) to the creation of a theory. Another scale comprises five degrees of scientific results newness ranging from the necessary confirmation of the known facts and notions to obtaining principally new knowledge (3). By means of the two scales, the authors and other experts can rapidly estimate scientific and informational value of the scientific result. The scientific-informational criterion is the only one capable to offer a universal estimate of science efficiency since it reflects the essence inherent in every authentic scientific result - no matter whether it is obtained in the sphere of fundamental an applied research, no matter whether it will find practical application or will confine itself to enriching the treasury of human knowledge.
Any primary result of scientific research - scientific knowledge - when integrated into other subsystems of human society, causes, as a rule, the chain reaction of secondary effects, the description of which is carried out on languages specific of the system in question. Distributing the secondary effects among various systems serves as a natural basis for making classifications of the science efficiency criteria. For example, the following points are to be included in the list of the secondary efficiency criteria for scientific achievements in the field of medicine:
- technical-engineering one (indicative of the essential differences in the ways matter is arranged; indicative of the attained technical or technological affect, of the solved problem's complexity, etc.);
- medical-biological one (characterizing the novelty's impact upon human organism and upon experimental animals, as well as upon the agent that causes the studied disease);
- socio-medical criterion (dealing with such data as the rate of disease and invalidity, death rate, etc.);
- the one of defense significance (for example, the indicator of rehabilitation among the wounded);
- socio-economic one (indicative of the economized resources, of preventing losses of production by means of what K.Marx called "labour power recuperation");
- ecological and other criteria.
If the results of a scientific research influence material production through the means and objects of labour, then the resulting economic effect should be estimated in value categories - such as the profit of an interprise, net increase of production in a branch or - on a country scale - of national income.
Depending on the type of social consequences of scientific achievements application, different approaches to their estimation are possible. In some cases, they can be measured directly (in natural or statistical units), in other cases - indirectly (e.g. judging by the size of the obtained economic effect). The more significant the social achievement is, the broader spectre of social life phenomena it embraces - the more difficult it is to make an integral estimate of it in a quantitative form; for such an estimate would require summing up the whole scope of effects; some of them have only qualitative characteristics, some are measured by incomparable units. The real way of overcoming these difficulties consists in elaborating priority scales which would encompass all the most important indicators of social welfare.
In the value hierarchy of the secondary science efficiency criteria, the top position should be occupied by social efficiency. The history of science testifies that scientific product's applied usefulness is closely tied to its scientific-informational value: it is principally new inventions outstanding discoveries and major theoretic achievements that lead to revolutionary transformations, while partial innovations can give rise only to reforms. Distortions in the priority scale can involve disproportions and inaccuracy in distributing the funds to finance scientific research, as well as reducing the rate of scientific and engineering progress and the rate of the people’s welfare growth.
1. Субетто А.И. Концепции эффективности и некоторые вопросы классификации схем исчисления эффективности НИОКР. – В сб.: Интенсификация научной деятельности. М., 1983, с.100-103.
2. Урсул А.Д. Проблема информации в современной науке. Философские очерки. М., 1975.
3. Либенсон В.С. Информационный подход к оценке научных достижений. – Вестник Академии наук СССР, 1, 1979, с.62-66.
8 INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF LOGIC, METHODOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SIENCE, Moscow, 1987, abstracts, section 6, v. 4, part 1, p. 360-363.