The Data of Development: North-South Tensions in the International Hydrological Decade, 1965-1974

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Abstract Summary
The International Hydrological Decade (1965-1974) was a UNESCO-led program of research and training in the water sciences that laid the foundation for the International Hydrological Programme, which is still active today. Inspired by the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) and other Cold War-era projects of scientific internationalism, the IHD was initially launched with the aim of modernizing hydrology in a way that would solve urgent global problems. One of its leaders, the U.S. hydrologist Raymond L. Nace, justified the IHD in the following terms: “Studies on continental, hemispheric, and global scales are necessary to cope with the future problems of water supply in a world that seems destined to be overpopulated, defaced, and polluted.” With these anxieties in mind, Nace and the other architects of the IHD sought to standardize international water data collection in ways that would serve both basic science and applied needs and would appeal to hydrologists in both developed and developing nations. At the IHD’s Mid-Decade Conference in 1969, however, it became apparent that developing-nation hydrologists were deeply unsatisfied with the IHD’s implementation of these aims. They were particularly vocal in their criticism of efforts to standardize water data in ways that served developed-world hydrologists but disregarded the practical water needs of developing countries. This paper examines data collection, storage, and sharing in the IHD as sites for the negotiation of an alternate view of scientific internationalism that focused less on establishing universal standards and creating centralized databases than on ensuring equitable access to expertise and resources.
Abstract ID :
HSS171
Submission Type
Organized Session
Abstract Topic
Aspects of Scientific Practice/Organization
Chronological Classification :
20th century, late
Self-Designated Keywords :
Conservation, environmental science, transnationalism, localism