Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

Worldview: Regressive Research Policy in Argentina

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By Samantha Rothbart

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The National Scientific and Technical Research Council is in trouble. This was in the email sent to the RCC blog team by Carson alumna María Valeria Berros on 21st December 2016. She was standing alongside her fellow colleagues and scientists in Santa Fe, in dialogue with research fellows all over the country—particularly outside of the Ministry of Science in Buenos Aires—and describing the dramatic events as they unfolded.  The Council (Concejo Nacional de Investigaciones en Ciencia y Tecnología—CoNICeT) ordinarily consolidates all funding related to research in the country, from PhD scholarships to postdocs, research and travel grants, and, crucially, the carrera del investigador—a permanent researcher position. With certain exceptions, research and higher education institutions do not have their own research budgets, but their staff is funded via CoNICeT. “With budget cuts, social sciences and humanities will be the first to suffer the effects, as usual,” Berros said.

When Mauricio Macri’s government first hinted that there could be budget cuts for science and technology last year, rumblings of discontent began to spread—especially given his promises during his campaign to the contrary. It’s understandable why those rumblings turned into outright anger when Macri revealed proposed budget cuts that would compel research institutions to cut their spending significantly: around 50% in real terms, which was revised to 36% in November of last year.

Berros went on to say:

The latest news was announced at the end of December: out of about 1,500 applications to the carrera de investigador, 874 have been accepted by academic committees, but only 385 have been appointed to their positions. [1]  This means, according to shocked opposition researchers, that 489 academically-deserving individuals have been excluded from research work in Argentina for at least one academic year. It won’t be long before the applications to the carrera start to pile up. They will either have to migrate (if they find opportunities outside the country) or leave behind their expertise to earn their income from other sources.

I would like to encourage you to sign this petition, not only as a sign of solidarity with our Argentinian colleagues and their country, but also more generally out of a concern regarding the increasingly precarious position of research and academic endeavors around the world.

2photoWhat followed the protests is a compromise of sorts. In the weeks since the occupation of the ministry building, Ministry officials have extended several CoNICeT fellowships by at least a year, and around one hundred scientists have received new fellowships. While the deal was enough to disperse the crowds, and many protesters see this as a victory for science and research in Argentina, others are concerned that it’s merely a stopgap solution. Many are still anxious that Argentina will lose promising scientists and scholars to other countries given that no new permanent research positions have been created; this additionally sends the message that the country has more important issues on its plate right now. Berros’s concerns over the devaluation of research and academic work are echoed by many, perhaps best captured by Cecilia Kramar—an Argentinian postdoc studying neuroscience abroad—who told Science:

“The message is clear: Science is not a priority to this government….There won’t be new science in Argentina because there won’t be new scientists to do it.”


[1] Official information available at: http://convocatorias.conicet.gov.ar/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/Aprobados-de-la-Convocatoria-anual-CIC-2016-por-GA.pdf

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