More Science for Chile, was born at the end of 2010 with the goal to open the debate about the urgent need for Chile to have more and better science and technology.
In September 2010, hundreds of young researchers demonstrated through the streets of Santiago demanding a new treaty between the authorities and Chilean science and national researchers. For researchers, the sustained budget crisis for science investment, a global lack of appreciation of science by the Chilean society together with a lack of effective integration and of a state policy for national scientific development made it clear that Chile needs More Science.
After this protest, young scientists joined to discuss how to take the discussion of science to the Chileans to a new level. Pablo Astudillo, a graduate researcher at the Catholic University back then, came up with an idea that would generate the beginning of the campaign that would seek to transform the concerns of thousands of Chileans into a movement designed to empower citizens in their quest for more science for Chile, just as it once happened in Britain in 1986, a famous campaign known as Save British Science. A coordination team was assembled and the More Science for Chile campaign was officially launched with great success in November 2, 2010. Today, the Coordination Team includes former members of the National Association of Graduate Researchers (ANIP), who initially sponsored the campaign, scientists and science communicators.
The member list of the current Coordination as well as the Executive Team can be found at this link (Spanish).
Citizen Movement: Motivation
Science has proven, over the years, to be a fundamental discipline for achieving development. Scientific research in its various branches, has brought us the progress of the modern world: the cure for hundreds of diseases, technology such as television and the Internet, efficient forms of energy production, a better understanding of the world and societies, technologies to improve agricultural production and livestock, and improved industrial processes together with many other advances in all disciplines.
Chile is a leader in scientific research in Latin America. In our country, we generate more scientific papers per capita than Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. In addition, the publications of Chilean scientists are more cited than in these countries, which accounts for a recognition of the work and the quality of our researchers. Besides, the 2009-2010 Innovation Capacity Index places us as the best evaluated Latin American country.
Nonetheless, the inconvenient truth is that Chilean science has been stalled and it stands in a critical situation. Funding for the creation of knowledge has been paralyzed for over a decade and our scientists are beginning to migrate to other countries in search of better opportunities.
While there has been much debate about the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship, there have been many proposals regarding the need of new initiatives and institutional changes. All of these are destined to fail, as none of them considers one key point: it is impossible to innovate without the development of science in all of its forms. The development and promotion of scientific research is the cornerstone of innovation.
We have settled in a complacent regional first place and have abandoned the development and strengthening that Chilean science needs. It is inconceivable to achieve development without decisive and efficient State policies in terms of scientific research and in terms of training of competent professionals in all areas of science: a Public Policy that our country does not possess.
International organizations such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), together with national agencies such as National Innovation Council for Competitiveness (CNIC), the Chilean Academy of Sciences and the Council of Rectors of the Chilean Universities (CRUCH), have diagnosed major flaws in the management of Chilean science and the importance of making substantial changes in its institutional framework.
The successful experiences of other countries, especially OECD countries, show a clear path where science plays a fundamental role. It is the duty of both citizens and our leaders to take the necessary measures for taking the next big leap that our country needs.
This is how More Science for Chile is born, an initiative that aims to open the debate on the urgent need for Chile to have more science and technology. We believe that betting on increasing the quantity and quality of science done in our country, under an appropriate institutional framework, we will accomplish the momentum needed to achieve development.
This movement is based on four fundamental diagnoses of the situation of Science and Technology in Chile:
Chile needs a new institutional framework for science
La Moneda Palace, House of Chilean Government
Chile has recently joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in which each country that is a leader in scientific research has a clear institutional scientific framework, centralized and autonomous. Out of the 33 OECD member countries, 23 have either a Ministry of Science, or a Minister of Science. In some countries, ministries cover both the management of science and higher education (even Sports) but have separate ministers for each of these areas. In contrast, only 4 of these 33 countries have an “agency” or some independent body that is not directly included in a ministry. Chile is one of those countries. Unfortunately, 3 of them are among the worst science indicators mentioned above. The figures show that we are far away from OECD countries such as Sweden, Finland, Japan, USA, Germany, and many others.
CONICYT (National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research), the current agency which has the mission of promoting the formation of advanced human capital and the scientific and technological resources of the country, does not meet the requirements and standards needed. Its current dependency on the Ministry of Education has been criticized by CNIC and the scientific and academic world have been emphatic on the need to strengthen CONICYT by elevating its institutional category.
A new institution is required, with autonomy and direct dependence on the Presidency: an institution with the authority to solve problems and to develop and execute clear scientific policies, in order to promote Chilean scientific research. Most OECD member countries have achieved this through the creation of Ministries of Research, Science and Technology.
Chile needs to strengthen its research and development
Science and Technology Park Project, Biobio
Where do we stand if we compare our investment in science with the other OECD countries? Chile is also one of the countries with greater deficits: we are the sixth country with the least investment in science. By 2004, only 8 of the 33 member countries invested less than 1% of their GDP in research and development; among them is Chile. Today, the Chilean government has acknowledged that investment in research and development itself is only 0.4%, and has made efforts to achieve figures of 0.8% GDP. In contrast, EU countries aim to reach 3% GDP, a figure considered low to transform Europe into a “knowledge-based economy, to boost economic growth, create more and better jobs and to ensure long prosperity in Europe”
Clearly a goal of 0.8% GDP by 2018 is totally inadequate, especially if it is private investment. The Chilean State must seriously consider an investment target of around 2% GDP, close to the average investment of OECD countries. Similarly we need to generate a scenario where people and businesses are encouraged to invest in science, technology and innovation.
Likewise, nothing can be achieved if the increase does not result in strengthening the science base, a pillar of support for applied research and innovation. We need to consistently increase the Regular and Initiation FONDECYT projects, as well as postdoctoral fellowships and integration mechanisms of researchers in academia and industry.
The generation of new knowledge is currently stalled due to the current budgets. No sustained increase in investment in Chilean science can reach the goals we have set ourselves as a country.
While there has been much discussion about the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship, has not been considered a key point: it is impossible to innovate without the development of science in all its forms. Having a true, decisive and efficient scientific research State Policy, and in terms of training of competent professionals in all areas of science, corresponds to a priority that our country must take.
Chile needs to increase the number of researchers and insertion mechanisms
Compared with OECD countries, the picture is downright bleak. The number of researchers in Chile is one of the lowest (832 researchers per million inhabitants in 2004): out of the 33 countries that make up this group, only 3 have less than a thousand researchers per million inhabitants, placing Chile as one of the worst among the member countries. As an example, Finland, during the same period, has more than 7800 researchers per million inhabitants, almost 10 times that of our country.
Thus, our country should be strengthened first, through the current system of grants, at both undergraduate and graduate levels, and then by enhancing training programs for advanced human capital, seeking a balance between professional training in Chile and abroad. We hope to have at least 2500 researchers per million inhabitants, a figure even lower than the average for OECD countries. Similarly, development programs for advanced human capital should be covered under a comprehensive public policy that considers the mechanisms of insertion and delivery of new tools for researchers so as to help to develop the country.
Chile needs to adopt policies for the diffusion of national scientific research
Max Planck Institute’s Science Tunnel in Valparaíso
Our citizens have a low valuation of science and researchers, as demonstrated by a recent Latin American survey (1). The State should promote the dissemination of national research in various media, through educational programs in schools and colleges. Additionally, they should review the programs and educational content to improve science education in Chile, and encourage the creation of libraries and laboratories at a school level. Efforts are still insufficient. We are firmly convinced of the vital importance of having a commitment at a country level over dissemination, not only of science but of Chilean science and the contribution of our scientists and researchers in knowledge and development of the country, spaces that are now practically inexistent.