Scientists Call For Creation Of National Science Agency

A group of Peruvian scientists are calling for the government to create an independent state science agency that would increase research and support scientists in the Andean country, state news agency Andina reported.

The board of directors of the World Network of Peruvian Scientists, known as RMCP, called for the creation of the National Agency of Science, Technology and Innovation, or Ancyti, which would be autonomous and above the rank of cabinet minister, as are the People’s Ombudsman Office and the Central Bank. 

Peru currently has a National Science, Technology and Innovation Council, known as Concytec, which is the head of a series of institutions, including the Science and Technology Program (FINCYT), the Nuclear Energy Program (IPEN), Oceanography Institute (IMARPE), and the Geophysial Institute (IGP).  The overall budget, however, is small and a series of political appointments over the years have weakened innovation and their power to influence public policies — a current example is the continuing research and resulting recommendations by Imarpe on fishing quotas and seasonal bans, which are often ignored for the sake of political expediency.

The RMCP wants Concytec to be restructured into the new institution and with more financial support.

“The central objective of Ancyti would be to invest 0.7 percent of the gross domestic product in science and technology in order to substantially increase the number of scientists that the country has,” the RMCP said.

Peru currently invests approximately 0.1% of its GDP in science and technology, well below the Latin American average, which has led the country to be 20, 40 and 70 years behind Colombia, Chile and Brazil, says the RMCP.

The RMCP, in a letter sent to President Ollanta Humala —it also wrote to President Garcia during his administration and to the presidential candidates prior to the general elections last year—  said the government should look at substantially increasing the number of productive scientists in the country to a minimum of 3,000 from the current 200 by 2016, according to Andina.

Meanwhile, in October last year, President Humala appointed a special commission under the Ministry of Education. Led by Gisella Orjeda, head of the genomic studies unit at Cayetano Heredia University, the commission also included Santiago Roca and Fernando Villaran, strategists and policy experts in different fields, as well as the president of Concytec, Victor Carranza, and Benjamin Marticorena, head of research evaluation at the Catolica University.  Also on the commission was Francisco Sagasti, who earlier in the year published a book on policies for Latin America in the areas of science, technology and innovation.

The commission’s recommendations, published in January this year, include the creation of a Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation or, alternatively,  a Science and Technology Secretariat that would work from within the Premier’s office with the rest of the cabinet. 

As the RMCP also suggests, the commission proposes increasing the national budget for science, technology and innovation to 0.7% of GDP by 2016, which would amount to S/.4.35 billion (about $1.65 bn).

If the private sector invests 30% of that budget, the state will need to increase its contribution to S/.3.05 bn, seven times the budget assigned in 2010, which was S/.450 million (and of which only a little more than half was spent).

The commission proposes the key areas for the “shock investment” by 2016 to be doctoral study scholarships both in Peru and abroad, financial support to attract the return of research scientists, support for basic research in science and engineering, support for applied research in critical areas such as water, environment, natural disasters, nutrition and multicultural issues, greater access to electronic libraries and foreign science publications, an increase in North-South scientific cooperation programs, and support for more science and technology museums.

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