A serious setback for science

The creation of the new institutional framework for science and knowledge in Chile (embodied in Law No. 21,105 of 2018, and elaborated in a dialogue process during the second government of President Michelle Bachelet) was preceded by years of debate that left at least three widely known diagnostics: first, The absence of specific strategies for scientific promotion (as well as the institutional framework that implements said strategy through policies and procedures); Second, the duplication and dispersion of efforts between CONICYT and Corfo; Third, the weak institutional position of the Innovation Council for Competitiveness, which at that time was the only organization responsible for generating, albeit in a very limited scope, a strategic vision for science, namely its relationship to productive development and competitiveness.

In this way, Law No. 21.105 creates a new institutional framework in the field of science, technology, knowledge and innovation (CTCI), which represents a break with these shortcomings, offering the country not only a renewed Council that must now ensure the presence Systematic and comprehensive, for the first time it will explicitly include the development of science within the scope of its work, but it also provided the said council with legal and political support, and assigned it the task of developing the CTCI strategy. Furthermore, the law sought to reduce (or at least qualify) duplication of effort, focusing certain responsibilities on the recently created CTCI Ministry, including developing specific policy for the region. Most importantly, the new law ceases to conceive of scientific research as a mere productive input, and mandates the new institutional framework to develop a more comprehensive vision regarding the role of science in our development (a view that should, in theory, be reflected in the latest CTCI strategy, which is Which unfortunately did not happen, as I pointed out In a previous column on this site).

Barely five years later, the government of President Gabriel Buric surprised with a draft law It threatens to destroy the progress brought about by Law 21105, consolidating in the process a highly economic vision of the role of science, reducing it back to its productive contribution. Moreover, it again divides scientific institutions into two silos, each one responsible for a separate policy that must address certain aspects of scientific development, but leaving science itself as such. Without a specific development strategy for the region.

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The bill sent to the Senate (Publication No. 16,441-19) begins with some questionable premises. For example, he insists that “Although the CTCI Council and its predecessor institutions They have accomplished the important task of making the debate on science and knowledge essential components of development, but they have not been able to form a national strategy that properly covers these dimensions, especially the productive dimension.This misdiagnosis is twofold. First, the Innovation Council was more than capable, in its successive stages (CNIC, CNID, or CTCI), of “shaping strategies.” However, it did so through an elitist process of debate, Which, in general, was not able to properly include the opinion of the scientific community, which led to the fact that the discussion on CTCI was not yet established as a piece of debate (and this position, which is still weak, came only with the discussion on the establishment of the Ministry of CTCI and the framework More importantly, the main – and sometimes the only – focus of the Council’s strategies, from a scientific point of view, was linking it to productive development, which contradicts what was stated in the draft law. In fact, these strategies rarely formulated a road map for comprehensive development. For scientific research, therefore The current CTCI system is still very similar to the one we had twenty years ago (At most, it was overpopulated with a surplus of financing instruments, despite budget slack measured as a percentage of GDP), Thus maintaining serious structural deficiencies. The bottom line is that what happened on the ground is the opposite of what was stated in the letter accompanying the draft law.

CTCI requires a more comprehensive vision and a more ambitious agenda than the current one, which effectively links science and knowledge to all fields and areas in which it can play a role (e.g. culture, education, politics and of course economics). ). but, The Bill takes us back to a time when the main value that the Executive saw in science was productive development, This is the science of competitiveness and productivity. This constitutes a clear setback. In fact, two of the major accomplishments of Act 21,105 were that the CTCI Council now had to explicitly include science in its area of ​​interest, with a more comprehensive vision beyond mere production concerns, and that CTCI’s strategy would now become We must call for support for a “CTCI policy” that had not It hasn’t officially existed for decades. “Both advances are threatened by this bill, which creates a “National Council for the Future and Development” that will develop a new strategy.”With special emphasis on national knowledge and production capabilities“, which must now support two policies, the National Policy of CTCI and the new “National Policy for Sustainable Productive Development” (DPS). Here we see a clear problem, as the CTCI policy will not be able to be adequately fed by the new strategy, because this Its focus will be limited to CTCI’s relationship withNational production capabilities“, because this is the place of its main mandate and political incentive. This will weaken the CTCI policy, which will likely play a secondary role to the DPS policy. On the other hand, the fact that scientific development must be promoted through both policies will inevitably lead to problems of coordination, incentives and duplication.

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In short, the legal change proposed in the bill It weakens scientific institutions by effectively eliminating the single body responsible for thinking strategically and developing science and knowledge in its multiple spheres of influence., beyond just producing. Naturally, it is necessary for countries to have an institutional framework responsible for a forward-looking perspective, which identifies emerging and future challenges and can envision strategies translated into public policies to guide the sustainable development of countries. In this sense, we must agree with what the President of the CTCI Council, Silvia Díaz, said in… His last column in this medium“, where he indicates that “The accumulation of technological, social and productivity changes that have occurred in recent decades has made it clear that we cannot continue to behave in the same way as before, and that Chilean regulations need to adapt to needs and requirements with a vision for the future.However, it is difficult to describe as “very good news” the establishment of the new institutional framework at the expense of the strategic capacities necessary to ensure comprehensive scientific development, which goes beyond the purely productive sphere and takes into account the right of countries to participate, of scientific progress. Quite the contrary, The bill ending the CTCI Board is a severe blow to science and a clear setback.

Given the long crisis that science is experiencing in our country and the inability of successive governments to solve it, it has become more necessary today than ever before to have a strategic vision body that is particularly concerned with scientific development and its relationship to various fields. It can generate impact. The creation of a “National Council for Scientific and Technological Development,” which would cooperate and feed into the proposed National Council for the Future and Development, and which could also link to similar bodies in the areas of culture and education (but not limited to), could offer an alternative that would avoid the problems posed by the current draft law, and strengthen the policy of CTCI, which is still weak, and with it the work of the Ministry.

  • The content expressed in this opinion column is the exclusive responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of the author the counter.

Myrtle Frost

"Reader. Evil problem solver. Typical analyst. Unapologetic internet ninja."

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