Creation of the Ministry of Science and Technology: Is this Peru Libre proposal viable and convenient? | Pedro Castillo | Elections 2021 | PERU

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One of the proposals made by the candidate of Free Peru (PL), Pedro Castillo, is the creation of a ministry of science, technology and research, to which it would assign – according to what it said on April 6 – 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Last Sunday, the founder and general secretary of PL, Vladimir Cerrón, who had spoken with nuclear physicist Modesto Montoya about the proposal to create a science and technology ministry. “We are pleased to have your contest. Welcome!“, He said.

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Montoya is a Peruvian scientist with a prominent career. He is a senior professor at the National University of Engineering and his research is related to cold nuclear fission and the Lima aquifer. He is president of the Nuclear Academy of Peru and former president of the Peruvian Institute of Nuclear Energy (IPEN).

After Cerrón’s message, Dr. Montoya Zavaleta, who has been defending the need to create the aforementioned ministry for years, clarified that he has not been offered any position or invited to participate in Peru Libre.

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It is not that we are aligning ourselves with Pedro Castillo. It is the reverse. It is Pedro Castillo who has taken our proposal that has decades”, He said and added that he has a pending conversation with the candidate.

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How viable and convenient is it to have an entity of this nature? El Comercio interviewed three specialists related to scientific and technological research work in Peru.

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1. Gisella Orjeda, former president of CONCYTEC: “The ministry would give rectory, but the problem is political instability”

Gisella Orjeda, a Peruvian scientist who obtained her PdD in Genetics from the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) and held the presidency of the National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovation (CONCYTEC), believes that this proposal should be evaluated to see if its disadvantages they are surmountable.

It is true – he says – that having this ministry would put scientific research in a position to influence other ministries and scientific institutes. I would give him leadership in this sector.

Gisella Orjeda lived in France for 10 years, worked at GENOSCOPE where she built the physical map of rice chromosome XII and actively contributed to its sequencing.  (Photo: Manuel Orjeda / GEC)
Gisella Orjeda lived in France for 10 years, worked at GENOSCOPE where she built the physical map of rice chromosome XII and actively contributed to its sequencing. (Photo: Manuel Orjeda / GEC)

There are rectory limitations, because it is not precisely a ministry. Concytec telephoned the Minister of Energy and Mines, asking him to promote a research program in energy and materials. The minister listens to him for five minutes, hangs up and is no longer interested, because he is not his equivalent. The voice of a minister is different”, He says.

However, for Orjeda the great disadvantage of having this ministry is political instability. “Science requires stability, clear rules, that national priorities, policies and plans are respected, that there is no clean slate. Imagine if every six months we change the minister”, He opined.

Whether it is a ministry or an autonomous entity with greater leadership over the country’s science and technology system, the urgent thing – in his opinion – is to invest in the 13 public research institutes in Peru. “They are abandoned by the state“, dice.

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2. Fabiola León-Velarde, former president of Concytec: “The priority is to increase funds for science and then, without haste, take a step towards having a ministry”

Fabiola León-Velarde, biologist, doctor of science (physiology) and former president of the National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovation (CONCYTEC), has a divided opinion on the creation of this ministry.

It is true, he says, that in Peru being in the Council of Ministers allows managing a larger budget; However, with so few resources, these will go to the bureaucratic expense of the ministry and not to support the advancement of science and technology.

We lag behind in the region in number of researchers and in resources for scientific research”, He commented. Another point against is that the ministers are very volatile and to advance in science and technology we require continuity. “We have pros and cons“, He said.

Fabiola León-Velarde, former president of Concytec, was between 1995 and 2002 as Associate Researcher at the University of Paris XIII.  (César Campos / GEC)
Fabiola León-Velarde, former president of Concytec, was between 1995 and 2002 as Associate Researcher at the University of Paris XIII. (César Campos / GEC)

CONCYTEC has been working for two years with the Congressional Science and Technology Commission (which was chaired by President Francisco Sagasti when he was a congressman) on a project that would give this entity greater leadership and better articulate the entire Peruvian system. “Not that nothing is being done. Progress is being made in a new model that has four levels: policies and plans, implementation, coordination and executors.”.

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Although a ministry could accelerate this process, León wonders whether this entity will have guaranteed the resources that are required to have “a ministry of truth”. This was – precisely – one of the observations made in 2020 in a report prepared by the international consultant of the World Bank, Juan D. Rogers, about public spending on science, technology and innovation in Peru.

In his opinion, the State should reinforce the work of CONCYTEC, move forward with the creation of a high-level scientific school to train doctors of science, increase funds for science and technology, and then, without haste, take the step towards ministry. “Why get ahead of ourselves if we are moving down that path?”He asked.

What is required is to give CONCYTEC leadership over the system. “For example, the canon is one of the largest sources of resources that public universities have for research, but interference to regulate its use is minimal, because even though CONCYTEC has given guidelines on its use, an article of the budget law prevents the use of canon funds to finance researchers“, Explain.

He regretted that the issue of science and technology is being touched in the political arena without seriousness. “What we need is that they tell us how they are going to increase resources and better invest the few that we have in science and technology ”.

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3. Jorge Alva, former rector of the National University of Engineering: “A ministry would fill us with bureaucrats; the most convenient thing is to give ministerial rank to CONCYTEC “

For Jorge Alva Hurtado, former rector of the National University of Engineering and researcher, it is important to emphasize science and technology, but to create a ministry in these circumstances of pandemic and extreme politicization “it would not be convenient”.

Jorge Alva Hurtado, former president of UNI, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the USA.  He obtained three academic degrees: Master of Science, mention in Materials Testing and Civil Engineer and Geotechnical mention.
Jorge Alva Hurtado, former president of UNI, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the USA. He obtained three academic degrees: Master of Science, mention in Materials Testing and Civil Engineer and Geotechnical mention.

We are going to fill up with bureaucrats and the steps will not be taken. I know that because I have been rector of UNI. We have a bureaucracy that does not think, that is there to warm the seat. It is a great truth”, He opines.

The most convenient, in his opinion, is to give CONCYTEC a higher hierarchy with the rank of minister, but not to create a ministry. “There you have to put a place, employees, drivers, trucks; it seems unnecessary to me“, dice.

One issue that must be reinforced in the system is to promote greater coordination between institutes with the research units of the universities themselves. “We are completely unrelated “.

He also regrets that the presidential candidates are not trying “seriouslyNeither this nor other topics.

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