The National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) has carried out changes in its rules, regulations and statutes, as well as in its policies with the aim of centralizing not only resources, but also scientific knowledge, with guidelines of a more political and ideological nature than scientific.
These actions, researchers agree, have impacted practically the entire scientific community, from those who can be fired for “lack of confidence,” as reported Alexander madrazo, retired from the management of the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) center Region; even to the national scholarship holders who suffer delays in the calls or the young professors of the Cátedras Program who are currently fighting for their labor rights or the 31 researchers and administrative staff of the Consultative Forum on Science and Technology, investigated by the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic.
In the last three years, researchers agree Brenda valderrama, Susana quintanillto, Alfredo Herrera Estrella, David romero and Roberto rodriguez, has generated one confusion after another, one of the first occurred during the transition period, when without assuming the direction of Conacyt, Maria Elena Álvarez Buylla ordered to suspend the call for some of its support programs and those contracts that it considered could compromise resources for 2019. Since then, the disagreement and dialogue with the scientific community has been broken.
The elimination of trusts, changes to the regulations of the National System of Investigators (SNI), the creation of an initiative for the Humanities, Science and Technology Law presented by Senator Ana Lilia Rivera, the creation of a new Consultative Forum and its elimination as a civil association, the guidelines for the Chairs Program, the National Strategic Programs, the cancellation of support for academics from private universities, as well as the narrative that is being developed since the presidency of the Republic to associate scientific research with acts of corruption , the researchers explain, they are an example of the search for a control that could be crowned with the approval of the General Law of Humanities, Sciences, Technologies and Innovation that Álvarez Buylla drew up, they say, without consulting the community.
Susana Quintanilla, a researcher at Cinvestav and SNI III, explains that all the actions of the Conacyt leadership have affected the entire community at different levels, but highlights the scholarship recipients with national and international scholarships that directly affect the programs enrolled in the National Quality Postgraduate Program (PNPC). “This program has also had modifications in which we have not been alert, but we do know that there were delays in the calls and it is important because they are programs that obtain registration in different categories and students are generally guaranteed scholarships, but by changing the criteria evaluation, with the delays for registration and renewal, as it has been affected, “he says.
Quintanilla also highlights the Foreign Scholarships, which also changed its regulations for its financing. “The regulations for financing changed and when the trusts were suspended, the funds were seized, many were sectorial and had resources from the secretariats, such as Energy. So they were left hanging by the brush,” he laments.
In terms of scientific dissemination, he adds, there is no long-term program at the national level that facilitates, coordinates and defines the participation of researchers. For example, activities such as the Olympics of the Academy of Mathematics or programs with the Mexican Academy of Science, which, by not giving them resources, were frozen. “It is not a question of each one making dissemination materials, a national and international program is needed, but it does not exist. It is talking about the formation of a scientific culture, which, in the case of the pandemic, we have seen this need, the The existence of anti-vaccine movements is evidence of the null scientific culture, but this task is not only for researchers, “he says.
Roberto Rodríguez, researcher at the Institute of Social Research of the ONE, indicates that throughout these three years there have been concerns such as the cancellation of support to academics from private universities, attached to the National System of Researchers (SNI), which caused the Federation of Private Mexican Institutions of Higher Education to file an amparo which was won last July.
“There is a demarcation with the private sector almost in a scandalous way, but the protection was won and that is why the Conacyt is obliged to hand over the resources; the SNI rules were modified, a new regulation was made for it and now it has to be returned to modify before the protection to give certainty to the stimuli “, says Rodríguez.
Regarding the disappearance of the Trusts, Brenda Valderrama, researcher at the Institute of Biotechnology of UNAM, president of the Academy of Sciences of Morelos and member of the SNI, assures that they have been inactive since December 2018 and warns: “The Conacyt could have disappeared the trusts and keep the funds, but the intention was to disappear the funds. We lost the trusts as an investment vehicle and we lost the funds as a public policy, this is the worst. “
For Quintanilla, the disappearance of the trusts “has been a decisive factor because in practice there was a reduction in resources for the development of research programs.”
Brenda Valderrama also points to the most recent and controversial action of Conacyt, which is the creation of the Code of Conduct, which, she says, is worrying because it seems aimed at “weakening the freedom of research, teaching and expression of the community. scientific “.
One of the issues of great concern on which the researchers consulted coincide is that of the scientists and researchers hired under the Conacyt Chair Programs regime, who have had to create an Independent Union of Research Workers of Conacyt Chairs to demand better conditions of work; In addition, the Academic Personnel Statute was recently created, which establishes the academic rights and obligations of the personnel and it is noted that in order to remain in said program, “their labor insertion in the receiving institution or in any other” will be evaluated.
“The guidelines of the Cátedras Program led them to despair and they had to organize, but they were betrayed by Conacyt, it is very serious. Many of them burned the ships abroad and returned to Mexico. What we see is a centralizing and controlling strategy The young professors had autonomy and what Conacyt has done is to collect their files “, warns Valderrama.
David Romero, researcher at the UNAM Center for Genomic Sciences, agrees: “They are young people who decided to return to the country, the Professorships Program was opened to them, which of course is perfectible, but the director of Conacyt began her administration by questioning its existence and said which implied a budgetary problem, did not look at the virtue of returning 1,500 young people to the country; they are increasingly being restricted, the most recent being that as part of the evaluations they are made, they are asked to look for another job , it is aberrant “.
Scientists rally outside the Senate in October 2020. They demanded to maintain trusts for science. Photo: EL UNIVERSAL ARCHIVE
Alfredo Herrera Estrella, director of the National Laboratory of Genetics and Biodiversity (Langebio), is most concerned about the budget reduction for science, since 1% of GDP was promised and currently it is 0.29%. “And it is even more serious how the support is being defined. For example, the National Strategic Programs (Pronaces). The director appointed heads for the projects by means of the finger. They do have money, assigned directly. There are no calls, but yes there is money “.
The summit of all the actions that Conacyt has implemented will be, if it is carried out, the General Law of Humanities, Sciences, Technologies and Innovation. “This is the jewel in the crown. The Consultative Forum is part of the rearrangement of forces. This campaign so well orchestrated, so precise, with so many actors, to discredit scientists comes just before the discussion of the Law. I cannot get out of my head that what is being sought is to lower the quality of dialogue between scientists in front of the cameras on the General Law of Science “, says Valderrama.
Romero agrees: “The draft presented by the director of Conacyt preserves the vices of centralization that were already in Senator Rivera’s initiative, and adds the intention of concentrating all resources for science and research in Conacyt. This may generate very serious structural problems since there are resources for science that are in different secretariats and although they are intended for research, they also support institutes such as the Mexican Petroleum Institute that is in the Ministry of Energy, or the Cinvestav or the Polytechnic of Public Education. If all these resources are concentrated in Conacyt, these institutes would be left unprotected or would make them partially dependent on the Council. ”
Roberto Rodríguez also points to the polarization that has developed around scientists. “There has been talk of the science mafia, of corruption, but the truth is that they have been able to prove very little or almost nothing. The sector has always been watched. Let us think, for example, of the Master Scam, all the information to What was accessed for transparency reasons was information derived from audits. It is true that everything is perfectible and that it is not a sector that is free from corruption, but what is happening is that there is a division between those who according to the government narratives and those of us who see the imposition of a model that after three years of operation has not yielded visible and satisfactory results, from the Patria vaccine to the Pronaces themselves. “
In this sense, Romero adds: “The critical attitude of scientists is not new, it has been done with previous governments, but this government has given us all the reasons to be even more vocal. At times when action is required resolute in the face of climate change, it has been mistakenly thought to be a postponement action. “
Alfredo Herrera recalls that he was one of the first scientists to have a meeting with the director of Conacyt. “I came out of that encounter with the idea that many of his ideas were absurd. Since then he has considered making changes in the SNI related, for example, to evaluations because he felt that there should be other elements such as the social and humanistic impact of the scientific work. I questioned him and he only said that it would be a challenge, that is, he had not yet made a diagnosis and was already deciding. I also remember that his idea was to centralize everything in Conacyt. In the distance, three years later, what has The past is that there has never been a real dialogue with the director of Conacyt and decisions as serious as the disappearance of the trusts were made, we do not know what happened to those resources and it is the day that they have not presented proof of corruption“.
0.29% OF START the budget for science currently, says Alfredo Herrera, director of the National Laboratory of Genetics and Biodiversity
Impacts on the community
Fellows with national and international scholarships that directly affect the programs enrolled in the National Quality Postgraduate Program.
Scholarships abroad that also changed its regulations for its financing.
Creation of the Code of Conduct that favors the “weakening of the freedom of research, teaching and expression of the scientific community.”
Changes in the rules and regulations of the SNI.
Chairs Program affected by the Statute of Academic Personnel.
“The Conacyt could have disappeared the trusts and kept the funds, but the intention was to disappear the funds.” Brenda Valderrama. Institute of Biotechnology – UNAM.
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