Argentine science at risk as radical right-winger wins presidency

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In the wake of his shock election victory this month, a video of Argentina’s new president, Javier Mille, tearing the names of government offices off a whiteboard has gone viral on TikTok.

It shows the right wing – sporting a unique pair of huge sideburns – “Afura” (Get out) from 10 of the country’s 18 ministries. The result includes the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation – which, he told the camera, is in the private sector – as well as the Ministry of Education “and indoctrination”, according to Mr Millay.

The rapid rise of the chainsaw-wielding libertarian in a country riven by economic instability has alarmed Argentina’s research community, with many fearing Mr Milla’s plan to drastically cut public spending will hurt its universities and scientific infrastructure.

On the campaign trail, he promised not only to close the Ministry of Science, but to close or privatize one of Latin America’s most important science funders, the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conset), and cut government funding for research and education with it. Bare bones.

“What he’s proposing is something close to collapsing the whole system, and if that happens, it’s very difficult to recover,” said Diego Golombek, a professor of biology. Quiles National University And the Consetti researcher who said he was “very worried” about the new regime.

“We have a good scientific system: it needs more budget, more federal money should go and help regional economies, but it is there and has worked well for decades, so any kind of strong measures are suicidal. It will be very difficult to rebuild.”

Alberto Kornblicht, molecular biologist b University of Buenos AiresMr Millay’s agenda was similar to the right-wing economic and political agenda of the military dictatorships that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983, but this time with “higher public support” and a democratic mandate that was “not good news” for science, universities, public health and Education.

“If he keeps his promise, not only will the budget cuts for research be huge, but institutions like Conicet will be at risk of collapse as a result of a clear brain drain,” he said.

The directors of the 16 science and technology research centers of Consett, which funds nearly 12,000 researchers, protested plans to close the organization before the election.

Mr Miley is less clear about his plans for the wider higher education system, but the national government’s control of universities’ finances leaves them vulnerable.

He proposed a plan where schools would take public money and give families “tuition vouchers” so they could decide how to spend it, and a similar system could be considered for the country’s currently free public universities.

Gerardo Burton, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry University of Buenos AiresIt remains uncertain whether Mr Maile will go ahead with some of his more radical policies as his proposals are “shifting and leading as the chances of winning the election increase”. He will officially assume the role on December 10.

“We know there won’t be a Ministry of Science and certainly funding will be very limited, but that’s about it. So for now we have to wait and see how things develop over the next few days,” Professor Burton said.

Professor Golombek agreed that the new president would have difficulty implementing his program because the Constituent Assembly’s existence is protected by Argentine law and his La Libertad Avanza (Freedom’s Advance) party does not control the country’s Congress.

But the new regime could strip the organization of its budget and it is a worrying development that such proposals are gaining traction, he said.

“Part of the blame is on us scientists, because we don’t communicate as much as we do. But the campaign was full of fake news,” continued Professor Golombek. Sometimes they took the titles of papers or scientific communications that were funny or metaphorical – someone was related to. The Lion KingFor example – and to people ‘this is what scientists do; We don’t want to support this money.’

“It was taken completely out of context and they didn’t go into what each paper was saying. But it has worked as a fear campaign against science.

tom.williams@timeshighereducation.com



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