A group of over 1000 internationally renowned scientists and academics, including eleven Nobel prize winners, have penned a joint letter to President Mauricio Macri highlighting and criticizing the present state of the Argentine research and science community, a situation they say has been brought on by the policies of his government.
Nobel Prize winners in physics Barry Barish, Kip Stephen Thorne, Rainer Weiss, John Michael Kosterlitz, Serge Haroche, David Wineland, Anthony Leggett, and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji; with winners in medicine Michael Rosbash and Phillip Allen Sharp; and chemistry winner Thomas Robert Cech, are among the scientists who signed the letter.
The letter, which was signed by 1200 scientists in total, protested funding cuts to the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), the National Agency for the Promotion of Science and Technology (ANPCYT), and national universities. The group has described the policy as another form of Macrismo, a neoliberal political movement first popularized by Macri when he served as the head of government for the City of Buenos Aires.
The letter also accused Macri of failing to meet the "commitments assumed in subsidies for research and international cooperation" and abandoning infrastructure improvement plans at scientific and research institutions.
After “twelve years of continuous growth and expansion,” the country’s science and technology areas are collapsing, the letter read.
The signatories say that CONICET "is on the verge of paralysis" and that the jobs of 10,000 scientists, 10,000 doctoral and postdoctoral fellows and almost 3,000 technicians are in danger. The salaries of Argentine scientists and academics are among the lowest in the region.
In the case of the fellows, they receive stipends that are under 24,000 pesos, the country's living wage. In addition, they said the number of vacancies has been reduced for young researchers to enter the CONICET. In 2016, new positions were reduced from 900 to 450.
"A new exodus of highly trained scientists is predicted," the letter said.
The budget cuts have affected more than 250 research institutes. The constant devaluation of the Argentine peso has also hampered the power of research grants.
In the letter, academics also highlighted concerns about the recent downgrading of the Ministry of Science and Technology to a Secretariat. The decision, which completes "this dark panorama," the letter said, has "a great negative symbolic burden." "It shows how little the administration of President Macri cares about science and technology," they said.
They urged the government to reverse negative policies and to prevent the exodus of scientists. If the government does not take measures immediately, it would cause great harm to the scientific future of the country.
This is not the first time that the international scientific community condemned the cuts to the field of science and research in Argentina.
A series of articles published by the prestigious journals Science and Nature have highlighted similar concerns. An article in Science highlighted the cuts and the reduction of funding for the former Ministry of Science and Technology from USD $96 million (or 3.7 billion pesos) to USD $88 million (3.4 billion pesos).
"With the inflation factor, this represents a cut of 35 percent," the article noted. In the case of CONICET, they said, the devaluation also impacts the budget and in the ANPCYT the cut would be 20 percent.