Cuban scientists face personal hardship, a capricious government, the US embargo and the withdrawal of financial support by the former Soviet Union. Yet despite the obstacles, they continue to conduct their experiments and train the next generation of researchers.
Rosalind Reid and Brian Hayes visited Cuban scientists to talk about their work and find out how they tackle the lack of equipment and funds, and the constraints on collaboration and publishing imposed by the US embargo. The scientists they met overcome these hurdles by being shifting their research focus according to availability of facilities, and by taking advantage of opportunities to complete their experiments through foreign collaboration where possible. Creative approaches — such as using peas, then ball bearings, as models for particles — are also important.In January 2004, the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment announced the creation of new grants for basic research and mathematics. The amount of money is small — US$750,000 over five years — but some see it as a sign that Cuban president Fidel Castro recognises the importance of research for the future of the country.