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  • Scientists block budget cut in Ecuador


Ecuadorian scientists have persuaded parliamentarians to ignore a proposal from the country's finance ministry to exclude science from the 2005 budget.

If accepted, the proposal would have meant the cancellation of 137 research projects already approved by the National Secretariat for Science and Technology (SENACYT) (see Ecuador 'sees science as a low priority').

Alfredo Valdivieso, executive director of SENACYT's executive branch, the National Foundation for Science and Technology (FUNDACYT) told SciDev.Net that blocking the ministry's proposal required a concerted campaign.

"We designed different strategies to reach parliamentarians and their advisors, including personal contact, presentations of our activities, and sending letters to 100 of them," said Valdivieso.

"Finally, we succeed in receiving US$800,000 for science in 2005, which, although a very small amount, at least means that we are included in the annual budget."

FUNDACYT also receives 0.25 per cent of Ecuador's public works budget, and additional funding through the terms of the loan to Ecuador's government from the Inter-American Development Bank. In total, its budget for 2005 is now about US$3.3 million.

According to Roberto Aguiar, the country's secretary for science and technology and president of FUNDACYT, one of the main reasons that science is not considered a key area in Ecuador is the lack of understanding of its importance and of what the foundation has achieved.

Aguiar told SciDev.Net that parliamentarians and government officials had a poor perception of the foundation and of university research, considering them to be unproductive.

Thus, a priority for Aguiar, who took up his presidency of FUNDACYT in December 2004, is to spread more information about the activities of Ecuadorian scientists and the main contributions resulting from their research. 

Aguiar is also trying to increase the budget for science in Ecuador by seeking funds from national and international sources, including another loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.

He plans to promote the transfer to small companies of technologies that can boost production while reducing environmental impacts.

SENACYT is the leading agency responsible for science policy in Ecuador, which has no science ministry. The agency is linked to the office of the vice-president, Alfredo Palacio.

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