Representatives of ten Latin American countries have issued a statement calling for greater regional integration of science policies and research activities.
The 'Buenos Aires Statement' was announced at the end of the First Latin American Forum of Parliamentary Committees on Science and Technology, held last week (7-8 March) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The statement was drawn up by parliamentarians from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.
It says that regional integration of activities related to science and technology would allow countries to make better use of human resources, infrastructure and funds.
The parliamentarians suggested setting up mechanisms to ensure that Latin America's scientific community is informed about policymaking processes related to science, technology and innovation.
Other recommendations included creating an inter-parliamentary network to advise on and evaluate legislation on science and technology, and setting up an Internet-based forum through which Latin American parliamentarians and other officials linked to science could discuss relevant laws and policies.
Creating a database to share information on laws related to science and technology in different countries was also suggested. Argentina will start the process by making relevant information available through its Secretariat of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation.
The Buenos Aires Statement adds that politicians should develop schemes that encourage scientists to travel to and work in other countries in the region.
Lilia Puig de Stubrin, chair of the Argentinean Commission on Science and Technology, told SciDev.Net she was optimistic about the meeting's achievements, which she considered as a "starting point" for further integration in the area.
But she said noted that there is a big difference in how the parliaments of different Latin American countries deal with science and technology, with some countries facing obstacles to increasing the profile of scientific issues in parliament.
De Stubrin cited the example of Ecuador, which she said, was not able to set up a parliamentary committee on science and technology because of limits on the number of committees permitted.
Chile's parliament also has little opportunity to increase the national budget for science and technology, she said.
Carlos Abeledo, an expert in science policy at the University of Buenos Aires, says the meeting reflects a political interest in the development and social impact of science and technology that was not seen a few years ago.
The Buenos Aires meeting was organised by the Commission on Science and Technology of the Argentinean Chamber of Deputies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO's) regional office for Science and Technology for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Argentinean Secretary of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation.
Representatives from Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala had also planned to attend the meeting but were not able to. The next meeting is scheduled for March 2006.
Link to full text of the Buenos Aires Statement (in Spanish)