[MEXICO CITY] Mexico has become the first country in Latin America to ask its citizens what key areas the country's scientists should focus on.
The Citizen's Agenda for Science, Technology and Innovation initiative, which ran from November 2012 to the end of January this year, saw universities, research centres and scientific organisations seeking advice from ordinary citizens on the national challenges that should be solved with science and technology.
People could choose, online or in person, up to three challenges the country faces from a shortlist of ten identified by the nation's scientists.
- More than 150,000 people responded to a consultation on research priorities created by Mexico's scientists
- Education, water and the environment topped the results
- Scientists have suggested further actions and budgets for ten priority areas
The shortlist included issues relating to education, water, the environment, agriculture, energy, health, climate change, aerospace, migration and addiction.
The initiative received more than 364,000 votes representing the views of more than 150,000 participants.
Education, water and the environment topped the list with the three most important challenges being: 'To modernise the education system' (17 per cent); 'To secure drinking water supply for the entire population' (15 per cent); and 'To recover and preserve the environment to improve our quality of life' (14 per cent).
Although the consultation showed what the priorities are for some Mexicans, the president will decide what action to take, in part based on a report analysing the survey which is being produced by a number of partner organisations.
José Franco, the initiative's coordinator and president of the Mexican Academy of Sciences, is hopeful that one of the initiative's funders, the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT), will step forward and provide resources for the ten challenges.
Alejandro Tello Cristerna, president of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Commission, tells SciDev.Net that the Citizen's Agenda reveals what people think are priorities for science, and that parliament should now legislate to improve these areas.
However, he says, legislators do not have the necessary scientific knowledge, so should be in "permanent communication with scientists".
Part of this communication will be the publication of ten books, written by researchers and funded by CONACyT, that outline each of the issues along with suggested solutions and research budgets.
In this way, "scientists can make concrete proposals to decision makers and start working together to make changes to the legislation in each of the ten areas", says Acianela Montes de Oca, coordinator of the books.
"It's easy for scientists to propose solutions but it would be a huge mistake if we didn't involve citizens," says Franco.
The consultation follows a similar initiative in the European Union in 2010, which was led by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology.