The Venezuelan Academy of Physical, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences fears for the fate of science in its country, says the academy's president Claudio Bifano.
Bifano accuses the government of trying to control Venezuelan science and higher education. He says that inexperienced professionals with little scientific knowledge are being appointed to positions of power based solely on political loyalty — a move that will curtail academic freedom and dialogue with the research community.
Other moves are equally worrying — the country's president is setting the scientific agenda based on his own beliefs, private sector funds are being distributed according to projects' "social aims" rather than the quality of research proposals, universities have suffered drastic budget cuts and restrictions on access to scientific literature and the Internet, and there are no plans to provide some 40 new universities with suitable academic staff.
Young scientists are leaving the country and Venezuela is losing its intellectual capital, warns Bifano. And prominent researchers are being forced out of their jobs, he adds. For example, Raimundo Villegas, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IDEA), was forced into retirement and Jaime Requena, also from IDEA, was fired without due legal procedures.