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[BOGOTA] A group of leading scientists, business representatives and public officials are urging the Colombian government to increase its spending on science and technology by a factor of three over the next 10 years as part of a 'decade of science'. 

To achieve this target, they say that Colombia should boost spending on science to 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of the decade, and also should increase the number of researchers from 350 to 600 per million Colombians by that date. 

The recommendations are part of a manifesto drawn up at a meeting last month in Medellín, Colombia that calls on the Colombian president and other decision makers to create a new 'social contract' in order to harness knowledge, science and technology for the benefit of the country, and urges for science teaching to become an integral part of education. 

“Better-informed citizens will play a more active role in making decisions and will be able to make use of their inalienable freedom, for the benefit of democracy," it says. "Although scientific work has allowed great advances and transformations of humanity, its results have occasionally accentuated the inequalities between people.”  

Known as the 'Medellin Manifesto', the document also argues that political decisions should be based on scientific and technological knowledge. In order to achieve this, the Colombian Institute for the Development of Science and Technology (Colciencias) should have a more influential role in government decision-making, given that science has a bearing on a range of issues including agriculture, industry, health, environment and education.

The meeting, held under the title "Aiming at a new social contract in science and technology for fair development”, was held to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the University of Antioquia and the 10th anniversary of the Colombian Presidential Science, Education and Development Mission, a group of science, arts and economic leaders who wrote a document in 1994 outlining the steps that Colombia needed to take to become a developed country.

“In 1994, we decided that Colombia should have better science”, says Colombian neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás, professor at the School of Medicine of the New York University and member of the Mission. “In 2003 we feel the situation is much better, but still we have a long way to go.” 

The authors of the manifesto, however didn’t propose any practical suggestions about how to put the recommendations into practice.

Link to the full text of Medellín Manifesto (in Spanish)

Link to full text of Medellín Manifesto (in English)