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[MONTEVIDEO] An economic crisis in Uruguay, intensified by the collapse last year of several of the country’s leading banks, has lead the government to cut by more than a half the amount of money that it had planned to spend this year on scientific research.

The cuts are the direct consequence of steps taken by the government over the past six months to reduce public spending in the light of economic difficulties that have led to a significant devaluation of the Uruguayan peso.

One organisation that has been badly hit is the National Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation (DINACYT), which is linked to the Ministry of Education and Culture.

"Our programme on technological development, for example, which funds research in areas involving the social and economical impact [of new technologies] and projects related to industrial innovation, is now expected to receive only US$3 million, rather than the US$10 million we had anticipated," says Alberto Majó, director of DINACYT.

The University of the Republic in Montevideo, the country’s leading state university, has also been heavily affected by the cuts. Support for scientists from the university to attend international meetings, for example, has been significantly cut back.

So too has spending on international scientific and technical journals. In engineering, for example, the annual amount of money available for subscriptions to such journals has been cut from US$65,000 to US$45,000. "We are losing contact with the international scientific community," says María Simon, dean of the faculty of engineering.

Another difficulty has been the drying up of external funding for university research. In the past the university received substantial support from private and public external sources, both national and international.

"However, some of those organisations had their resources deposited in the banks which closed down, and they are therefore no longer able to support us," says Ricardo Ehrlich, dean of the faculty of sciences.

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