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[BUENO AIRES] The Argentinean government has exempted scientists from a regulation specifying that the appointment of all new government employees — which includes most of the country's scientists — had to be approved by the country's president.

The regulation, which had represented a substantial obstacle to all those seeking to embark on a scientific career, was signed during Argentina's political and financial crisis in 2002.

Because of the administrative requirements of this procedure, young scientists "had to wait at least two years to join the system," says Eduardo Charreau, president of Argentina's National Scientific and Technological Research Council (CONICET).

According to Charreau, the rule had created serious difficulties for about 500 scientists, about 60 of whom have had to find jobs abroad in order to continue their research careers. Argentinean scientists will now be exempt from the requirement, although it will continue to apply to other public servants.

"This is splendid news for us," Charreau told SciDev.Net. "The Argentinean scientific system is ageing, and we need younger blood in the scientific community."

The case of Claudia Vassena, a biologist working on insecticides, typifies the experience of young scientists in Argentina. Vassena was awarded a number of grants by CONICET to begin her scientific career. "But a mountain of paperwork delayed everything, and the official appointment never took place," she says.

Vassena told SciDev.Net that she had considered offers to continue her research in Europe, but has decided to stay in Argentina, hoping that the new rules will enable her to fulfil her scientific ambitions.

Another researcher to have suffered from the ruling is Diego Vázquez, 33, a doctoral graduate of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee in the United States, who was presented with a 'young investigator prize' by the American Society of Naturalists in 2002.

Although Vázquez has already completed the paperwork needed to continue his research in his native Argentina, and CONICET has approved his application, he is still waiting for formal permission to return to Argentina to resume his research.

"This award would normally provide a notion of a professional future," says Vázquez. "Unfortunately, I don't know where I will be working next year."

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