Latin America ‘ripe for regional collaboration’

Jacob Palis Copyright: Luisa Massarani

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[RIO DE JANEIRO] Latin American and Caribbean countries are ready to forge new collaborations in science among themselves, according to delegates at an international conference in Brazil last week (24–26 January).

Jacob Palis, vice-president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC), said scientific partnerships between Latin American and Caribbean countries have great potential due to the regions’ geographical proximity, similar cultures and comparable ‘age’ in scientific development.

Palis noted that both regions were relatively young in their scientific development, which naturally led to early partnerships being established with developed countries that have a longer history of scientific research.

But he said countries in both regions had reached a level of scientific competence suitable for exploring partnerships between themselves.

Palis, who also heads the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), said it was time to "accelerate scientific cooperation" between countries of the South.

The conference brought together scientists from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela to discuss the status and progress of science in their countries. It aimed to pinpoint potential areas for establishing cooperation with other countries, ranging from basic science to nanotechnology and climate change.

Representatives from Brazil and Cuba began discussions on a biotechnology partnership to develop vaccines for tropical diseases. Palis noted this as an illustration of how cultural similarities can facilitate cooperation, commenting that developed countries would have little interest in this area.

Delegates also discussed the official mechanisms available for boosting scientific cooperation.

A proposed partnership between TWAS and Brazil’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development would offer researchers from other developing countries scholarships for doctoral and post-doctoral programmes in Brazilian institutions. Chile and Mexico were encouraged to establish similar scholarship programmes.

The conference, entitled Scientific Cooperation: Brazil, Latin America and Caribbean, was one of a series of forums organised by the ABC to explore scientific cooperation.