29/06/12

Science gets backing of Mexico’s presidential hopefuls

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For the first time in more than a decade, science is on the agenda of Mexico’s presidential elections, according to an article in Nature.

The three leading candidates want to fulfil promises made in 2000 by then-presidential candidate Vicente Fox, who promised to raise Mexico’s gross expenditure on research and development from about 0.4 per cent to one per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Even though Fox won and implemented legislation to guarantee this increase, Mexico’s expenditure has remained below 0.5 per cent — and science fell off the agenda of subsequent elections.

The country’s research expenditure now ranks among the very lowest in the world’s top 40 economies.

"Knowledge, research, development and innovation have not been a priority for Mexican decision-makers," Juan Pedro Laclette, head of the Scientific and Technological Consultative Forum — a leading think-tank for science based in Mexico City — told Nature.

"If you plant peanuts, you are going to harvest peanuts. What Mexican politicians have planted — have invested — is peanuts."

José Franco López, president of the Mexican Academy of Sciences, said: "If you take the difference between what they give and what they were supposed to be giving, they owe science a huge amount of money".

Now, there is a chance that whoever gets elected will finally make good on past promises and boost Mexico’s research investment.

"This is the very first time that I have heard the candidates make positive pronouncements about science," says José Franco López.

"Before, science was nowhere in their speeches. This time they are acknowledging that science and technology and innovation are engines for economic development."

Link to full article in Nature