Secure Mexico’s science budget with new ministry, say scientists

Mexico's science budget has still not reached levels set by the law Copyright: Flickr/CIMMYT

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[MEXICO CITY] Leaders of Mexico’s science community have called for the creation of a science ministry in the hope that it could fight for a better science budget.

The government is failing to see that an investment in science is also an investment in economic growth, they said during the 51st academic year ceremony of the Mexican Academy of Sciences.

"It [the new science ministry] would have the same policymaking faculties as the rest of the federal agencies to fight for a better science budget," Julio Mendoza, director of the Institute of Science and Technology for Federal District, told SciDev.Net.

Mexico’s 2010 science budget is about US$3.4 billion — a two per cent increase over 2009. But the country’s expenditure on science has always been less than 0.46 per cent of the gross domestic product in the past decade, even though a science and technology law stipulates it should be at least one per cent.

"The main cause of this lagging behind is the lack of an authentic state policy to consider science and education as key development factors for Mexico," Rosaura Ruiz, president of the Academy, said at the ceremony, during which she handed the presidency over to vice-president Arturo Menchaca.

Ruiz said that Mexico’s output of doctorates, at 2,500 a year, was low compared with some other countries in the region "and more aggravating is the fact that a high percentage of these don’t join national scientific activity, either because of a lack of research positions or a lack of resources".

But Menchaca said that, although there is much concern over this matter, "given the current science investment, the academic research sector is fulfilling its obligations". During the last decade, the number of doctoral graduates has tripled while the number of indexed articles published by Mexican researchers has doubled, he said.

Juan Pedro Laclette, coordinator of the Scientific and Technological Consultative Forum, a government advisory agency, told SciDev.Net that around 1,000 scientists join universities and research centres across the country each year.

"We are still far from the development levels we should be in, but the rate of growth is more than acceptable."

He added that "it is necessary to provide the science, technology and innovation system with governance mechanisms", because the system is not functioning well.

"Creating a [new] ministry doesn’t solve all problems; considerations over the governance are needed anyway".