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[BOGOTA] Latin American nations should join forces to develop a truly regional scientific system. This was a key message to emerge from a meeting earlier this month in Bogotá, Colombia, of 350 scientists and other stakeholders from Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

Delegates at the meeting called for greater integration of research efforts in the region, and urged both governments and the private sector to increase funding for science and technology as a way of boosting social and economic development.

“We need to start with simple actions,” said Eric Goles, president of the Chilean Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT). He suggested that each country in the region gives four scholarships a year to allow young researchers to attend leading PhD programmes in neighbouring countries. "In that way, we would start official joint programmes, and convert our national research into regional research,” he said.

Most research in Latin America is carried out in universities, using public funds. The challenge, the meeting concluded, is not only to convince politicians of the importance of science – as has already happened to some extent in Brazil, Chile and Mexico – but also to work together with industry to encourage investment in research and innovation.

“If we do not show industry that research means better income, and that their pockets will benefit, we won’t be successful in convincing them,” said Guillermo Aguirre-Espindola, director of innovation and technological development at the Mexican Council of Science and Technology.

The meeting, called 'Internationalisation of Science and Regional Integration' was organised by the World Bank together with the Association of Colombian Universities (Ascun) and the Colombian Association for the Advancement of Science (ACAC).

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