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[SANTIAGO] A Chilean initiative aimed at boosting the nation's research output has substantially increased scientific publications and trained more than 300 young researchers in its first four years.

These are the main findings of a progress assessment for Chile's Millennium Science Initiative (MSI), released on 19 April.

The MSI is a collaboration between Chile and the World Bank. It was launched in 1999, creating three cutting-edge research institutes and five smaller centres called 'nuclei'.

According to the study, the number of publications by researchers at these initial MSI centres increased by 30 per cent compared with their outputs before joining the centres — to an average of 3.1 per researcher per year between 2000 and 2003.

The number of undergraduate and postgraduate scientists being trained at the centres increased eight-fold in the same period.

Despite the successes, the MSI has had a rocky start. One of the centres covered by the study was closed in 2005 when the government withdrew funding (see Staff dispute prompts closure of top Chilean institute).

The study also reveals the initiative has not succeeded in boosting patent applications.

In total, the nuclei and institutes applied for an average of 3.2 patents per year from 2000–2003. By comparison, the same researchers applied for 4.8 patents per year between 1991–1999.

Claudio Wernli, the MSI's executive director, told SciDev.Net that the study "sets a precedent for the future evaluation of current institutes and nuclei".

Since its launch, the MSI has increased the number of nuclei it funds to 14.

Last year, a centre dedicated to ecological research was selected to replace the biotechnology centre that was forced to close (see Chilean ecology centre to be 'millennium institute').

Wernli said other Chilean institutions should use a similar approach to assess their output.

Link to the full report