Argentina sets up science communication agency

Vera Brudny
Copyright: Programa Nacional de Popularización de la Ciencia y la Innovación

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[SALVADOR, BRAZIL] For a while now, Argentina has seemed serious about science as a means for development. This week, at the 13th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference (PCST2014), there was fresh evidence of this.

I learned that President Cristina Kirchner’s government is setting up a specialised agency within the science ministry to boost science communication in the country. This is part of the government’s strategic goals for 2014.

It will be called the Agency of Science Communication, Technology and Innovation of Argentina (ACCTINA), and should be formally launched by the end of this year, if things go smoothly, according to Vera Brudny, head of the project at the ministry.

On the sidelines of PCST2014, she told me that ACCTINA will replace the National Program for Science Popularisation. Though it’s not clear exactly what the significance of the move is yet, it seems to signal that the government is placing increased importance on science communication. Brudny told me that it will allow for an increase in the quality and quantity of science communication activities in Argentina.

“This helps to consolidate the science communication activities as a state policy and shows the value that they have within the science and technology system, she said. It is a clear message for society, for the scientific community and for science communicators, who will feel their work is better valued.”

Although the agency hasn’t been formally launched yet, it’s already working with funds provided by the ministry, with a workforce of 80 people, Brudny said.

She added that one of its goals will be to decide on funding for communication projects using a peer-review process to select the best initiatives.
Brudny said the agency will try to obtain funds equivalent to ten per cent of the money spent on research in science and technology (S&T) by the ministry — though she was unable to say how much that would be. 

This move follows the interest the Argentinean government has shown over the last decade in science and technology. It has created a dedicated ministry for the subject and has talked about how it sees science as part of the cultural welfare of the nation. The administration has also boosted science popularisation activities through initiatives such as the huge annual science fair Tecnópolis and the 2012 launch of a TV channel on S&T (which SciDev.Net reported on in Spanish).

I was eager to get some comments on the new agency from the Argentinean science communicators attending the conference here, but I wasn’t very successful.

Some of them probably receive funds from the ministry and are not willing to comment, while others may think — as I do — that there is still little publicly available information about the agency’s goals and strategy to comment on. It will be interesting to wait and see how effective this new body is.