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[BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA] Investment in science has soared in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years and the number of science publications has doubled, according to a new report. 

But the global financial crisis — and lack of private investment — threatens to curb further growth.

'State of Science 2008', published last month (December), says there has been major growth in research and development (R&D) investment, the development of human resources, and the number of scientific publications and patents across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The number of full time researchers and technicians in the region reached almost 235,000 in 2006 — an increase of 85 per cent since 1997. Publications from Latin America and the Caribbean registered with the Science Citation Index doubled in the same decade.

The report says that the key expansion period was 2002–2008. In 2006, the region invested around US$18 billion in R&D (60 per cent more than in 1997). This was almost two per cent of the total world investment in R&D.

In that year, Brazil's investment was 1.02 per cent of gross domestic product; Chile's 0.67 per cent; Argentina's 0.49 per cent; and Mexico's 0.46 per cent.

In nanotechnology, the report notes the creation of international collaboration networks and a surge in scientific publications.

Brazil leads the way in nanotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by a second group that includes Mexico and Argentina. But patenting in nanotechnology is poor.

"The information obtained from indicators allows us to be optimistic," said Mario Albornoz, coordinator of the Ibero-American Network of Indicators of Science and Technology (RICYT), part of the Science and Technology Programme for Development, which co-produced the report with the Ibero-American Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation.

"The main deficit in Latin America is the lack of private investment. The only country of the region that has explored paths that seem to be successful to face up to that problem is Brazil."

"Without private investment, stimulating innovation is an impossible goal."

Link to 'State of Science 2008' (in Spanish)