Science and Politics, a bond that is both necessary and promising

Local and international referents met to discuss how scientific knowledge intervenes in all areas of the State, and what is its relevance in connection with decision- taking causing an impact on society as a whole

The meeting was organized by the Secretary of Scientific and Technological Articulation of the Ministry of Science of Argentina (MINCYT), the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), at the Science Cultural Centre (C3), located in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo.  Along the seminar, national and foreign specialists analyzed the role of science in the design of public policies, its effect on the quality of life of people and which are the challenges ahead of us.

We understand that for our country and Latin-American countries attending this symposium, the experiences that will be shared here will be advantageous to a quality leap that puts the scientific knowledge at the center of attention, and which has to do with those things that we care the most, such as the improvement of the quality of life of our citizens, and caring for both our present and future”.

The welcome remarks were those of the secretary of Articulation of the MINCYT, Agustin Campero, the director of the Scientific Diplomacy Centre for the AAAS, Tom Wang, and the chairman of INGSA, Peter Gluckman. In this context, Campero expressed: “We understand that for our country and Latin –American countries participating in this symposium, the experiences that will be shared here will be advantageous to a quality leap that puts the scientific knowledge at the center of attention, and which has to do with those things that we care the most, such as the improvement of the quality of life of our citizens, and caring for both our present and future”.

When his turn came, Wang shared his enthusiasm for the growing interest in the hemisphere in connection with scientific cooperation and the diplomacy related to it. In this sense, he pointed out that “the strongest connection between science and politics is the search for the general welfare, this is why it is so important that both work together in an Alliance that does not only require for reliable data, but also for institutions and people. It is fundamental to develop trust among those who do research and those who will then solve questions affecting us all”.

On its part, Gluckman highlighted: “We have the presumption that Governments are more likely to make better decisions when these are based on correctly recorded evidence, since virtually all challenges they are to face have a scientific dimension, even where these are not recognized as such. However, science on its own does not make politics; rather, values and ideologies intervene ".

Later on, there was the time for the panel named “Overview of Scientific Counselling to Governments in South America”, were the chief of the Scientific Policy Section of the United Nations for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), Ernesto Fernandez Polcuch, was present; as well as the director of Energy, Science and Technology and Innovation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Marcelo Garcia; and the secretary of Planning and Policies of the MINCYT, Miguel Blesa.

“If we observe the global goals for sustainable development, such as eradication of poverty and hanger, or improvement of the systems of health, education, etc., it is difficult to find some goals where science and technology do not make contributions”, said Fernandez Polcuch. He added: “In spite of that, science alone does not solve any of those, since those are political problems; however, it may help improve decision making, a process involving a multiplicity of criteria. We should not assume an ingenuous position, believing that science supporters will educate politicians, but this is about informing to make choices taking into account the results of scientific researches; so, it is essential to understand that one does not replace the other, these are spheres that need to learn and work together”.

Furthermore, in relation to the slogans “The role of Scientist in the Formulation of Policies Based on Evidence”, lecturers included the project director for the Scientific Diplomacy Centre (AAAS), Marga Gual Soler; the coordinator of the Science and Politics Scholarships Program (CSPF-MITACS) of Canada, Rachel Maxwell; the vice- governor of the province of Mendoza, Laura Montero; and the chief of the Scientific and Technological Cabinet (MINCYT), Alejandro Mentaberry.

Specialists present at the table agreed on the fact that the relationship along time between States, public policies and science have undergone moments of encounter as well as deeply contradictory moments. Thus, Gual Soler recovered some of the studies conducted by the AAAS to analyze collaboration mechanisms used among the knowledge networks and legislative practices at different countries, aiming at obtaining a better understanding of the dynamics involved in scientific counselling.

Then, there was the panel “Linking Science, Politics and Society”, moderated by the undersecretary of Institutional Coordination (MINCYT) Sergio Matheos, with the participation of the Ministry of Security of Argentina, Patricia Bullrich; the main scientific counselor for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, Robin Grimes; and the director for the Service of Genetic Digital Fingerprints of the Argentine Council of Technical and Scientific Research (CONICET), Daniel Corach.

During its presentation, Bullrich weighed the value of technological and scientific contributions in connection with tackling crimes, since these imply “a task of permanent update in terms of knowledge and tools”, she remarked. Likewise, the undersecretary Matheos highlighted the advancements achieved among both ministries in relation to the assessment of laboratories that work within the field of the judicial system.

Finally, “Science and Technology at the Service of Huge Challenges” gathered the undersecretary of Politics in Science, Technology and Innovation (MINCYT), Jorge Aguado; the president of CONICET, Alejandro Ceccatto; and the researcher for the Interdisciplinary Institute of Political Economy of Buenos Aires (IIEP), Andrés Lopez.

 “In every activity there is a cost of opportunity, which is not a minor issue since each actor in the society has their own agenda, although money and resources are not unlimited”, proposed Lopez at addressing the complexities of planning and, at the same time, he argued about the convergence of subsidies through the innovation chain. In line with this, the undersecretary Aguado referred to projects where different ministries intervene at present, at the national level, together with provincial governments, in order to promote strategic fields allowing for the strengthening and expanding the argentine productive matrix.

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