Argentines march in defense of science and technology

Hundreds of researchers, scientists and teachers staged the march protesting the budget cuts in the sector. More than 2,000 students were denied enrollment in research courses this year due to lack of funds

April 20, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
March in Buenos Aires to defend science and technology. Photo: AnRed

On April 17, under the banner of ‘March in defense of Science and Technology’, hundreds of scientists, researchers and teachers carried out a torch march in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to reject the new brutal adjustments announced by the administration of president Mauricio Macri in the budget allocated to the National Science and Technical Research Council (CONICET).

The protesters marched from Pizzurno Palace, the headquarters of the ministry of education to Plaza de Mayo. The march was called for by the CONICET, the State Workers’ Association (ATE) and the National Federation of University Teachers (CONADU) and was joined by members of several national technological institutions.

The budget cuts announced this month affected about 83% of CONICET researchers. This year, only 450 researchers entered the course and the applications of more than 2,000 students were rejected due to shortage of resources.

“This adjustment is so brutal that it can be experienced in operating budgets that have forced the institutes to cut working hours, and scholars and researchers to pay money from their pockets to acquire basic work supplies, and even toilet paper rolls,” said Julián del Plá, a postdoctoral scholar at the CONICET, highlighting the challenge of the adjustment.

The enrollment in the course is constantly decreasing. In 2013, when the Innovative Argentina Plan 2020 was announced, more than 1,200 scientists were part of the convocation ceremony. In 2014, 957 researchers enrolled in the course and since then, the number has declined steeply. In 2017, 600 students enrolled and in 2019, only 450 joined. This is the lowest number in the past 10 years. The progressive emptying of resources, resulting in the decline in number of researchers every year, is posing a threat to the future and development of science and technology in Argentina.

In addition, since 2015, the annual growth rate of the CONICET research center has always been below 4%. Whereas, the target set in the Innovative Argentina Plan 2020, announced in 2013, was to increase it by 10% each year.

The march was also carried out to demand a bigger budget for the sector and better salaries for university professors and researchers.

The economic crisis in the scientific sector is so serious that the universities are facing difficulties even in paying the salaries of the professors, most of them who are also researchers, and the scholarship stipends. This is due to the drastic reduction in operating expenses, which in 2015 constituted 10% of the total budget of the CONICET and today is only 4%.

At the end of the march, the organizations declared that they would participate in and mobilize for the national strike called for April 30 by national trade unions.