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Research Information:FOCUS ON LATIN AMERICA


Information access supports research priorities


The development of scientific research and innovation are important in Latin America. However, issues of budgets, language, infrastructure and information access can form challenges. INASP’s Vanessa Fairhurst and Siân Harris find out more


T


here is ‘a widespread consensus that competitiveness and development must rely on innovation.


Competitiveness based on knowledge and learning, is authentic... If you want to develop in an inclusive and sustainable way, knowledge, innovation and learning is critical.’


So said Rodolfo Alarcón Ortiz, Cuba’s minister for higher education, at a conference in Havana in October. Ortiz was speaking about Cuba but his remarks are appropriate for many countries in the region.


Freddy Aleman has similar observations about Nicaragua, where he is director of research and postgraduate studies at Universidad Nacional Agraria.


He said: ‘For the first time, efforts are being made to break into the information and knowledge society (primarily in science and technology) for the economic and social development of Nicaragua. The government of Nicaragua has defined a National Human Development Plan (NHDP), which includes 12 strategic policies and programmes, one of which is Science, Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the transformation of Nicaragua.’


This process, he explained, has meant that many state workers have had the opportunity to be involved in training programmes and postgraduate degrees as a strategy to build capacity and generate knowledge. In addition, Nicaraguan universities have been embedding scientific research in their mission. ‘In recent years, in Nicaragua and Central America generally, research has been characterised by being oriented to anticipate, address and solve the problems of the most vulnerable sectors. It is also important to mention that there is an emphasis on quality and excellence, assured through evaluation


Digitisation at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras


of both methods and results. Researchers are committed to improving the quality of life of the people in the region, and research activities are subject to measures of social relevance, quality, innovation and environmental cost-benefit,’ Aleman observed.


Bureaucracy


In Bolivia, says Sergio Lizeca Baldiezo, department head of science and technology at Universidad Mayor de San Simón in Cochabamba, there is also a greater awareness of the importance of research. However, he added that: ‘That awareness does not translate into practical, embedded actions to encourage research.’


‘On a local level at my university, the trends related to research address five priorities outlined in the National Research Plan: Sovereignty and Food Security; Water Management, Habitat and Environment; Renewable Energy; Genetics and Biotechnology; and Social Science. However, the dynamics are much the same as


18 Research Information DECEMBER 2015/JANUARY 2016


ever. Research that is subject to administrative bureaucracy makes little progress.’ He also cautions against generalising for the whole region. ‘There is no regional standard for the development of research in Latin America. Attention given to research and researchers varies in different countries. In Brazil, Argentina and Chile, countries that show greater change processes, with advancements and innovations in the development of research, researchers are privileged and well respected.’


Language and culture


Language, he said, is one of the major limitations for researchers in Nicaragua. ‘Few researchers have a good level of English or another foreign language. This not only prevents researchers from publishing in international journals, but also limits the use of high quality, relevant information.’


He also noted the need to create a culture of sharing scientific research. ‘Usually researchers are very good in planning and carrying out


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