Latin America and the Caribbean Regional
Science for the
of Santo Domingo
Popularization of S&T
Gender equity in scientific activities
The Latin America and the Caribbean region faces the imperious need to advance its process towards economic and sustainable development. Within this process, science and technology (S&T) must contribute to:
In order to achieve the aforesaid, a new commitment to cooperation between the public sector, the goods and services corporations, different social actors and international S&T cooperation is required. Particularly, by increasing resources to be allocated to S&T activities, and by augmenting demand for S&T knowledge generated by predominant economic activities in the region.
S&T knowledge has yielded applications that have been of great benefit for humankind. However, by being unevenly distributed, these benefits have contributed to the gap between industrialized and developing countries. Moreover, in some cases, the application of S&T advances has been the cause of environmental degradation and the source of social imbalance and exclusion.
The effective use of S&T can reverse these trends. This requires a genuine joint effort between those who hold the greatest capacity in S&T and those who face poverty and social exclusion.
In brief, a new social commitment (contract) to science should be based upon:
As a value to be preserved, cultural diversity suggests that internationalization of science desirable from multiple points of view should not lead scientists to ignore their social environment.
The research agenda is directly related to the building up of a culture of peace. It is indispensable to inform, to debate and to make distinctions between research and development (R&D) directed toward increasing knowledge and solving social problems and natural phenomena and R&D for war purposes.
Evidently, scientific communities will certainly not stop military production by themselves but they must foster a scientific ethic for peace.
Science, technology and society
It is indispensable to improve knowledge and analysis, and to contribute to the harmonization of the complex interrelationship between science, technology and society. Democracies must value and decisively support S&T development as a source of social progress and cultural enrichment.
Scientific communities themselves must:
The combination of efforts by different social actors should enable elaboration in each country of a priority agenda of major subjects of research.
The society of knowledge implies realizing the full potential for technological capacity by combining traditional and modern methodologies that stimulate scientific creation and lead to sustainable human development.
Democratization of science puts forward three major goals:
The weakness in S&T of developing countries constitutes one of the causes of their dependent and marginal incipient insertion in the emerging society of knowledge. Should it be consolidated, it will be very difficult for these countries to overcome the prevalent social inequity and environmental deterioration.
The increasing gap between the Northern and Southern capacities in S&T constitutes one of the main contemporary manifestations of the persistence of underdevelopment and one of its major causes. This remarkable difference in terms of knowledge and scientific capacity is directly translated into power imbalances (mainly economic, political and cultural). These differences, for instance, enable some countries to make excessive use of resources that constitute our common heritage and transfer and share with others the responsibility for the resulting damage and waste. These differences also allow them to consolidate an international order that imposes ways for commercial and financial markets to open upon peripheral countries that developed economies apply partially and only depending on their particular interests (a worldwide order that deepens the environmental crisis and inequity on a planetary scale).
The increasing gap of knowledge between North and South implies that almost all the worlds scientific effort be conceived from, and for, the North. This is an essential problem which must be studied and corrected.
There is consensus that knowledge is the most important factor of social and economic development, that is to say, improvement of the populations standard of living and respect for a sustainable environment are decisive for the well-being of future generations.
Furthermore, it has been recognized that knowledge itself cannot transform either economies or society; however it can do this within the framework of social/national systems for science, technology and innovation (SSI/SNI) that enable it to be incorporated in the goods and services production sector. Besides explicit knowledge produced by R&D processes, it is necessary to take into account the implicit knowledge of numerous actors and public/private institutions that directly or indirectly participate in the process of knowledge production, dissemination and assimilation of modern society innovation by articulating different S&T education processes of different actors and institutions. Social/national systems for science, technology and innovation are networks of institutions, resources, interactions and relations, policy mechanisms and instruments, and S&T activities that promote, articulate and materialize processes of innovation and technological dissemination within society (production, import, adaptation and dissemination of technologies).
The aforesaid implies a reduction in isolated S&T efforts and a concentration of resources on those activities and projects likely to generate a critical mass and that have greater potential for priority problem solving in our region, particularly regarding social and environmental conditions and competitivity of goods and services corporations.
A NEW MISSION FOR SCIENCE
In view of the difficult present and dark future for scientific research in most developing countries, the combination of efforts, complementary to the particular effort done at national level, is needed. Each countrys perception of S&T must be taken into account so as to be aware of this perception and adopt it as the basis for democratic formulation of S&T development strategies and policies. Only full, explicit and conscious support by civil society can ensure the continuity in S&T investment required to turn endogenous production of knowledge into a platform for development, thus, into a socially valued activity. Remarkable differences have been noticed in the social perception of S&T depending on the socio-economic level and the level of education and information of people. These differences arise as well from inequitable social distribution of the benefits of worldwide S&T production.
Furthermore, it has been recognized that support for, and social legitimacy of, S&T activities depend to a great extent on their effectiveness in satisfying basic needs of the population.
The power of S&T is so strong that one of the major challenges of our time is the problem of social control of S&T and adequate use of them, fully taking into account their human, cultural, social, political, environmental and economic dimensions.
Social and human sciences must play a major role when tackling the place and impact of science in society, particularly regarding global consequences of S&T change and its links with development, environment and ethical questions.
A growing interaction and collaboration between all scientific fields must be fostered. It is a question not only of analysing present and potential impacts of S&T on society, but also of understanding reciprocal influences, or more precisely, of studying science, technology and societal interactions in an integral way.
Furthermore, it is imperative that we recognize the universal nature of S&T activities and knowledge as basic components of the worlds cultural heritage.
NEW STRATEGIES AND S&T POLICIES
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the new commitment to science must cover a series of explicit goals to be achieved by governments, corporations, academic and scientific communities, and other public actors and international cooperation institutions, as a group. It is a question of providing a solid basis for long-term science, technology and innovation strategies and policies aimed at self-sustainable human development by means of a pact for interdisciplinary research.
Institutional strengthening that enables adequate formulation, implementation, assessment and management of S&T strategies and policies is necessary.
The state must stimulate systematic activities directly and specifically related to S&T development, to production, dissemination and application of S&T knowledge:
The essential elements of S&T development strategies and policies should be the following:
The globalization of the economy (and the new information and communication technologies) constitutes a potential source of new possibilities as well as of serious imbalances. International and regional cooperation instruments must be strengthened and also national capacity in cooperation management.
To this end, it is recommended that UNESCO develop and support true interdisciplinary and integrated programmes that potentiate research and postgraduate centres capacities of the region that be disseminated through horizontal cooperation.
Furthermore, it is necessary to take advantage of the capacity for coordination of sub-regional organizations in the S&T field. The experience of successful programmes and organizations in the region should be taken into consideration whenever possible, particularly in the Central America and the Caribbean sub-regions.
International cooperation directed toward S&T research should be oriented toward contributing to:
Horizontal cooperation offers unprecedented possibilities for exchanging and complementing human, physical and financial capacities of research groups, and also for promoting endogenous and homogeneous development of these capacities.
In sum, priority should be given to finding ways of cooperation between scientific centres of developed countries and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that stem from the joint establishment of research agendas; cooperaiton should be oriented toward building up stable scientific capacities in developing countries.
Furthermore, incorporation in the region, and use, of the knowledge acquired by Latin American and Caribbean scientists working in developed countries is required.
An increased and sustained long-term investment is required by science in order to make substantive scientific contributions to society. Therefore, it is imperative also that this investment be aimed at reversing the increasing gap between countries with different levels of development.
A new, doubled and sustained political commitment to science in peripheral countries constitutes the first requirement for strengthening science and enabling it to contribute to self-sustainable human development and expansion of culture.
Different innovation actors, particularly governments and entrepreneurs, are responsible for the promotion, through explicit mechanisms, of the internal demand for knowledge, as well as for the building up of S&T capacity and for strengthening and financing it. However, this should not result in short-term predominance or disregard of social demand. Long- and medium-term national research is indispensable for developing S&T as a social and cultural project for a nation or a region. International cooperation must support these efforts.
The building up of solid capacities in Latin America and the Caribbean for producing and using knowledge needs continuous processes of assessment of S&T activities and dissemination of results.
In order to strengthen research in the countries of the region, one of the main problems to solve is to build up a culture of assessment that involves multiple criteria and different actors. This would favour the participation of the Latin America and the Caribbean S&T activity in the dialogue of worldwide research at all levels:
The study of the social processes that influence the possibility of building up these capacities constitutes a fertile ground for transdisciplinary cooperation between social and human sciences and exact and natural sciences.
The new world commitment to science must include, as one of its major aims, a decrease in the gap that tends to increasingly separate developed countries from the rest of the world with regard to the capacity to generate and use S&T knowledge. Renewed promotion of research in peripheral countries should be closely linked to the contributions that scientists and technologists must make in order to achieve the great goal of generalizing advanced, quality and lifelong education.
Renewal of S&T education, through formal and non-formal ways, must be aimed at promoting public comprehension of S&T as part of culture.
Primary and permanent training of S&T teachers will have to be increasingly related to knowledge production environments in their respective fields, as its basic task consists in teaching a dynamic science (incomplete, permanently changing).
It is necessary to develop S&T education of citizens and to promote and motivate the development of S&T vocations.
It is also important to increase the academic quality of S&T postgraduate programmes and to contribute to their improvement and to regional cooperation through assessment and accreditation processes.
Popularization of S&T must simultaneously be potentiated and linked to the consolidation of the Latin America and the Caribbean countries own capacities.
The pursuit of activities to popularize S&T is a central component of culture, social conscience and collective intelligence. Furthermore, these activities must contribute to the recovery and valorization of native knowledge.
The main goal of building up a transdisciplinary scientific culture in exact, natural, human and social sciences that the general population could perceive as its own requires prioritization of socially useful and culturally relevant research. In this sense, it is necessary to promote the introduction, understanding and early appreciation of S&T in our everyday lives starting with primary education.
Girls and women of many countries of the region have encountered major difficulties in gaining access to the education system and therefore to S&T knowledge. Furthermore, education of sciences has been based upon approaches that exclude women. A full and equitable participation of women in S&T activities will contribute to the enrichment and reorientation of S&T programmes, approaches, practices and applications. Consequently, it is necessary to develop strategies and policies that facilitate the access of women to S&T knowledge and that simultaneously increase their participation in all fields of scientific activities.