MINISTERIO DE CIENCIA, TECNOLOGÍA E INNOVACIÓN PRODUCTIVA
Argentinian science minister Lino Barañao is steering his country’s research policy through turbulent times.
First appointed to lead the science ministry when it was created in 2007, Barañao saw Argentina default on its debts in 2014. And in December 2015, the government that had appointed him – the populist administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – lost power. He then became the only minister to be retained in the new centre-right government, under President Mauricio Macri, which immediately devalued the peso and kicked off an austerity programme.
Barañao, a former biochemist, talks to Nature about his hopes to maintain the trajectory of science growth that he helped to launch in 2003, when, in a more junior political role, he first assumed responsibility for Argentina’s science policy.
Everything has grown. In US-dollar terms, the science budget has increased sevenfold since 2003. The number of positions for scientists has more than doubled, to over 9,000. The number of fellowships for young scientists has increased fivefold. We have built 190,000 square metres of new lab space. And the quality of scientific output has moved up a grade.
For most of our history, we have considered only the cultural value of research. But in the last 12 years, we have been trying to show that science is much more than this. Our plan is to keep a base of fundamental research while building up applied research.
One of our most important programmes is in ocean science. It was launched two years ago and is called Pampa Azul, or Blue Pampa. For most of our history we have focused on ‘Green Pampa’, our extensive pastureland. But with our thousands of kilometres of coastline, we have almost the same surface area under …