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Benefits measured

Ibero-American partnership is going to assess the social impact of new technologies

The Ibero-American Network on Science and Technology Indicators (Rycit), FAPESP and the Journalism Laboratory (Labjor) of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) have created a research network to measure and to assess the social benefits of the investments in research, development and innovation in the developing countries. The project begins with the definition of a research methodology, the construction of a set of indicators, and the delimitation of a pilot area for analysis. To put the network together, a virtual forum of debates was created, and it will enjoy technological support from the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (Bireme).

The partnership between Rycit, FAPESP and Labjor was formalized at the international seminar “Methodological strategies and recent experiments in measuring the social impact of science and technology – São Paulo Workshop”, held at FAPESP on August 3 and 4. Specialists and researchers from Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Spain and Brazil took part in the encounter. The research methodology will be based on projects for assessing the social impact of science and technology already carried out in Colombia, Panama and Cuba and the model for analysis drawn up by the Business Innovation Division of the Automation, Robotics and Information and Manufacturing Centre (Cartif), of Valladolid, in Spain.

The Colombian Observatory of Science and Technology, for example, analyzed the results of the investments by the National Biotechnology Program. It was found that the program, besides stimulating a significant number of articles, theses and patent registrations and consolidating a national research community, made possible the development of diagnostic methods and of new plants, just to mention a few examples, in the words of José Villaveces Cardozo, the executive director of the Observatory. Panama is also developing methodology for assessing the appropriation of the scientific and technological knowledge generated in the various areas of knowledge. In the farming sector, for example, a “divorce between farming policy and development” was identified, according to Lourdes Palmas, from the S&T Indicators Department of the National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation. “The researches benefited only the large and medium producers, with a greater capacity for taking advantage of technological knowledge”, he said.

Cuba made an even wider-ranging effort to assess the social results of the investments in science and technology, assessing the areas of education, health, labor, food, culture, sport and recreation. “The impact of innovation on the country’s balance of trade was also taken in to consideration”, says Armando Rodriguez, a representative of Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. Rodriguez cites the case of the vaccine against the Haemophilus influenzae bacterium, developed in the country, which besides immunizing 99.7% of Cuban breast-feeders, resulted in savings of US$ 1.7 million from importing the medicine.