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Science in Iberian America

Brazil to lead the first thematic network of the RICYT

NEGREIROSThe first thematic network of indicators of the Ibero American Network of Science and Technology Indicators (RICYT), which gathers together 28 countries, will be coordinated by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). This is a pilot project, through which the intention is to rescale the RICYT’s activities, to contribute towards its institutionalization, and to expand the sources of funds for financing its activities. The network piloted by the Brazilian arm of the RICYT, according to Sandra Hollanda, the MCT’s advisor on Monitoring and Assessment, will be connected to the National System for Indicators, created by the Ministry in July; it will collect information on scientific and technological development in all the states of the country. And the theme, not yet chosen, will have to be in accordance with the proposals presented at the National Science and Technology Conference, which took place in Brasilia last year.

The invitation for Brazil to take on the strategic leadership in the implementation of subnets of science and technology indicators in Iberian America came from the RICYT’s international coordinator, Mario Albornoz, during the seminar held by the institution, at FAPESP’s headquarters in São Paulo, on July 15th and 16th. The meeting brought together representatives of the international institutions that make up the network, with the purpose of assessing activities, redefining objectives, and seeking new mechanisms of work to meet new demands and also to reinforce the financial support for its activities. “Brazil accepts the challenge and hopes to be able to count on the support of other countries”, Sandra Hollanda stated.

Funding sources
The RICYT was created in 1995 by the Ibero-American Program of Science and Technology for Development (CYTED), with the objective of subsidizing scientific and technological policies in Latin America. Taking part in the network in Brazil, besides the MCT, are researchers linked to FAPESP, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), the University of São Paulo, the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), amongst others.

In the course of eight years, the RICYT has been able to rely on support from the Organization of American States (OAS), Unesco, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to qualify some 800 technicians and to produce a set of indicators of the output and products of Science and Technology and information on the state of science in the countries that take part in the network. “Throughout this period, the RICYT has been an instrument for stimulating the creating critical mass in the region, at the same time as it created a style of project leadership and management based on principles of horizontal cooperation”, Albornoz explained.

The weakness of some national teams, the low level of the network’s institutionalization and, above all, the difficulties with finance, are now calling for a review of the way of working. One of the ways out indicated by the participants at the seminar was precisely to set up thematic subnets of indicators, about specific themes – like the information society, for example -, that would make it easier to have access to funds. “We have to continue setting up thematic subnets for indicators and to make headway in the direction of other realities, until we become a network of networks, where each group moves according to its own interests”, said Hernán Jaramillo, from the University of Rosário, in Colombia, responsible for the reportage of the seminar. “We also have to sell services, like courses, for example, to help to resolve financial problems”.

It is also in the RICYT’s plans to develop new indicators, such as for the social impacts of Science and Technology, to define new conceptual points of reference for assessing the performance of the various countries that take part in the network, and to invest, more and more, in qualifying human resources to guarantee the quality, reliability and consistency of the information collected.

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