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Argentina Moves to Establish Science in Policymaking Program

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Mauricio Horn, Argentina’s visiting Secretariat of Scientific Technological Articulation adviser, spent a month at AAAS, learning about all aspects of AAAS’ Science & Technology Policy Fellowships program to help his country build a program inspired by AAAS' longstanding program. | Neil Orman/AAAS

Argentina’s Ministry of Science has launched an ambitious effort to place scientists throughout that nation’s public policy arena to ensure scientific knowledge informs government decision-making and becomes a proving ground for similar programs across the globe.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science signed an agreement earlier this year with Argentina’s Ministry of Science to help start the program. The collaboration’s first event – a symposium exploring the intersection of science and public policy – was held on June 28 in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city.

AAAS and the International Network for Government Science Advice supported the symposium that was hosted by the Ministry of Science. It included presentations by top Argentinian officials and featured Tom Wang, director of AAAS’ Center for Science Diplomacy, who delivered a plenary address on the state and future of science diplomacy. The symposium was intended to help build support for Argentina’s science policy fellowship program that will be the first of its kind in Latin America.

“If successful then it opens the gate for AAAS to work with any country that is interested in having such a program around the world,” said Marga Gual Soler, project director of the Center for Science Diplomacy. “We are hoping that other institutions and countries will be inspired and motivated by the chance to work with AAAS and to share its 40-plus years of knowledge about how to build a science policy fellowship program in their country.”

AAAS set the stage for the day-long symposium earlier this spring by inviting an advisor to Argentina’s Secretariat of Scientific Technological Articulation, which is part of the Ministry of Science and serves as a scientific liaison between academia, policy and industry, to study AAAS’ Science & Technology Policy Fellowship program.

Since 1973, that program has placed thousands of scientists and engineers in the U.S. federal policy arena, helping policymakers apply scientific evidence to decisions facing members of Congress, executive agencies and judicial offices. Participants acquire a deep understanding of, and often a passion for, the policymaking process.

The dual efforts are an outgrowth of an 18-month analysis AAAS conducted and presented in February at its 2017 Annual Meeting in Boston. The study, sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, found global demand “to strengthen connections between science and policy.” It also cited a need to “engage and nurture a new generation of scientists around the world” and to place leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the crossroads of science and policy.

Mauricio Horn, the visiting Secretariat of Scientific Technological Articulation adviser, spent a month at AAAS, learning about all aspects of AAAS’ Science & Technology Policy Fellowships program, attending its training sessions, meeting with federal officials who work with the fellows AAAS places in their agencies and attending events sponsored by former fellows who have organized special topic-specific groups.

For instance, Horn met with representatives at the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department, the National Institutes of Health, the Agriculture Department and the State Department who work with AAAS’ Science & Technology Policy Fellows placed in their agencies. 

He attended scientific conferences including the annual AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy, the AAAS Science Diplomacy Conference 2017, and a science and innovation and diplomacy conference hosted at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Horn also met with an array of representatives from leading scientific societies and organizations.

After returning to Argentina in late April, he has been finalizing recommendations to be presented in the fall detailing how Argentina will set up, design, fund, track and evaluate a science policy fellowship program that is expected to get underway in earnest with a pilot project placing five scientists in select agencies in 2018. 

The draft proposal reinforces the need for Argentina to set up “an immersive program enabling highly trained and qualified scientists” to help agencies evaluate and put into action science-based policy options. It also calls for establishing a pilot program for participating scientists to bring their scientific knowledge to a carefully selected group of government agencies most likely to welcome and incorporate in its decision-making information and evidence the visiting scientists can provide, Horn said.

The initial proposal states that ways to monitor and support visiting scientists will have to be put in place and that training on policymaking, leadership skills, science diplomacy and communication will need to be incorporated into the program.     

As is the case in many countries, Argentina is producing more Ph.D. recipients than academic positions can support through what had been a well-worn career track, said Horn. Efforts to encourage private-sector industries to establish their own research and development hubs have not yielded sufficient positions to ease the imbalance, he added. This imbalance is a major motivation behind his country's desire to build a science policy program inspired by AAAS’ S&T Policy Fellowships Program.

“Diversifying scientific careers toward policy positions is an extremely valuable feature of a science policy fellowship program,” Horn said.

Coinciding with Horn’s time at AAAS, and a highlight of his visit, was the March for Science on April 22 that drew thousands of science enthusiasts to Washington, D.C. and to hundreds of other cities and towns across the globe to show their support for the value of science in the public sphere.

“I was very surprised to find how science advocacy is so substantial and meaningful: people weren’t marching just for the sake of science, but for the relevance of science in everyone’s lives,” Horn said.

[Associated image: Neil Orman/AAAS]

Author

Anne Q. Hoy