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Over 1,600 researchers from private universities in Mexico are now likely to lose financial grants from the National System of Researchers (SNI) following a suggested reform by the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), directed by María Elena Álvarez-Buylla.

The proposal would defund 1,632 private researchers in an effort to expand funds available for public researchers instead, though the cuts would reportedly only account for an annual saving of 29 million pesos, or .52 percent of Conacyt’s total 2021 budget. 

For context, the budgetary expansion for the public research sector will allegedly cost 154 million pesos, or 125 million pesos following the proposed defunding of the private researchers.

The new initiative would expel researchers from institutions like Universidad Iberoamericana, Tecnológico de Monterrey and other institutions like the ABC Medical Center, and has caught criticism from both the public and private sectors, as well as organizations like the Federation of Private Mexican Institutions of Higher Education (FIMPES).

“(Support to private institutions) has generated positive results for national science: Private universities now have 4.6 percent of researchers … in addition to 8 percent of national patents,” said FIMPES.

Conacyt reportedly wishes to push through the reform as quickly as possible, asking the National Commission for Regulatory Improvement (Conamer) to give the proposal’s draft the minimal possible review period with little justification, and only consulted the affected groups once before deciding to proceed with the initiative. 

“(The economic benefits are) not really a justification,” said SNI Level 2 chemist and nanotechnologist Miguel Ángel Méndez. “It is an excuse to try to evade a legal responsibility, since, over the time that the SNI has existed, this has been a demand from a part of the community: to be able to have the same recognized rights, because what we do have well recognized are our professional obligations and we have fulfilled them.”

“It is clearly an act of discrimination and the justifications that Conacyt has presented has more to do with budget issues,” continued Méndez.

…March 30, 2021

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