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ARGENTINA | 06-03-2024 22:31

Nobel laureates warn Javier Milei’s budget cuts are 'cancelling' scientific research

Sixty-eight Nobel laureates urge President Javier Milei to restore budgets for science and technology that have been cut under his drive to slash public spending.

Sixty-eight Nobel laureates from diverse disciplines have urged Argentina's President Javier Milei Wednesday to restore budgets for science and technology that have been cut under his drive to slash public spending.

In an open letter to Milei, a self-professed "anarcho-capitalist," the grouping of Nobel laureates manifested their "concern" about the cuts adopted by the La Libertad Avanza leader’s government as part of his plans to save, calling for "the restoration of the budgets subjected to restrictions."

The scientists expressed concern at the recent elimination of the national Science & Technology Ministry and the dismissal of employees of scientific institutes.

"Freezing the research programmes and reducing the number of doctoral students and young researchers will provoke the destruction of a system which took many years to construct and will require many, many more to reconstruct," warned the group in a statement distributed by Britain’s Richard Roberts, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1993.

"We watch as the Argentine system of science and technology approaches a dangerous precipice, and despair at the consequences that this situation could have for both the Argentine people and the world," it continued.

Milei has been on a mission to slash state spending, deregulate the economy and shut down government-funded organisations after years of budgetary and inflation crises.

As part of his plan to reduce the fiscal deficit, Milei’s government has maintained for 2024 the same budget for the CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas) national scientific research council as last year, which, in a context of 254 percent annual inflation, would effectively renders it insolvent.

"Devaluing and/or cancelling Argentinian science now would be a grave mistake," reads the letter, which highlights Argentina's contributions to global research into diseases, physics, climate science and other fields.

“We fear that Argentina is abandoning its scientists, students and future scientific leaders. It worries us that the dramatic devaluation of the budgets of CONICET and the national universities reflects not only a dramatic devaluation of Argentine science but also a devaluation of the Argentine people and the future of Argentina,” wrote the Nobel laureates.

The missive, which is also addressed to Cabinet Chief Nicolás Posse, CONICET President Daniel Salamone and to deputies and senators, enumerates a long list of contributions by Argentine scientists across different disciplines.

“All these advances,” it reads, “have been the consequence of government support for basic research."

Nuria Giniger, a CONICET researcher and secretary for the Association of State Workers (ATE) union, told the AFP news agency that the letter "strengthens the struggle of workers" from the organisation.

On Tuesday, Milei retweeted on post on his X account from his user criticising the researchers at 'Ñoquicet' – a play on words on the institute’s name and the word used for state employees who get paid without working.

"That really is the mother of all battles. That's where you have to go in with the chainsaw and purge with gusto," read the tweet, which was replied to by the president himself. 

Among the letter’s signatories are 21 Nobel laureates in Chemistry, including Thomas R. Cech (1989) and Martin Chalfie (2008); 26 Nobel laureates in Medicine, including Harvey J. Alter (2020) and Werner Arber (1978); 20 Nobel laureates in Physics, including Barry Clark Barish (2017) and Ferenc Krausz (2023); and Finn E. Kydland (2004), a Nobel laureate in Economics.

 

– TIMES/AFP
 

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