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María Elena Álvarez-Buylla Roces, head of Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology, has come under heavy fire from scientists. LUCÍA GODINEZ/NEWSCOM

Science bill rankles Mexican research community

By Inés Gutiérrez JaberFeb. 3, 2021 , 4:00 PM

Relations between Mexico’s scientific community and the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-wing populist, have never been warm. But the debate over a new bill governing Mexican science and technology has brought the acrimony to a boiling point. The government says the new law, which may soon be sent to Mexico’s parliament for a vote, would improve science and technology policymaking and help guarantee sufficient funding and support for research. But a draft presented in December 2020 by María Elena Álvarez-Buylla Roces, head of the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), has met with a barrage of criticism from scientists. They say it would increase Conacyt’s power, deprive the scientific community of a say in future science policy, and limit academic freedom.

Mexican researchers hope the bill can still be amended. But Conacyt, a funding agency that acts as a science ministry of sorts, is no longer speaking with the bill’s critics, they say. “They have canceled all communication channels with us,” says Maria Brenda Valderrama Blanco, a biotechnology researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Cuernavaca, and one of the founding members of Pro- CienciaMX, a network of scientists seeking to influence science policy. Conacyt and Álvarez-Buylla Roces did not respond to questions from Science.

  • López Obrador has made several disparaging comments about scientists since he came to power in 2018, describing them as elitists and suggesting they are corrupt. His science policy has been marked by a series of dustups. Conacyt has suspended many scholarships for master’s, Ph.D., and postdoc students in Mexico and abroad, for example, creating widespread discontent
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