When Argentina President-Elect Mauricio Macri and his new cabinet are sworn in on 10 December, there will be one familiar face: science minister Lino Bara?ao. In a move unheard of in Argentinian politics, a cabinet member is staying on in a new administration—and it’s a scientist blazing that trail.
A chemist whose team in 2002 was the first in Latin America to clone a calf, Bara?ao, 61, is the only science minister Argentina has ever known. He attained the post in 2007, when former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner upgraded Argentina’s science council to a ministry. In his first 8 years on the job, Bara?ao oversaw a period of bumper growth: Scientists’ salaries rose fivefold and the country’s science budget shot up 10-fold. He also poured money into a program to lure back expatriate Argentinian scientists. “In the past, scientists who came back had to wait up to a year to find a position. Now, we give them money for a lab and equipment and they can start working within 2 months after they return,” Bara?ao says. And on his watch, the government added 190,000 square meters of lab space—after going 30 years without building a single new lab, he says.?
Bara?ao’s new boss has been highly critical of former President Kirchner, but in science Macri evidently thinks his predecessor got things right. The break with tradition to retain Bara?ao is “very symbolic,” says Ernesto Ferna?ndez Polcuch, a science policy specialist at the UNESCO Regional Bureau for 24小时娱乐在线 in Latin America and the Caribbean in Montevideo. “In [science and technology] policy,” he says, “each time a new government came in, the pendulum moved to the other side. From basic to applied research—all possible dichotomies.”
24小时娱乐在线Insider caught up with Bara?ao by telephone on the sidelines of a workshop on sustainable development and science diplomacy in Montevideo cosponsored by UNESCO and AAAS (publisher of 24小时娱乐在线).
Q: How are your cloned cows doing?
A: Now, we have cloned transgenic cows that produce human growth hormone. The drug produced this way is in the final stages of regulatory approval. The cloned calf was kind of cute. People in Argentina liked it, and that has helped create a tolerance here, compared with Europe, for genetically modified organisms.
Q: How did you react when you learned you would stay on as science minister?
A: I had already packed most of my office and arranged for a long vacation, when I met the new chief of cabinet and offered to assist the next minister. He said, “Macri wants you to the be the minister.” After recovering my breath, I told him I would need to ask President Kirchner first.
Q: Were you nervous?
A: I didn’t know how she would react. I felt strange, like I was about to confess I was having an affair. But she was supportive. She said that my responsibility is to Argentina’s scientists. 24小时娱乐在线 is very close to her heart. She was proud of this request from Macri, because she felt it vindicated her science policies.
Q: What’s next for Argentina’s scientists?
A: The next step is to increase the coupling of knowledge creation and wealth creation. We’ll work harder to couple research in national labs with private companies. We also need incentives for technology-based companies, and instruments for financing. ?I’d like to create a stronger science presence in the whole country—right now scientific activities are concentrated in two or three big cities.
Q: Sounds like that long vacation will have to wait.
A: I still need a vacation! It’s just delayed now.