Scientists in Chile have welcomed a move by the federal government to create a new ministry of science, in what has been described as the biggest reform to the sector in half a century.
The new ministerial department will advise decisions on the formulation, implementation and evaluation of new policies aimed at fostering the development of science, technology and innovation in the country.
In a statement, Gonzalo Blumel, minister secretary-general of the presidency of Chile, said that the move complemented the government’s ambition to “bring Chile towards an information and knowledge society”.
It follows years of economic turbulence as the region becomes increasingly pushed out of the foreign trade market and moves towards building a knowledge-based economy.
“The creation of this ministry, without a doubt, is one of the major structural reforms to science in the last 50 years. It responds to a challenge of the future and takes charge of an urgent and necessary reality for the integral development of our country,” Mr Blumel added.
“This initiative creates the conditions for Chile to be successfully placed and develop a leading role in the fourth industrial revolution, promoting science, technology and innovation.”
Three years ago, Chilean scientists took to the streets in mass protest over poor working conditions and lack of career prospects in science.
Funds for science are currently managed by Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research, which falls under the Ministry of Education. But less than 0.4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product was spent on research and development in 2014, latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development figures show.
It is hoped that the dedication of a new ministry will put pressure on the government to increase funding for science and ultimately improve its global reputation for research.
One of its first priorities will be to develop a policy to help strengthen the country’s public and private research bases, alongside guidance for the training up of new researchers, Mr Blumel said.
A budget for the ministry is expected to be announced in October, but no names have been put forward for the role of first science minister.