Speaking Monday at the "Frontiers of Bioscience" symposium at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Buenos Aires, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner told an audience that included thirty directors from Germany's Max Planck Institute, plus hundreds of Argentine scientists and science students that the development of science and technology is "a policy of state," never to be abandoned, but deepened in every respect.
The Max Planck Institute has made Argentina the headquarters of its Ibero-American operations, and the attendance of thirty German scientists from the institute, including three former Nobel prizewinners in chemistry and medicine, was an impressive display of its commitment to, and interest in, Argentina's agressive promotion of all areas of scientific endeavor.
The Argentine President underscored that her government's own policies aim to strengthen the relationship between science and economics, breaking the old taboo that science is some dry academic field and economics just numbers. "The idea had been that we couldn't do applied science, but what else is applied science than using human knowledge, using everything that the mind is capable of discovering, of finding out and articulating, so as to apply it to the economy?"
Economics, Fernandez said, "is not an exact science; for us it's a social science, because it is precisely science that should tend to improve people's quality of life, and that's why we conceive of it as a social issue and not a matter of numbers...Science doesn't have to be contained in a box or be boring. It should be imbued with humor, common sense and above all, with a great calling to helping our fellow man, to learn about and seek the unknown."
As she has done frequently, Fernandez denounced the insane austerity policies now being imposed on Europe, using as a reference Albert Einstein's definition of insanity. "I like that [definition] very much," she said, "and I repeat it at every meeting of the G20. ...I said [at the last one] that we should recall Einstein when he said that only insane people think they can keep using the same methods but obtain different results." This is the case with the austerity policies that continue to be discussed by some in the G20, and especially in Europe, Fernandez said, "where they intend to keep applying the same policies of adjustment and want to obtain different results than those visible in all parts of the world," where these same policies "have meant failure, and misery not social inclusion."
The Argentine President detailed how her government and that of her late husband Nestor Kirchner had vastly increased investment in science and technology (by 937% since 2003) and repatriated almost 900 scientists who had been driven from the country by the neoliberalism of the 1990s. We have no option but to move forward with this commitment, and to make new discoveries and challenge ourselves, she said. "Science contains above all a profound lack of conformity, and that's why it's studied, to interpret and challenge everything that exists to prove that it can be different and can be something else... If we don't challenge what exists and what we know, it's difficult to be a scientist or practice science."