Cablegate: Palacio Proposes Huge Investment in Scientific

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. In a conversation with the director of
Ecuador,s national scientific research institution (SENACYT,
or Secretaria Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia), we learned
that the Palacio administration has proposed a $40 million
infusion for scientific research. The director, while
pleased, was realistic: He assumes he will never see it.
Instead SENACYT will continue its work under its current $3
million budget, leaving little hope that Ecuador will ever
rank anywhere but its current last place in the annals of
Latin American scientific publication. End Summary.


2. On May 12, 2005, the ESTH officer met with Dr. Roberto
Aguiar Falconi, the Director of SENACYT, the largest public
organization funding scientific and investigative research in
Ecuador - akin to the U.S. National Science Foundation. By
law, SENACYT is supposed to govern all the other
investigative agencies in Ecuador. In reality, Dr. Aguiar
explained, the other agencies operate independently, vying
for the extremely limited pool of research funds. The
competition is stiff and, he lamented, often antagonistic.

3. The budget for SENACYT in 2005 was $3 million. SENACYT
divides its budget into four target areas: $1 million for
innovative technology; $1 million for scientific
investigation; $500,000 for scientific scholarships; and
$500,000 for strengthening scientific standards in Ecuador.

4. The innovative technology allotments are usually joint
ventures with businesses that require equal matching funds.
The scientific investigation allocations are done with
universities, requiring a 20% matching donation from the
targeted university. The scholarships are post-graduate and
require a 25% matching donation from the receiving
university. And the earmarks for strengthening scientific
standards are geared towards specific projects.

5. Dr. Aguiar noted that the majority of projects funded
through SENACYT are agro-industrial. For example, SENACYT
funded a research project designed to enhance tilapia
production, a fish suitable for farming. By utilizing
existing research (most, he commented, done in the U.S.), the
researchers were able to develop a method for determining the
sex of tilapia eggs. By producing more male offspring,
tilapia production was vastly enhanced because male tilapias
are much larger and more robust than females.

6. SENACYT is currently in negotiations with the
Inter-American Development Bank, trying to secure a $10
million, 3-year loan for additional research. The $10
million would be spent on the four target areas: 40%
innovative technology, 30% scientific investigation, 20%
scientific scholarships, and 10% strengthening scientific

A Nice Gesture

7. The Palacio administration announced when it came to power
that science would be a higher priority. As part of this
scheme, the Palacio administration is set to propose
allocating 10% of FEIREP funds to the promotion of science.
The $40 million for SENACYT for 2005 would come from that
earmark. The funds would be targeted for the four areas: 30%
innovative technology, 30% scientific investigation, 30%
scientific scholarships, and 10% strengthening scientific
standards. While pleased with the gesture, Dr. Aguiar
realistically assumes that SENACYT will never see a dime of
this money.

8. However, if somehow by divine intervention the $40 million
does appear, SENACYT plans to continue targeting
agro-industrial research, focusing on increasing production
in the shrimp, banana, cacao, palm oil, potato, and flower
sectors, building on the tilapia success. Dr. Aguiar
mentioned that he would also like to fund projects that
promote the use of fewer chemicals in production and other
environmental improvements. He also mentioned biotechnology,
genetic research, and pollution as other possible areas of

Publish or Perish

9. Dr. Aguiar,s visions may be out of line with the research
potential of Ecuador. He showed us a journal showing that,
in Latin America, Ecuador was dead last in research
publication. In 2003 and 2004, all researchers in Ecuador
combined published only 376 articles in international
journals, with the top five producers being on social issues
and seismology. Dr. Aguiar admitted that original research
was lacking in Ecuador, and he plans to institute an award
scheme as an incentive for more research and publication.
That is, he noted, if he is still around -- the Palacio
administration might decide he has to be replaced.
10. We also wonder whether FEIREP funds will ever make it to
SENACYT. Many priorities will compete with science, and the
budget is rather tighter than the Palacio government believed
when it made its initial statements about uses for the FEIREP
(septel). We also suspect that banana magnate Alvaro Naboa
could afford a few hundred thousand to enhance banana
production. This kind of targeted agriculture research might
be considered a subsidy.


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