Nearly 70 Nobel prize winners from around the world, almost a third of whom won the prize for chemistry, are urging Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, to block cuts to the country’s science and technology budgets, warning that Argentina’s future depends on it.

Javier Milei

Source: © Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Javier Milei’s hardline position on cuts to science has resulted in 68 science Nobel laureates urging him to reconsider

Milei, a hard right populist who took office in December, promised during his campaign to eliminate the country’s science ministry and dissolve the government agency known as the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (Conicet) that funds almost all research at Argentinian universities. Milei’s election back in November left Argentina’s scientific community extremely concerned yet hoping for the best, but it appears that he is making good on his pre-election promises.

‘We watch as the Argentinian system of science and technology approaches a dangerous precipice, and despair at the consequences that this situation could have for both the Argentine people and the world,’ the Nobelists write in a 6 March letter. ‘We see with concern the elimination of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the dismissal of administrative employees of Conicet and other institutes throughout the country, and the early termination of many contracts next month.’

The laureates also expressed fears that Argentina is giving up on its scientists and science students. ‘We worry that the dramatic devaluation of the budgets for Conicet and the national universities reflects not only a dramatic devaluation of Argentinian science but also a devaluation of the Argentinian people and the future of Argentina,’ they state.

Without a scientific infrastructure a country ‘descends into helplessness and vulnerability’, the letter states, and becomes unable to develop its own solutions to regional and national problems. Under Milei, Conicet’s budget is reportedly frozen from last year and, given the country’s incredible rising inflation, that means that the agency basically isn’t solvent.

In their letter, the laureates point out that Argentina ranks 10th in the world when it comes to the number of biotechnology companies it hosts, and that Argentinian scientists excel in many areas, including biochemistry, because of governmental support for basic research. They urge Milei to restore the country’s science budgets.

‘Freezing research programmes and decreasing the number of graduate trainees and young investigators will cause the destruction of a system that took many years to build, and that would take many, many more to rebuild,’ the Nobelists caution.

Five Argentinians have received Nobel prizes since they were first awarded in the early 1900s, including Luis Federico Leloir Aguirre who won the chemistry prize in 1970 ‘for his discovery of sugar nucleotides and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates’.