3At first glance, the possible budget cuts in scientific research (most of which is funded by the government via CONICET, or the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, or by public universities, which also get their funding from the government) proposed by Argentina’s current right-wing government appear to be like budget cuts in scientificresearch in any other country. However, in Argentina, there is a very powerful political undertone to moves like this, which bring back memories of terrible times.

In 1966, after the latest military coup, the Armed Forces intervened in public universities, believing that they were hotbeds of communist ideology. The most infamous case was the Noche de los Bastones Largos, which happened in the UBA (University of Buenos Aires), when the military stormed into the various colleges, including the College of Natural and Exact Sciences, where a ton of seriously ground-breaking research was being done. Not only did the military physically assault various students, professors and other members of the academic community, but they also destroyed the research that they had been working on, including, but not limited to, in the case of the College of Natural and Exact Sciences, an early model of a computer (yes, you read that right, they were building computers in the 1960s in Argentina). Most of the researchers and academics had to leave the country, fearing for their physical safety, and most of them never returned, eventually pursuing their research elsewhere (in the US or in Western Europe). This is what’s known as “brain drain.”

In the 1990s, under the neoliberal government of Carlos M*nem (it’s sort of an urban legend in Argentina that you can’t say his name or else you’ll have bad luck), CONICET and public universities were severely defunded, as per neoliberal/IMF guidelines, and researchers and academics were instructed to “go wash plates” in order to make a livelihood, since living off of only scientific research was now not an option. Again, many left the country to pursue their research elsewhere, again, they went to the US and Western Europe, and again there was “brain drain.” Only in recent years could many of them return to Argentina, but it appears now that the dream of pursuing their research in their own country was short-lived. A new wave of “brain-drain” appears to be on the horizon for many.

This is the reason why all the “best research universities in the world,” the ones that are highly ranked in QS and Shanghai, are in the US and Western Europe, because other places never even had the chance to develop their academic research apparatus, and when they attemptto, it gets physically destroyed or systematically defunded.

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