What is the Controversy in Mexico Over AMLO’s New Science Law?

The approval of the General Law of Humanities, Sciences, Technologies, and Innovation in Mexico, proposed by AMLO, is the object of strong criticism and protests. What does this law imply for science and technology?.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

Photo: TW-lopezobrador_

LatinAmerican Post | Jorge F. Vuelvas Lomeli

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Leer en español: ¿Cuál es la polémica en México por la nueva Ley de Ciencia de AMLO?

In a historic move that has generated waves of controversy, the Mexican government approved the new General Law of Humanities, Sciences, Technologies, and Innovation (HCTI) on April 29. This law, promoted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), has faced strong opposition, especially from the scientific and academic community. But what does this law mean for science, technology and innovation in Mexico? In this article, we look at the implications and controversies surrounding this legislation.

The debate around the Science Law: Centralization and Resistance

According to its critics, the HCTI law consolidates President AMLO's power over science and technology in the government, and it was passed in a rush, without following regular parliamentary procedures. However, in the Congress of the Union, the pro-government legislators argue that the proposals will benefit science and innovation in Mexico.

According to the approved decree, the new regulations seek the following:

  1. Universal Scholarships: proposes the direct delivery of scholarships to public school master's and doctoral students, ensuring more equitable access to higher education.

  2. National Postgraduate System: obliges the new Council to create a National Postgraduate System to promote master's and doctoral programs nationwide.

  3. Local Involvement: requires state and municipal governments to design and implement programs in the humanities, sciences, technologies and innovation, promoting the decentralization of these initiatives.

  4. Reforms in the Governing Board: eliminates from the Governing Board the representative of the National Association of Universities and Institutions of Higher Education (ANUIES), two members of the National System of Researchers and two representatives of the business sector.

  5. Creation of the SNCP: establishes the National System of Public Centers (SNCP) to promote research in key areas for national development.

Impact of AMLO's new law on the scientific and educational community

Despite the potential benefits, the public opinion has raised concerns in the scientific and educational community in Mexico. The law, according to critics, could have lasting negative effects on various aspects of science and education, from research funding to intellectual property rights.

The cut in funding for basic science is a significant concern stemming from the law. Academia fear that the centralization of power in a governing council could lead to a prioritization of projects based more on their potential to solve national problems, rather than fostering knowledge and scientific exploration. This shift in focus may sideline basic and fundamental research that, while not directly and immediately applicable, is essential for long-term scientific advancement.

Another area of concern is the potential threat to intellectual property rights. The law specifies that if a project receives government funding, any resulting intellectual property will remain the property of the government, unless there is a previous agreement. This raises questions about the future of innovation and research commercialization, as the National Council of Sciences and Technology (Conacyt), now transformed into the National Council of Humanities, Science, and Technology (Conahcyt), may lack the resources needed to transform intellectual property into viable products.

The law has also raised concerns about legal uncertainty for the workers of the Public Research Centers and, in general, those who investigate in Mexico. The removal of representatives from ANUIES and two members of the National System of Researchers from the Governing Board has raised concerns about the representation and voice of the research community in key decisions.

Lastly, concerns extend to the field of training researchers. Without clear mechanisms to generate new research centers and research positions, and given the possible limitation of professorships for students graduating from postgraduate courses in the country, the future of science and technology in Mexico may seem uncertain to many.

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Public response and future perspectives

The feeling of discontent with the new General Law of Humanities, Sciences, Technologies, and Innovation has clearly resonated throughout the country. The evidence is the vehement public response. Since the passing of the law, more than 14,000 signatures have been collected on a protest letter, and marches are being organized in various cities to demonstrate rejection of the legislation. It is clear that the scientific community, as well as student and faculty groups, are mobilizing in large numbers to express their disagreement and concern.

At the same time, the new legislation is already being brought before the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, in which it is expected to face serious legal challenges. Many anticipate that the law will undergo changes as a result of these legal challenges. The first lawsuits are emerging due to the 30-day deadline from the entry into force of the law to file legal actions.

However, the existing tension between the AMLO administration and the scientific community shows no signs of abating anytime soon. With the approval of this decree, a potentially significant change has been marked in the way science and technology are practiced and financed in Mexico. While some parts of the intellectuals see positive points in the law, such as inclusive language and mention of science diplomacy, the general direction of the legislation has been the cause of criticism and concern. The resolution of these conflicts and the evolution of science in Mexico will depend on how this situation is handled in the coming months.

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