Title: Binational cooperation and unilateral imposition: How to avoid the effect?

Convener: Nemer E. Narchi

Participants: Helen Ingram, Manuel Salvador Galindo, Alexander Iriondo, Xavier Medellin, Rodrigo Renteria, Scott Warren, Gloria C. Valdez, Kim Franklin, Scott Bennett, Jennie Duberstein, Juan Alvarez, Emmanuel M. Bernal, Adrian Munguia, Lucero Radonic, Martha Gomez Sapiens, Tom Beal, Greer Dolby

The dissimilarity existing in 1) the amount of scientific production, 2) research budget, 3) the number and prestige of journals, and 4) the amount of active scientists between the U.S. and Mexico suggests that the development and implementation of science (sensu lato) cannot arise from Mexican initiatives, since this is apparently subject to the canons, paradigms, forms and styles of the American academy.

Working in a bioregion divided by a political border there is an increased risk of the aforementioned occurring. For example, the risk of importing science and conservation schemes that have been proven as successful solutions on the American side of the border may not be as ideal when implemented on the Mexican side, as these can be adopted without adapting these to the cultural needs and idiosyncrasies that would support their implementation in Mexico.

The discussion around the topic points out that indeed, researchers from the Mexican side experience many difficulties when lacking a considerable amount of elements readily available to their American counterparts– e.g. venues for publishing, substantial research budgets, infrastructure [and training] to promote interagency collaboration and multidisciplinary.

The session also pointed out that for some areas of knowledge, given a lag in scientific and technological transfer, lack of trained staff [at least in what a CV can reflect]. It is emphasized that the Mexican idiosyncrasy presents several obstacles, starting with the institutional preference for people who obtained a degree abroad [malinchismo], which is a severe disadvantage to those educated exclusively in Mexico.

Some other problems that researchers face in Mexico have to do with the implementation imported schemes for scientific evaluation, which most of the time are discordant with the economic realities of the country.

In addition, Mexican researchers rely heavily in obtaining economic incentives to their academic performance. These incentives can represent up to 80% of  a researcher’s net monthly income and are withdrawn at the time of retirement.  Thus, retirement rates are very low, the generation of new positions is virtually inexistent, and new scientists are not able to find permanent academic positions long time after graduating.

The lack of visibility for the majority of Mexican publications creates a preference for international journals. Given a comparatively lower budget in most of Mexican institutions,  access to these publications is limited for the vast majority of higher education. The former, creates a negative feedback  – On the one end, Mexican scientists generally do not publish in Spanish because of low visibility of such publications. On the other end, the lack of accessibility to foreign publications  makes it virtually impossible for a considerable number of Mexican scientists to build upon research already done in Mexico. Therefore, these scientists have to either rely on more easily accessible bibliography or even outdated sources.

We conclude that the U.S. dominance in science is not a problem unique to Mexico and although schemes such as the European Union have reversed the trend up to some point it is necessary that Mexican researchers are willing to publish in foreign journals, always open to the possibilities to convert the result of its publications in popular articles easily accessible to the Mexican public that funds must of the research done in Mexico.

In this regard, participants of the meeting unanimously agree to create a review system [proofreading] to support the translation of documents for publication in relevant journals on both sides of the border. It also asserts that the next generation of researchers of the Sonoran Desert must make a constant effort to produce materials with bilingual character. It suggests the integration of a network of science communicators for disseminating the successes of many conservation schemes on both sides of the border.

Finally, the efforts of the next generation of researchers of the Sonoran Desert must start exploring binational financing schemes such as those offered by Wenner-Gren Foundation, NSF-CONACYT, PROMEP.