On March 31st, CONICET’s board of directors approved ten Oriented Research Projects (PIO in Spanish) within the call that was made together with the province of San Juan. Despite the fact that for many years the PIOs have been carried out between CONICET and some universities, this is the first time they are conducted with a province.
These PIOs are aim at finding innovative solutions to solve problems in three great prime areas: renewable energy, agribusiness and renewable natural resources.
Eng. Tulio del Bono is the Director of CONICET, who was elected by the institutions in charge of science and technology in provincial governments and in the city of Buenos Aires. He is the former vice-chancellor of the National University of San Juan and current Secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation in that province. In this interview, he describes the spirit and scope of this call, the first of its type in CONICET.
Which was the objective of this Oriented Research Projects’ call?
It is important to consider that this is the first PIO approved between a province and CONICET. This is not a minor issue because it actually indicates the promotion and establishment of a policy CONICET has developed for a long time: to decentralize knowledge and specially its results. For this project, the province of San Juan chose scientific areas of interest and CONICET called its researchers in all the country to present their research projects related to those problems.
Which themes were proposed?
In the case of San Juan, the themes were linked to the rational use of water, as it a desert area with several water problems; and other themes related to the rational use of energy, especially the alternative. For instance, this province has a great potential for producing solar energy. We have also included themes linked to the environment and its protection, agriculture, especially biotechnological studies to improve the behavior of some crop varieties so as to have more ability to withstand water, saline and climate stress. It is necessary to consider that in salinity and excessive water mineralization hinders the crops in San Juan. Furthermore, the differences between the temperature in summer and winter can be very extreme, with temperature ranges near 30 and 40°C between the minimum and the maximum in one day. This is similar to what happens in a desert, for instance, so for this reason not any variety can withstand these conditions. There are also proposals linked to social sciences and security, among others.
Which was the most significant fact in this first experience of a call with a provincial government?
I think that it is necessary to highlight the paradigm shift. Traditionally, research activity has been aroused by interest, curiosity, scientists’ wish to know and learn. However, in this case, these studies are motivated by a concrete demand that promotes a society or a province, so it is a total change of approach. The other subject that is fundamental has to do with the decentralization of CONICET: its more than 9.000 researchers were called to submit their solutions to the problems posed by San Juan. This involves important decentralization and helps our researchers, wherever they are, to know the actual reality of one province.
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