Mexico’s New President Elevates Science Agency to Prominent Position

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MARCH 10, 2022: Mexico City's Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum during the Mexican´s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador daily morning news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City. On March 10, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo credit should read Luis Barron / Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

In a move hailed as “historic” by many Mexican researchers, President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo has announced the elevation of Mexico’s main science funding agency, CONAHCYT, to the status of Secretariat of Science, Humanities, Technology and Innovation. This promotion marks a significant shift in the government’s approach to science, which had been criticized under the current administration.

Sheinbaum Pardo chose evolutionary biologist Rosaura Ruiz Gutiérrez as the leader of the new secretariat, a position that carries greater political weight than its predecessor. Many researchers view this appointment as a positive sign, as it signals a renewed commitment to science and innovation.

The new secretariat will oversee an annual budget of almost $3 billion, making it a significant player in the government’s efforts to promote economic development through science and technology. However, experts note that the agency’s success will depend on its ability to secure greater funding and autonomy from other federal agencies.

Ruiz Gutiérrez, who has known Sheinbaum Pardo for decades, brings extensive experience as a researcher and policymaker to her new role. She has promised to prioritize greater funding for scholarships and international collaborations, but also pledged to continue austerity measures that have been unpopular with researchers and universities.

The elevation of CONAHCYT is seen as a major departure from the current administration’s approach to science, which had faced widespread criticism from scientists and researchers. Mexico joins a handful of Latin American nations in placing its science agency at the highest levels of government, alongside Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, and Argentina.

Sheinbaum Pardo also announced other science-related appointments last week, including Alicia Bárcena Ibarra as secretary of environment and natural resources, Juan Ramón de la Fuente as secretary of international affairs, and Julio Berdegué Sacristán as secretary of agriculture and rural development.

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