Vol. 24, No. 6
de DEsarrollo de CIencias BAsicas
A year ago, Uruguay became
part of the IUPAC family, as the Chemistry Area of PEDECIBA became an
Associate National Adhering Organization (ANAO). By becoming an ANAO,
PEDECIBA provides a point of contact for the chemists in Uruguay and
the global chemistry community. CI asked a Uruguayan member,
Patrick Moyna, to review the origin of PEDECIBA and the significant
role of chemistry in the organization.
Uruguay, professional studies of pharmacy and chemistry started in the
late 19th century at the Instituto de Quimica of the faculty of medicine.
In 1929 these courses were combined with those of industrial chemistry
(now chemical engineering) of the National Petroleum Company, and the
new Facultad de Quimica y Farmacia (now Facultad de Quimica) was established.
In the late 1970s the chemical engineering department moved to the Facultad
de Ingenieria and became less chemistry oriented.
In spite of a national
tradition of wide international contacts, the new college remained rather
isolated from international associations. The graduating professionals
joined either the Asociacion de Quimica y Farmacia del Uruguay (AQFU)
or the Asociacion de Ingenieria Quimica del Uruguay (AIQU), while the
small number of Masters and Doctoral graduates in chemistry failed to
establish their own association. In the last two decades the AIQU became
a member of EFCE (European Federation of Chemical Engineers) and AQFU
became member of the International Union of Pharmacology (IUPHAR) although
the pharmacy courses are still at the Facultad de Quimica. For this
reason, although Uruguayan chemists were always very interested in IUPAC
resolutions, there was no official link to the Union.
the early 1970s Uruguay went through a military coup that established
a non-democratic regime that ended in 1985. The small scientific community
in Uruguay was concentrated at the University and was almost completely
dispersed during those years. The situation troubled the director of
the UNESCO regional office in Montevideo, and in the waning months of
the regime he organized a committee with some of the few remaining local
scientists to develop a program to resume scientific activity with the
oncoming democratic government. The Program for the Development of Basic
Sciences, (PEDECIBA, or Programa de DEsarrollo de CIencias BAsicas,)
was thus established in 1986 as a joint venture of the Ministry of Education,
the National University, and UNESCO. The original organization was comprised
of five main Areas, representing the biological, chemical, physical,
mathematical, and computational sciences. Each Area opened a register
of active scientists, who were incorporated after presenting their curriculum
vitaes for evaluation. In this way each Area became a "sui generis"
Academy, which included all active scientists working in Uruguay.
Each PEDECIBA Area
has an honorary director and a standing committee of four other members,
which decides on policies and programs to be developed and calls for
an annual registration of new members. Each committee, which serves
for two years, also incorporates one representative of the postgraduate
students. The honorary academic staff members (ASMs) are in categories
similar to those of the national university as full and associate professors
and assistants, none of whom receive a salary from the PEDECIBA. Other
members include doctoral and masters students, who can hold PEDECIBA
bursaries. The ASMs are reevaluated periodically to ascertain their
continued activity and productivity.
PEDECIBA was crucial
to many Uruguayan expatriates who found ways of reestablishing contacts
with their country, and who eventually returned. The national government
took up the funding after some time, and established a yearly budget
that has increased and decreased following the national financial fortunes.
In spite of being very limited, this seed funding has allowed the Uruguayan
groups to apply to international funding agencies, yielding a good record
of results. Another positive result was that the different Areas applied
different policies for their development, and the successful ones have
been openly imitated, first by the sibling Areas, and later by the regular
laboratories in colleges and ministries, making for a widespread improvement
of research activities in the country.
organization that is solely run by the end users (the scientists), has
been much more efficient in improving scientific activities in the country
than the "established" systems within the Ministries, or the
Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia, or even the national university.
Three external evaluations, in 1989, 1996, and 2001, have been instrumental
in qualifying PEDECIBAs achievements as outstanding.
Chemistry was the only Area that was closely connected with an operating
College, it could not quickly take advantage of the organizational and
funding possibilities opened by the PEDECIBA. The Area began with a
very small group of chemists, but it has progressed to include over
100 ASMs. The activities of the Area have helped to integrate chemists
who are working outside the Facultad de Quimica, which is the only national
university department where chemistry is taught. At present, there are
members from 29 different laboratories, 16 are in the Facultad and 13
are from other colleges or national laboratories.
As a collateral
result of the work of the Chemistry PEDECIBA, chemical research and
research at the Facultad have progressed greatly. The post-graduate
programs in chemistry have advanced both within PEDECIBA and at the
university level: less than 5% of the staff at the Facultad had doctoral
degrees when the PEDECIBA started in 1986, and now 59% has achieved
that level; the number of publications of Chemistry ASMs was under one
paper per year during the 1987-1995 period and climbed to over two per
year in the 1996-2001 period; the Facultad is now responsible for the
origin of over 20% of the total Uruguayan scientific productivity (according
to the Institute of Scientific Information), although it gets less than
3% of the total national universitys budget; many of these results
are now going into local industries under an active PEDECIBA-sponsored
academia-industry linked system.
The members of the
Chemistry Area realized that Uruguay had no international linkages to
IUPAC or other chemical societies and, after discussions with the PEDECIBA
central committee, applied for ANAO status to IUPAC, suggesting that
the other Areas associate with other members of ICSU. Although it is
an unusual ANAO, the PEDECIBA has shown extremely positive results for
the development of chemical sciences in Uruguay and has been able to
expand the positive results outside its own operation. We hope to further
improve by taking advantage of the new connections through IUPAC, learning
what colleagues have done abroad, and contributing with our expertise
to the further advancement of chemical sciences worldwide
professor emeritus of Facultad de Quimica in Montevideo in Montevideo,
Uruguay, and is a member of CHEMRAWN.
Secretaría del Area Química
Facultad de Química
Gabriela García <email@example.com>
Tel.: (+598 2) 924 23 38
Fax: (+598 2) 924 19 06
noun: Uruguayan(s); adjective: Uruguayan
boundaries: total: 1 564 km
countries: Argentina 579 km, Brazil 985 km
population: 3.1 million
number of research scientists: 1 100, including 300 in chemistry
number of professional chemists: 2 100 (i.e., 1 200 chem.
pharm. and 900 chem. eng.)
(as of July 2002)
(M.Sc. and Ph.D.) students and graduates: 831
number of students and researchers: 756
students and researchers: 195 (second after Biology with 390)
allocation over the period 1987-2002:
and publications: 58%
resources training: 27%
Number of times that Uruguayan research has been published in
journals cited in ISI or Current Contents and registered in PEDECIBAdatabase,
1988 to 2000:
130; 1991-1992: 296; 1993-1994: 368; 1995-1996:
425; 1997-1998: 533; 1999-2000: 620