In the specialized literature on policies for science and innovation, the concept of “scientific potential” is often identified with the availability of human, material, and informational resources to carry out tasks in the advancement of science and technology. This potential can refer to that of a country, and that of any working group for innovation in various instances.
Many consider that the main wealth of Cuba in terms of scientific potential is its human component. Decades of sustaining science in precarious conditions relative to our global peers have considerably weakened our potential for innovation in terms of material and infrastructure resources. In contrast, our high-level, equitable, universal and free educational system, and a university education marked by science since its revolutionary reform of 1962 have led Cuban personnel to develop innovation through science and technology has very unique qualities. These qualities make our human scientific potential truly extraordinary and highly competitive on today’s world stage. The recent phenomenon of the wonderful response to COVID-19 with very effective treatments and vaccines, which have saved thousands of lives even in the midst of external aggressions that for many would-be insurmountable, is irrefutable proof.
In our university environment, we witness the deployment of many brilliant creative talents daily. It is a criterion that has generalized the affirmation that if we could take full advantage of it, we would enjoy spiritual and economic progress that would determine remarkable well-being for all Cubans. Unfortunately, this goal was longed for by the Cuban Revolution since the promotion of knowing how something essential began in 1961 has not been fully achieved. It is not a secret that for many years and in the current socio-economic situation, the dysfunctions derived from six decades of blockade by the world’s most important economic power prevail, and the consequent international disadvantages for an essentially open economy. We also carry the inheritance of structural dogmas from shipwrecked socialism that the leader of the Cuban Revolution himself acknowledged that it was not possible to build and that this had been “our biggest mistake.”
The result is clear because many of our best young talents today cannot see their life plan within our country, even showing a sincere and well-formed love for their country and its achievements. A numerical indication is very clear: the average age of defense of a doctorate in Cuba is over 40 years of age when world standards are around 30. Many young people interested in it go to other countries to achieve it. A doctor is a trained scientist and displays an important part of his talent precisely in the process of obtaining his doctorate, which ideally should take place before the age of 30. This condition also makes it easier for this new young doctor to deploy his knowledge in the country´s innovation during a long life.
Our Academy of Sciences warned in a transcendental report of 2012 that apart from the economic hardships to carry out innovation work for the aforementioned causes, the absence of an express and direct action policy to care for and preserve innovative human potential has marked the last decades of our becoming.
Many actions can be taken to reverse trends, recover what has been lost and, why not? to also advance much more. In this sense, the recently-held Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba agreed on specific guidelines for the activity, and in particular number 77, pointing to one of the ways to resolve this situation, stating that the following should be done:
“Implement the National System of Researchers and Technologists, as a mechanism to attend to the human potential of the country, promoting the improvement and application of material and moral incentives to scientific production and innovation.”
What is it about? This type of action is practiced in one way or another by several countries. A precedent of the “National System of Researchers” exists in Mexico. That sister country faced a serious situation of loss of human scientific potential during a brutal devaluation of its currency that occurred in the penultimate decade of the last century. One response to alleviate the situation was the creation of a federal fund that subsidizes scientists based on their results and it can more than double the wages they earn in their respective jobs. This stimulus is still destined today to all doctors of science, wherever they work, who are registered for it in the federal organization dedicated to these matters. To receive the salary bonus, they must unequivocally demonstrate what they have achieved in terms of knowledge creation according to a three-level categorization, proportional to their performance, which is carried out or renewed for periods depending on the category. Not being a perfect system, it has substantially achieved its mission.
The current situation that we face to sustain our scientific potential is what motivates the aforementioned guideline. We have to create a shielded system against any type of fraud and subjectivism that unequivocally rewards those who deserve it and in proportion to their achievements. This implies that the classification of the actions that are converted into money is carried out fairly. For this, they must be certified by independent anonymous peer evaluations and without conflicts of interest, based on incontrovertible documentation. This is simplified when the enforcement actions are supported by publications in independent, duly arbitrated, and recognized scientific bodies and also by granted invention patents, among other forms.
The biggest challenge achieving an equivalent objective evaluation of many achievements that have economic significance and that do not usually have this type of certifiable written production. New formulas must be found that will surely depend on the beneficiaries of the deserving innovations. This likely requires that the fund earmarked for these stimuli be associated in some way with the achievements to be stimulated.
In any case, the wise implementation of the aforementioned guideline can be a transcendental step for the sustainability and progress of science, technology, and innovation in our country by rewarding the one who should be awarded and in correspondence with the quantity and quality of their work. . This is a socialist dream that we can achieve.
translation Red en Defensa de la Humanidad – Cuba