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Desigualdad científica, y no colonialismo

Desigualdad científica, y no colonialismo

La desigualdad de la producción académica es un motivo de preocupación mundial. No sólo impone graves sesgos en los datos científicos que manejamos o hace invisibles problemas muy extendidos, pero marginales en países ricos. También limita las posibilidades de desarrollo y el camino a la sostenibilidad de los países más desfavorecidos. Achacarlo al mero colonialismo, como recientemente se hacía en un artículo de opinión desde las páginas de este diario, resulta sin embargo miope, al menos desde nuestra perspectiva de haber acumulado colectivamente más de 35 años investigando desde África en historia, lingüística, comunicación, agronomía, antropología y conservación.

Entendemos como colonialista un sistema científico en el que para investigar procesos y fenómenos locales se prima a los investigadores de determinados países (colonialistas) o de sus instituciones por encima de investigadores locales de igual potencial, por razón de su origen. Esta última matización es muy relevante pues, como bien sabemos quienes los que nos dedicamos a la investigación, es importante no confundir correlación con causalidad.

Ante la evidencia de que los países con peor Índice de Desarrollo Humano cosechan peores resultados científicos podemos compartir nuestra experiencia de las causas, así como los resultados de un estudio sobre la trayectoria de estudiantes subsaharianos tras un máster internacional de nematología realizado por una de nuestras coautoras. Los sistemas académicos africanos tienen como fuente de financiación proyectos de cooperación al desarrollo cuyo objetivo principal no es la investigación, o bien cuyos coordinadores no están obligados a publicar en revistas científicas. Se genera así literatura gris que no sale a la luz y cuya publicación el donante no requiere. A eso se suman estructuras obsoletas de apoyo a la investigación, repertorios no digitalizados, publicación de tesis doctorales en formato no electrónico o falta de financiación para publicar artículos en acceso abierto, lo que dificulta la circulación del conocimiento. Para la tormenta perfecta sólo falta la escasa financiación que las universidades y centros tienen para revistas académicas de subscripción o la limitación de rendimiento que supone que casi toda la población subsahariana estudie en lenguas vehiculares ajenas a la familia lingüística de su lengua materna (también, en gran parte, por criterios económicos).

Dicha falta de medios también menoscaba intentos de avanzar y mejorar. Cada vez más se exige en los másteres de universidades subsaharianas la publicación del Trabajo de Fin de Máster en revistas internacionales, en aras de una mayor excelencia. La falta de experiencia en estas cuestiones, también de parte de los supervisores académicos, hace que muchas de estas publicaciones aparezcan en "revistas depredadoras" que publican fraudulentamente trabajos sin someterlos a una revisión por pares. Incluso a la hora de recibir reactivos de laboratorio, o de comprar libros por internet, los investigadores se enfrentan a la falta de infraestructura comercial en el continente que multiplica los costes de adquisición y demora los plazos de entrega. La reducida vida útil de aparatos por los continuos apagones y subidas de tensión, o el alto consumo de combustible de generadores, incrementa aún más los costes operativos.

Otro gran factor limitante es la endogamia, viejo conocido de los sistemas académicos españoles. Motivados por el discurso anticolonialista y por las alarmas por fuga de cerebros, pero también limitados por la falta de dinero, los sistemas académicos subsaharianos a menudo limitan o impiden la contratación de académicos extranjeros residentes en sus países. La falta de competencia dentro de los centros hace que incluso se vea con malos ojos al propio talento nacional que tiene alto rendimiento. Con tales circunstancias y unido a la falta de recursos y medios para la investigación, muchas de las cabezas más brillantes acaban por emigrar a países donde la meritocracia es un valor extendido y donde pueden avanzar en sus carreras, en muchos de los casos desarrollando investigación sobre sus regiones/países de origen. Investigación que, por otra parte, a menudo no está vinculada a las universidades o centros nacionales de investigación, sino más bien a instituciones internacionales, ya sean de investigación o cooperación (por ejemplo J-PAL, IFPRI o el Banco Mundial). Una vez más, la desvinculación entre administración pública, instituciones educativas y empresa privada en estos países tiene un alto coste. Un panorama que seguramente cambiaría con mayor inversión, mejor gestionada y dirigida.

Los procesos globales requieren de datos a escala planetaria para su comprensión, y es positivo que los grupos científicos se estén afanando en recogerlos. Entendemos, sin embargo, que no pertenece a dichos grupos la responsabilidad de atajar las desigualdades. Es responsabilidad primera de los gobiernos locales, promoviendo sistemas científicos que atraigan al talento, tanto global como local, y promuevan su interacción. Es responsabilidad también de las agencias de cooperación internacional, que deberían profundizar el cambio de perspectivas caritativas a otras empoderantes, y deberían ver el valor de la excelencia académica e investigadora tal como evidencian los retornos de la inversión en educación, en particular la universitaria. Esto incluye a la ciencia básica como una oportunidad de oro para fortalecer sistemas educativos, generar eficientes gestores futuros a nivel local, e incluso crear clase media y frenar dinámicas de conflicto. El alto rendimiento y procedencia diversa del personal de centros de los consorcios CGIAR e AIRCA, pese estar basados en países en desarrollo, es una prueba evidente de que el modelo funciona, pero también muestra de que hace falta mucha más inversión. Las cíclicas crisis que padecen dichos centros muestran también que no sólo debe haber más financiación, sino ser más estable.

Por último, es una lástima que los autores del mencionado artículo hayan omitido la reflexión sobre España. Nuestro sistema científico ya sabemos que también está afectado por la falta de atracción de talento no ya foráneo, sino nacional que no haya seguido los cauces ortodoxos. También está afectado por la sobrecarga de docencia en la universidad, que hace extraordinariamente difícil cuadrar el círculo con la excelencia académica. Y también está afectado de graves desigualdades, motivadas por una raquítica financiación que inevitablemente lleva a los grupos más potentes a fagocitar las oportunidades de posibles grupos emergentes. La fuga de talento y la falta de movilidad social son realidades que también sabemos que se dan en nuestro país. Las causas son inversión insuficiente, por haber otras prioridades de dudosa rentabilidad, y gestión deficiente. No se deben confundir problemas sistémicos con colonialismo.

* Miembro del Global Change and Conservation group & HELSUS, Universidad de Helsinki, Finlandia; miembro de IPBO-VIB & Universidad de Gante, Bélgica; Consultora en Washington DC, EEUU y miembro de Instituto Cervantes, Yakarta, Indonesia, respectivamente


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