- Políticas de ciencia, tecnología e innovación en la Argentina de la posdictadura [Science, technology and innovation policies in post-dictatorship Argentina] ed. by Diego Aguiar et al.
As Aant Elzinga and Andrew Jamison wrote in 1995, "studies of science and technology (S&T) policy occupy a weak and rather fragmented position within the broader STS community" (Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, 1995, 572). Although this has changed in the last two decades, the introduction of innovation as a goal of national science and technology policies is still a rather under-studied research topic, particularly in "developing" countries. The book, Politics of science, technology and innovation in post dictatorship Argentina, shows how the design and implementation of science, technology, and innovation (STI) policies in Argentina were the result of negotiations between national and international [End Page 321] actors. The period covered is thirty years after Raúl Alfonsin was elected president of Argentina in 1983, marking the end of dictatorship and the arrival of democracy.
The volume's central question is how the new Argentinian regime designed and implemented STI policies, while trying to reorganize and create new institutions, restore and control the economy, and at the same time address the policies dictated by international organizations and institutions, especially the Inter-American Development Bank. This generated tension and synergies between national officials, scientists, and international bureaucracies. The study makes use of interviews, archival material, and books, mostly in Spanish.
The book begins with an analysis of how the Argentinian State, with the input of local experts and scientists, introduced technological innovation in its political agenda, creating a new bureaucratic culture (chapter 1). The State established alliances with industries, which did not determine policy, a very common situation in Latin American countries. The authors examine how the Inter-American Development Bank tried to shape STI policies in Argentina and how in turn local officials and experts aligned with the Bank. During credit negotiations, the bank authorities had to be flexible and allow the Argentinians to modify their projects, otherwise many would not have been feasible.
The next chapters deal with four technologies historically entangled with development and nation building: radar, satellites, nanotechnology, and nuclear reactors. Plans to design radar technologies in Argentina began in 1982 and were realized by 2003 (chapter 3). This project created a community of expertise and a high level of employment. The authors dig deeper into the issue why the country has a national space policy linked to using rockets for launching satellites. To gain approval, Argentina had to negotiate with neighboring countries and the United States because this technology could be used for military as well as civilian purposes.
The book then highlights how efforts to develop nanotechnology research were embedded in multilateral, regional, and national policies for reducing the "technological gap" between developed and developing countries (chapter 5). The authors note that there was a disconnect between the cost of this research and its financial potential.
The final chapter is on nuclear energy, starting with its production in the 1950s, prioritized and financed by the military regime. By 1978, Argentina began a secret program for uranium enrichment in order to make the country less dependent on foreign technologies. The financial crisis of the early 1980s put a stop to this project. Thereafter, financial support for the nuclear industry diminished, constraining the original plan of building eleven reactors.
This book will stimulate the debate on why Argentina and other Latin American countries implemented such different STI policies, and how science [End Page 322] and technology have been crucial elements of developmentalist discourses and practices, extending works such as Medina et al.'s Beyond Imported Magic (MIT Press, 2014), Murray's The will to improve (Duke University Press, 2007), and Barandiarán's Science and environment in Chile (MIT Press, 2018).
Gisela Mateos is professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México...