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More than beef and tango

An interview with Lino Barañao, the Minister of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation in Argentina
Howy Jacobs, Holger Breithaupt

Author Affiliations

  • Howy Jacobs, 1Universities of Tampere and Helsinki, Finland2EMBO, Heidelberg, Germany
  • Holger Breithaupt, 2EMBO, Heidelberg, Germany

EMBO reports (ER)Could you tell us how, after a long and distinguished career as a research scientist, you became involved in politics and eventually became Minister of Science for Argentina?

Lino Barañao (LB)In 2007, I met the then candidate for President, Cristina Fernandéz de Kirchner, at a meeting at the Argentinian consulate in New York. I had the opportunity to express my ideas about what had to be done for science in Argentina, and after she won the election she decided to create a ministry and appoint me as the first Minister of Science.

ERArgentina had not previously had a dedicated Ministry for Science, Technology and Productive Innovation. Do you think that the President's decision was based on the conversation you had back in 2007?

LBShe related a story about her visiting a lab where she was able to see the nucleus of a cell under a microscope. I said, “OK, if a potential presidential candidate is able to identify the nucleus of a cell, something's going to change in Argentina.” But the decision was prompted by the contributions of all the Argentinian scientists who she met at the consulate because they were all relating to her the importance of science and technology and the need for investment. I was appointed to the federal ministry, and as my son said: “For a while you will be the best Minister of Science that we've ever had in Argentina!”

ERIn most countries, the political process usually involves parties switching power every 5 or 10 years. Are you concerned that the next Minister or the next government is going to undo everything, because they'll just be the other party? How can you guard against that?

LBIt's always a risk: look at Spain where they had a Ministry of …

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