Opaque and arbitrary changes in the SNI affect scientists

On 11 January 2022 by the Executive Secretariat of the National Council for Science and Technology (Conacyt) the results of the 2021 call for the accession, promotion and permanence of the National Research System (SNI). In cold numbers, the total number of requests received was 15,520, of which 5,810 were current members who managed to retain their membership and 3,649 new members who joined the total of 36,714 researchers who make up the SNI.

According to knowledge areas, the percentage of approval was as follows:

  • Area I. Physical Mathematics and Earth Sciences, 71.7 percent.
  • Area II. Biology and Chemistry, 61.25 percent.
  • Area III. Medicine and Health Sciences, 66.49 percent.
  • Area IV. Behavioral Sciences and Education, 58.58 percent.
  • Area V. Humanities, 75.94 percent.
  • Area VI. Social Sciences, 59.53 percent.
  • Area VII. Agriculture, farming, forestry and ecosystem sciences, 63.23 percent.
  • Area VIII. Engineering and Technological Development, 55.73 percent.
  • Area IX. Interdisciplinary, 47.35 percent.

Although the commissions, as every year, generated a collegial discussion and the evaluation of the curricula, there was for dr. Antonio Lazcano, who this year concluded his participation in one of the governing commissions, in the process “absolute discretion and administrative inability (issuance) of a call, receipt of documents and an imposition of unapproved regulations)”, which the violation of peer review implies.

An example of administrative inconsistencies is that on 17 June there was a call to which dr. Lazcano despite being part of an evaluation commission, it was to vote for the new members before the commissions took office. “What was done was to violate the current regulations of the SNI because the appointments could not be approved.”

Lazcano assures that the insignificant and light-hearted way in which the regulation has been amended will lead many investigators to submit their files for reconsideration, even to a series of orders that they will surely win.

To understand in detail why many of the researchers did not achieve a favorable result, one key lies in the retrospective application. On 18 June 2021, an agreement was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation repealing Article 34 of the Regulations of the Federation. SNIsaid article indicated that the new criteria of the Regulation published in April 2021 could not be applied until the 2022 call.

The repeal of this article therefore prejudiced the researchers who made their request in the 2021 call, but whose files were based on the criteria of the September 2020 regulation, which was incidentally removed from the website. Conacyt for your consultation and comparison. This amendment violates the fundamental principle of non-retroactive activity contained in Article 14 of the Constitution.

New criteria contradict current legislation

On the other hand, this new regulation was promoted before the new Science and Technology Law (not yet issued), which means that the regulation that has been introduced is not in accordance with the current law, thus “the approval and integration of the new criteria to SNI they are in violation of current law, ”says Lazcano.

With this on the table, an example of effect on some researchers was given by complying with the social communication clause of science and sharing the results, which included dissemination activities. In this sense, dr. Lazcano that many scientists do this and others do not, but with a clause that has forced them to evaluate the results of the past three to five years and be judged on that basis, many researchers have been left without the possibility. to verify activities of that nature. He adds that there was also some confusion to evaluate, as the corresponding weight was not given, on the one hand to disclosure and on the other hand to distribution.

A similar case has occurred with researchers working at private universities. In 2020, the Conacyt he reformed the regulations so that they no longer received the economic stimulus; however, many investigators hold appointments of three years. Although not known, several administrative judges granted the final suspension in light of hundreds of amparos submitted as it was not a restriction on their entry into the system and the researchers had to undergo the same evaluation process. to be eligible. allowed. Today for the new process they are no longer taken into account.

National Council for Science and Technology. Photo EE: Hugo Salazar

Another example is that the new regulation calls for a more favorable evaluation to be given to researchers who comply with the National Strategic Programs (Pronaces), which is also something that goes in the same direction of the Conacyt defined without a consensus of the academic community, which omits a large number of ongoing investigations that do not necessarily respond to government priorities.

Postdoctoral fellows join the casualties of the SNI

Researchers on postdoctoral fellowship who are not appointed by an institution but by the Conacyt, they also lost the SNI stimulus from January 2022. These are about 130 researchers, most of whom have had an appointment in the SNI.

The doctor Gladys Valencia Castaneda He has been doing his postdoctoral stay since November 2020, during the first year there was no problem and he received his payment, last year he applied for the continuity scholarship and it was renewed, for which he received the amount for November and December 2021 without any problem but from January the payment was no longer reflected and the same happened with most of the researchers working under this figure.

Some of those affected have sought the authorities of Conacyt to know the reasons, the answer is, albeit with divergent answers, that section 62 of the new regulation applies to it, which stipulates that the person or researcher can receive support as long as they are a valid, active person and receive compensation where work.

This, in addition to the fact that it is applied retrospectively, as their appointment was according to the previous rules, is ambiguous and confusing for the researchers, since in their case the institution where they work does not pay them, e.g. Dr. Gladys does this from the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the UNAM, but the payment comes through Conacyt. The response was that the payment was not compatible because they were receiving a postdoctoral fellowship (which is a salary) and the SNI stimulus, now called support.

Valencia Castañeda explains that a postdoctoral fellowship does not have job stability, it is a way of surviving as a researcher and doing science. “The work in question is similar to that of a researcher who is in a university or a research center; We give classes, advise, participate as thesis directors and do research in a specific center. But the contract is for a scholarship that Conacyt pays for one year with the opportunity of a second year as long as the requirements of the call are met. All the activities we carry out are reported directly to Conacyt ”. But today, this interpretation of the Council also has them outside the National System of Investigators

What is the SNI?

The National Research System It was created by presidential agreement published in the Official Gazette of the Federation on July 26, 1984, to recognize the work of people dedicated to the production of scientific knowledge and technology. The recognition is granted by peer review and consists of the award of the appointment of national researcher. This distinction symbolizes the quality and prestige of the scientific contributions, in parallel with the appointment, economic incentives are granted whose amount varies with the level awarded.

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