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My case is rather unusual but not unique, in that I am a researcher who after doing a considerable amount of work in the hard sciences, became a de facto social scientist, working mostly in interdisciplinary areas, such as energy and environmental studies. I was born in Argentina, have an engineering degree from the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, and a Ph.D. in Metallurgy and Material Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania. I have been in Mexico for thirty years, the first ten at the Electrical Engineering Department of the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados, a public graduate school in the hard sciences and engineering. At that time I published research papers on semiconductors, superconductivity, fuel cells and solar energy. In 1979 I published my first two papers in the social sciences and interdisciplinary studies, one on the energy problem and another on science in Mexico.
I was forced to resign as a result of a conflict that involved several professors. Since 1980 I teach at the Departamento El Hombre y su Ambiente (Man and Environment) of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco (UAM-X). I have been teaching an introductory course on Knowledge and Society for undergraduates, which includes some elements of the history and philosophy of science. I have continued to publish in the already mentioned areas of energy studies and science policy, and also on environmental issues, history of science, education research and politics and human rights. Around the mid 1980s I have also participated as a rather visible militant against nuclear power. My papers on the history of science and on educational research are in some way a spin-off of my teaching, while those on science policy and on politics and human rights were motivated by an interest in the conditions of scientific activity here in Mexico and in other less developed countries, and also a result of my interests as a citizen.
I have carried out work that I consider to be of a pioneering nature, in the sense of research areas previously neither studied in Mexico nor in Latin America. My publications include the first article on environmental history published in an international environmental history journal; the first on the problematique of science in Mexico in an international journal; the first single author book (there have been several compilations), on the same subject; the first and as far as I know only research paper on nuclear safety and nuclear accidents.
My work has been favorably commented by several dozens of colleagues, some of them leading figures in their fields, for example my paper on science in Mexico by John Ziman and the late Derek de Solla Price, my papers on environmental studies by Dr. Kristin Shrader-Frechette. Since 1990 my institution has awarded me several times bonuses for my research work. In 1983-84 I was a Mellon Fellow at the MIT Program on Science, Technology and Society. I have acted as a referee for research projects of the National Science Foundation, and as a referee for the magazine Science, Technology and Human Values. Last year I was accepted into the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, the most important scientific society in Mexico. Among those who helped me to get into the Academia, or supported me in other academic pursuits, or expressed favorable opinions on my work, are some of the best known Mexican scientists, such as Larissa Adler, David Barkin, Luis De La Peña, Lorenzo Meyer, Marcos Moshinsky and Rodolfo Stavenhagen, plus Mr. Gerardo Bueno Zirión, a former director of the National Research Council (CONACYT).
The Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (S N I) was created by a presidential decree in 1984. It is jointly managed by the Secretary of Public Education and the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias. It awards fellowships that represent a substantial income for researchers. Being a member also counts for the research funding of the CONACYT, which is the most important national source for such funds. The S N I includes now some six thousand.
The S N I operates through branch committees (Comisiones Dictaminadoras). Now there are seven such committees. For the case of senior researchers, i.e. 35 years old or older, there are three appointment levels. Fellowships are given for three years, after which period there is a reevaluation. Those who are considered to have an insufficient productivity are either demoted or eliminated.
In its first year the S N I met a considerable resistance, for two reasons. Many considered it an objectionable encroachment against the public universities autonomy, as a substantial share of the income of their most qualified personnel became dependent on a mechanism outside of their control. Second, it was evident from the start that the S N I applied discriminatory policies.
The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), both located in México City, are the two largest federal universities. The UAM has three campuses, the already mentioned Xochimilco, plus one at Ixtapalapa and another at Atzcapozalco. In the former, part of its academic personnel belongs to the Schools (Facultades) while another works in research institutes. The resistance against the S N I was mostly concentrated in the UNAM schools in the area of the social sciences and in the social sciences Divisions of the UAM. Two paid insertions were published in the press at the beginning of 1985, one with signed by several hundreds of UNAM professors, the other by the Social Science Division of the UAM-Ixtapalapa. In my already mentioned book I reviewed this story and also provided my own critical analysis of the S N I. I also denounced several cases of repression against scientists, that happened mostly in 1988 at government research institutes. I have also published an article in the Los Angeles Times denouncing the closing down of an environmental studies research institute, the Centro de Ecodesarrollo, by the Salinas government. I have published more than two hundred newspaper and popularization articles, most of them in the newspapers Uno más uno and Excélsior, mostly on energy and environment, and some on science policy, most of them of a critical content, particularly in relation to the issue of nuclear power.
The already mentioned discrimination was evident in the make up of the branch committees, particularly in the case of the social sciences. The foreign born, although a small proportion within the Mexican social sciences community, are quite visible in terms of international impact, as could be verified from the Social Sciences Citation Index. However, they were almost completely excluded from the committee. The Colegio de México, a graduate school in the social sciences and humanities, and a rather Conservative institution, had always the largest share of committee members, last year four of a total of twelve. In a complementary way, those from the UNAM Schools and of the UAM Social Sciences Divisions were almost completely excluded, and in a very important particular case those of the Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas of the UNAM, that has more than one hundred researchers, were completely excluded. More than that, in sixteen years of operation not even one economist of the several hundreds at the UNAM and the UAM, was appointed as a member of this committee. I do not know of any study that would prove that the economists of the Colegio de México are much better than those of the UNAM and UAM, but I have two data related to their international visibility. The first refers to the fifty most cited Mexican social scientists, which I got from the Social Sciences Citation Index for the period 1981 to 1986. It includes three Colegio de México economists and four of the UNAM and UAM, which does not seem to represent any significant difference. The already mentioned David Barkin, a professor at the UAM-X, gave me the second. He claims that his book on the insertion of the Mexican economy in the world economy is the book of a Mexican economist which had the largest diffusion at an international level.
In a way that was coherent with this discrimination in the make up of the Comisiones Dictaminadoras, from the start of the S N I those researchers of the research institutes were mostly admitted, with the already mentioned exception of the Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, while very few from the UNAM Schools and the UAM Social Sciences Divisions were. Among those excluded several were very well known, such as the economists David Barkin and Juan Castaingts; the urban studies scholar Emilio Pradilla, the philosopher Enrique Dussel; the public health expert Asa C.Laurell. All those just mentioned were from the UAM, and all foreign born, except the second one.; among those of the UNAM the philosopher Bolívar Echeverría, the late political scientist Agustín Cueva, and the historian Adolfo Gilly, all foreign born, plus some native Mexicans, such as Pedro López Díaz, Héctor Guillén and others. All those mentioned could be considered within the left of the political spectrum; in the cases of Pradilla and Castaingts, they are also newspaper columnists, known for their criticism of government policies. However, in the following years some of them were admitted, although Pradilla was placed at the lowest S N I level and kept there, and there was a considerable increase of those admitted in the case of the UAM-X. Discrimination continues, for example right now there are only twelve researchers of the Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas within the S N I. However, it is difficult to estimate the extent of the existing discrimination, as many of those who have applied in the past no longer do. What seems clear, however, is that the most serous and persistent cases are present in the social sciences. While in the other areas there are privileged institutions, apparently there have not been cases of blatant discrimination against individuals.
I should also mention that there are some research fields, such as environmental studies, and science policy, sociology and history of science, which have experienced little development and have not been institutionalized in Mexico. There are few researchers in those areas, even less who are members of the Academia, and there has never been even one member of the S N I social science committee with any knowledge of the environmental and energy studies problematiques. The successive committees were mostly made up of lawyers, economists or historians in such areas as political or social history.
Over the last years more precise criteria were approved, although not necessarily more fair. In the case of the social sciences it was established that applicants should have "a definite research line" and "contribute to the formation of human resources", both at undergraduate and graduate levels. A very important change happened through an initiative of Sergio Aguayo, a researcher of the Colegio de México, also known as a human rights militant, who was demoted and filed a complaint with the Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, a kind of ombudsman agency, asking for an appeals mechanism. The S N I therefore formed review committees that would review appeals, the Comisiones Dictaminadoras Revisoras, that would consider both demotion and rejection of applicants. While the names and research fields of the members of the Comisiones Dictaminadoras have always been published, no information has been published on the make up of the appeals committees.
Starting in 1986 I applied several times. I was always rejected. In one of the early occasions I sent a letter, signed in solidarity by several well known scientist, in which I mentioned that John Ziman considered my paper on science in Mexico as by far the best on science in a developing country. Dr. Salvador Malo, at that time Executive Secretary of the S N I, responded that Ziman could have his criteria and the S N I different ones, without bothering to explain them.
In 1998 I was rejected because of low productivity. Last year I applied again. A requirement of a minimum of five published papers had been established. I should mention that the CONACYT has a list of what the agency considers the best Mexican research journals, or revistas de excelencia and that the S N I had always considered publication in international journals as a characteristic of excellence. I have published more than thirty research papers plus one book in the social sciences and interdisciplinary problems area, several of them in the excellency journals of CONACYT plus several in international journals.
I added a letter to my last application, in which I suggested that previous rejections might have happened because the committee members had little knowledge in my research areas, and therefore offered a list of foreign researchers who specialized in those areas and who were willing to give an opinion if required. In this list I included the already mentioned Kristin Shrader-Frechette, and Allan Schnaiberg, of Northwestern University, in the field of environmental studies; and Hebe Verssuri, of the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientifícas, and David Hess, of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in the sociology of science.
The committee did not consider it necessary to ask for such opinions. They rejected me on the grounds of lack of a definite research line, and insufficient contribution to the formation of human resources.
I filed an appeal of several pages with the Comisión Dictamiandora Revisora, in which I argued that the requirement of just one research line was against the freedom of research (libertad de investigación) established in the Mexican Constitution, and that I did not have one research line but several, which was justified because of the interdisciplinary characteristics of my research. And that the committees judgment on human resources had to refer to graduate students, and that it was unfair, because it did not only depend on my subjective will but on the conditions in my institution, which has few and quite recent graduate programs, in which only recently I was given an opportunity to participate. Not doing so would mean a discrimination against those researchers who work in less favorable conditions.
The response came in a letter by Dr.Jaime Martuscelli, the Executive Secretary of the S N I. In a few lines he let me know that my appeal had been rejected because "the production presented is not consistent." No mention was made of the arguments that I offered.
Maartuscellis answer represents an abuse of power. I have therefore started a legal action (recurso de amparo) asking for the nullification of the decision of the Comisión Dictaminadora Revisora, and the judge has already ordered an injunction while the court actions proceed. It is a legal action without precedents in Mexico.
I am also writing to the Secretary of Public Education, Dr. Reyes Tamez Guerra, and to the President of the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, asking for the nullification of the appeals committee decision and for the formation of a new committee.
I believe that my case is probably one of the most blatant cases of repeated rejections by the S N I of a researcher with a respectable curriculum and some international visibility. I do not know the real reasons for such a dubious honor, but I might put forward some conjectures. First, it might be a case of corporativism, in that they do not want to accept someone who does not have any formal training in the social sciences. I might also speculate on an adverse effect of telling the story of the criticisms against the S N I and of the repression cases mentioned in my book. It might also be a punishment for my role as an antinuclear militant. Or perhaps they consider that papers published in journals of the "politically incorrect" institution, as might be the case of those published by the School of Economics of the UNAM (Ensayos, Investigación Económica, Economía Informa), in which I published several papers, are by definition worthless and a sign of lack of intellectual standards.
I suggest that since its creation the S N I has operated in opaque ways and without any external supervision, and that this has allowed the irregular practices that I have described. I believe that this is a typical product of the PRI regimes, that have been characterized not only by violence and corruption, but by a wide margin of tolerated illegality. Therefore, the problem goes beyond an individual case. Many believe that because Mexico has now a president from a different party, this means that democracy is already living under a democratic regime. This is not completely true, as the effects of previous political practices persist. To liquidate such practices in all the areas of public life, including the S N I, is not only a requirement of justice but still a pending task for a true transition to democracy.
I am asking those willing to support me to diffuse this information, and to write to the Secretary of Public Education and to the President of the Academia in support of the letters that I have sent them. To those who will, I am also asking them to send me copies of the letters, faxes or e mails that they might sent. Also, to those willing to help with money for the costs of the legal action, please send me their contributions.
(Dr.) Mauricio Schoijet
Rancho Altamira 72
México 04940, DF, MÉXICO
Tel and fax 52-56777428
Letters, faxes or e mails to the President of the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias should be addressed to Dr. René Drucker, President, Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, Avenida San Jerónimo 260, Col.Jardines del Pedregal, México, DF 04500, tel. (52) 5550 3906 , fax (52) 5550 1143, email: email@example.com
Those addressed to the Secretary of Public Education to Dr. Reyes Tamez Guerra, Secretario de Educación Pública, República Argentina 28, Col.Centro, México 06029, DF, MÉXICO; fax (52) 55212095, e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
México, February 8, 2001
His Excellency Dr. Reyes
Secretary of Public Education
Excellency Dr.Reyes Tamez Guerra:
I am a full profesor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco, and have been doing research for the last thirty five years. I applied several times at the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores, which depends on the Secretary of Public Education and the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, of which I am a member since last year. My applications have been rejected in all cases, but the last one, last year, was rejected in a way that is worse than irregular, aberrant.
The Social Sciences Dictaminating Committee rejected it for not having a definite research line, and for having contributed little to the formation of human resources. I appealed in a letter of several pages sent to the Comisión Dictaminadora Revisora, in which I argued that I did not have one line but several, and that this happened because of the interdisciplinary nature of my objects of study. And also that the attempt of prescribing only one research line was an arbitrary restriction, therefore unconstitutional as the Mexican Constitution established freedom of research in the public universities. And that the formation of human resources had to refer to graduate students, because I had taught both a large number of undergraduate and Diploma courses. And that this requirement had to be considered in the context of the conditions of my institution, which had both few and recent graduate programs, in which I had only recently given an opportunity to participate. Otherwise it would mean a discrimination against those of us who do research in less favorable conditions.
The answer of the Comisión came through a very short letter of the Executive Secretary of the Sistema, Dr.Jaime Martuscelli, which stated that I was being rejected because "the production presented is not consistent." No reference was made to my arguments, nor was there any argument in support of the Comisións claim.
I submit that this is an abuse of power, contrary to the Constitution, because the task of this Comisión Dictaminadora Revisora is to examine the arguments put forward by the applicant, and not to invent new causes for rejection, not foreseen in the existing rules, that only give it the power to determine whether he or she fulfill the requirements, not to disqualify an applicant by passing judgement on his or her whole work, even less if this judgement is not supported by any argument. It is a constitutional requirement that any authority action be based on existing legislation, and that it should explain why this legislation applies to an individual in any given case.
Allow me please to state that such a disqualifying statement, unsupported by arguments, is not a judgment but an insult, not only against myself but in an implicit way against the institutions to which I belong, such as the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, which awarded me bonuses for my research; against the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, that accepted me as a member; against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which awarded me a Mellon Fellowship of its Program of Science, Technology and Society; against the National Sciecne Foundation, that asked me to act as a referee for some research projects; against the journals that published my work, some of them included in the list of excellence journals of CONACY, and some international, in particular against Science, Technology and Human Values, that also asked me to act as its referee; against several outstanding scientists who expressed favorable opinions on my work, such as John Ziman, the late Derek De Solla Price and Kristin Shrader Frechette. And also against some important Mexican personalities, such as the former Director of CONACYT, Mr.Gerardo Bueno Zirión, Larissa Adler, David Barkin, Luis De La Peña, Lorenzo Meyer, Marcos Moshinsky, Manuel Peimbert, and Rodolfo Stavenhagen, among others who either expressed favorable opinions or backed my admission into the Academia, or helped in other academic pursuits.
Besides of the legal issue, there is that of moral and intellectual responsibility. It seems obvious that those who carry out such delicate tasks should have it. And one could think that such an unsupported judgment sheds doubts or is not consistent with this aspect; unless they assume lightly that my supposed intellectual inconsistency is so obvious to anyone that they should not bother to give any arguments, or that everybody has to believe whatever they state because they are an authority.
Therefore I suggest that taking into account the need to keep the prestige of the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores you take whatever measures might be necessary for nullifying this decision and towards forming a new Comisión Dictaminadora Revisora.
I add a list of my publications in the area of the social sciences and interdisciplinary problems.
(Dr.) Mauricio Schoijet
A) Energy Studies
1) "El problema energético" in Investigación Económica 148-149, April-September 1979, p. 93-124.
2) "La energía nuclear en los países menos desarrollados" Nuclear Power in Less Developed Countries) en Nueva Sociedad no. 53, p. 123-145 (1981).
3) "Rothman's Authority Principle", a reply to "Contorting Scientific Controversies" by Stanley Rothman, in Society, March-April 1984, p. 9-11.
4) "Necesidad y posibilidades de una política energética alternativa" (Need and Possibilities of an Alternative Energy Policy), en Economía Informa no. 199, p. 33-39, October 1991.
5) "Dictadura y armas atómicas en Argentina" (Dictatorship and Nuclear Weapons in Argentina) in Crítica de Nuestro Tiempo, Buenos Aires, año vi, no. 15, December 1996-February 1997, p. 131-161.
6) "Sociology of Nuclear Accidents: Facts and Conjecture" in Philosophy and Social Action 26, 4, October-December 2000, p. 7-33.
7) "El rodeo de la historia, de los ensayos destructivos de 1953 y 1954 al accidente de Chernobyl, y el derrumbe de la visión canónica sobre accidentes nucleares" (The Detour of History, from the Destructive Tests of 1953-54 to the Chernobyl Accident, and the Collapse of the Canonical View of Nuclear Accidents) presented at the Congress of the Mexican Physical Society, Puebla, 11.3.2000.
B) Environment, Natural Resources and Development
1) "Una introducción a la problemática de los impactos", en "Las represas y sus efectos sobre la salud" ("An Introduction to the Impacts Problematique", in "Dams and their Effects on Health", edited by Thomas S.Schorr, Organización Panamericana de la Salud (Panamerican Health Organization), México, DF, (1984), p. 71-88.
2) "Ecocidio, etnocidio y desarrollo: el caso de Uxpanapa en México" (Ecocide, Etnocide and Development) en Economía Informa, enero de 1992, p. 35-45.
3) "La contaminación atmosférica en la Zona Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México", en "Ecología y ambientalismo", compilado por Fernanda Campa, Partido de la Revolución Democrática, México, DF, (1993), p. 90-116. También se publicó en la revista Memoria, no. 51, febrero de 1993, p. 32-45.
4) "Las reservas de gas natural: subestimación por razones políticas e ideológicas" en Economía Informa no. 251, octubre de 1996, p. 27-30.
5) "Los recursos minerales a nivel mundial" (Mineral Resources at a World Level), en la revista Economía Informa de abril de 1997, p. 34-40.
6) "Limits to Growth" and the Rise of Catastrophism", en Environmental History 4, 4, octubre de 1999, p. 486-514.
7) "La cuestión de la población" (The Population Question), aceptado para publicación en la revista Ciencia.
C) Technology Studies
1 ) "Ideología y tecnología" en Ensayos II, no. 9, (1987), p. 34-51
2)"La ideología de la aceleración del progreso científico y tecnológico", en Economía Informa, agosto-septiembre de 1991, p. 32-39.
3)"El determinismo tecnológico", incluido en Leticia Mayer y Roberto Varela, compiladores, "Los grandes problemas de la ciencia y la tecnología", IIMAS-UNAM (1994), p. 25-38.
4)"Tecnologías no sostenibles" en Ludus Vitalis, número especial 2, (1997), p. 135-142.
5)"La revolución científica y tecnológica y la sociedad post-industrial" en Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales XLIII, no..171, enero-marzo de 1998, p. 127-156.
6) "On Technical Bureaucracies", presentado en la reunión anual de la Society for Social Studies of Science, San Diego, octubre de 1999.
D) Sociology of Science and Science Policy
1) "The Condition of Mexican Science" en Minerva 17, 3, p. 381-412, (1979).
2) "El Estado contra la ciencia" (The State Against Science) in Argumentos, no. 9, April 1990, p. 85-104; an extended version co-authored with Richard Worthington, was published as "Globalization of Science and Repression of Scientists in Mexico", in Science, Technology and Human Values, vol. 18, no. 2, Spring of 1993, p. 209-230.
3) "La ciencia mexicana en la crisis" (Mexican Science under the Crisis), Editorial Nuestro Tiempo, México, DF, (1991).
4) "Oscar Varsavsky y la política de la ciencia" in Espacios (a journal of the School (Facultad) of Philosophy and Literature of the Universidad de Buenos Aires), no. 11, October-November 1992, p. 38-44; another versión was published by Eduardo Scarano, editor, "Metodología de las ciencias sociales", Grupo Editor Macchi, Buenos Aires (1999), p. 391-402.
5) "Notas sobre la evaluación por pares: las publicaciones científicas" (Notes on Peer Review: the Scientific Publications) in Luis Berruecos, editor "La evaluación en el sistema modular", Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco (1998), p. 325-346; an extended version "La evaluación por pares: garantía de objetividad?" (Peer Review: A Guarantee of Objectivity?), has been accepted in a second edition, to be published, by Eduardo Loria Díaz, editor, "Los dilemas de las revistas académicas mexicanas", Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México.
E) Philosophy of Science
1) "Epistemology and Politics" in Technoscience, Newsletter de la Society for Social Studies of Science 10, 1, Winter of 1997, p. 10.
F) History of Science
1)"La sociobiología", in Sociológica (UAM-A), September-december de 1993, p. 47-74.
2)"Ciencia y religión: de la persecución de la iglesia católica contra Galileo a los reconciliacionistas actuales" (Science and Religión: from the Persecution of Galileo by the Catholic Church to the Contemporary Reconciliacionists), in Ixtapalapa, (1997), p. 199-236.
3) "Archimedes, Stevin y la reconstrucción lógica de los principios de la mecánica" given at the annual meeting of the Mexican Physical Society, Puebla, November1st, 2000.
4) "Reivindicación de Giordano Bruno" (A Vindication of Giordano Bruno) in the symposium on "Giordano Bruno 1600-2000", Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas, UNAM, 9.12-14.2000
G) Educational Research
1) "Análisis de los resultados de exámenes de admisión a la maestría en el Departamento de Química del Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados" (Analysis of the Results of Entrance Examination to a Master Program at the Chemistry Department of the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados, Revista del Centro de Investigaciones Educativas 4, 3 (1974).
2) "Crítica de la versión 94/O del Módulo Conocimiento y Sociedad" (A Critique of the Fall 1994 Version of the Knowledge and Society Course" in María Elena Rodríguez Lara and Gilberto Sandoval Fregoso, editors, "Perspectivas de Integración Modular" UAM-X (1996) p. 81-96.
3) "Revisitando el sistema modular: origen y características del sistema" (Revisiting the Modular System: Its Origins and Characteristics), in Luis Berruecos, editor, "La construcción permanente del sistema modular", UAM-X (1997), p. 173-192.
H) Politics and Human Rights
1) "The Timerman Affair and anti-Semitism in Argentina" in Crime and Social Justice, no. 20, (1984), p. 16-36.
2) "La Revolución Mexicana: una revolución burguesa antidemocrática?", p. 31-44; "La Revolución Mexicana contra el PRI", compilación con Manuel Aguilar Mora, Distribuciones Fontamara, México, (1991).
3)"Las ciencias sociales y los procesos electorales en México", ídem, p. 74-83.