News of the WeekVenezuela

As Research Funding Declines, Chávez, Scientists Trade Charges

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Science  29 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5931, pp. 1126-1127
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1126

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Venezuelan academics were taken aback this month when during his weekly television program on 3 May, Aló Presidente, Hugo Chávez said that researchers should stop working on "obscure projects," such as whether life exists on Venus, and instead go into the barrios to make themselves useful. To many observers, it was another sign of the growing tension between Chávez and the academic establishment. Nerves were already on edge following Chávez's dismissal in April of science minister Nuris Orihuela, a geophysical engineer, and her replacement by Jesse Chacón Escamillo, an engineer and Army lieutenant who has been close to Chávez since at least 1992. Disaffected researchers say they fear that science funding is becoming more politicized.