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30th August 2019

Bolivia: “Keep Researching, Showing Results and Educating People”

During 2019, our blog posts will primarily feature a range of countries in which IFS has awarded grants to early-career scientists, drawing on responses to a 15-item survey with mostly open-ended questions that we are sending to former and present grantees in selected countries, as an element of this year’s process culminating in our new 2021-2030 strategy. This month we highlight Bolivia, where 44 people (18 women and 26 men) have been awarded grants by IFS since it was founded in 1974. Of the 44 grantees, nine went on to receive a second grant, and one a third grant. As one survey respondent noted, “… food security, conservation of biodiversity and health are continuously demanding new local knowledge from researchers.”

Nighisty Ghezae, DirectorNighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

Of the 31 invitations sent to colleagues in Bolivia, eight (or 26%) responded to the survey. Among them, 38% have master's degrees, 25% have doctorates and 37% have done post-doctoral work, with 88% of respondents living and working in Bolivia. They are program directors, researchers and professors of various ranks. Their research areas involve antiparasitic substances, botany, chemical ecology, conservation of endangered species, forestry governance, microbiology, and raptor biology and ecology. 

Of the examples given of how their research has been put into use, of note are better governance of local institutions; protocols for the use of traditional plant species to repel disease vectors in rural homes; the first country-scale Andean Condor population status assessment in Bolivia; a management plan that favors crop regeneration; reduced crop pests and diseases; and more awareness of the Bolivian river dolphin's natural history, ecology and threats. Sixty-three percent of respondents have published more than ten peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters or books, seven colleagues are members of professional scientific organizations, and four have received awards for their work, both in Bolivia and in other countries.

In response to a question about exciting or rewarding professional experiences, were the examples of improving local knowledge and capacity building with forest communities; building student teams to do research and fieldwork; having students become colleagues; curing patients with leishmaniasis using a locally developed formulation; setting up a laboratory after much effort; publishing and being invited to present papers; being asked to serve on scientific committees; seeing the rare event of around 80 Andean Condors gathered at the same spot; and saving 26 river dolphins during a dry season disconnection between rivers. Cited by several respondents as important factors contributing to career development were the grants received from IFS, along with meeting other researchers in person, determination and trust from funding agencies.

Examples of career challenges faced by respondents included obtaining research funding, getting a start in Bolivia's academic culture, collegial tension and institutional bureaucracy. In terms of what would be most helpful to them in achieving their career goals, women respondents mentioned balancing family and career, and having equal work opportunities. When asked what they think needs to change so that women can play a more significant role in science and research, men suggested fair merit-based policies to include more women in science and training programs that encourage women to apply and be supported until completion, regardless of their family situation. One of the men respondents did say that in his scientific field, women are fully integrated and play significant roles.

Common suggestions for how linkages can be strengthened among scientists, research institutions, grants-making organizations and funding sources included promoting the allocation of research fellows within local institutions; providing evidence of research quality, which could help competitiveness for funding; holding meetings including all actors to create more understanding; organizing events where grantees can present their results to wider audiences; more collaborative work to solve global problems; and more grant-making organizations being managed and advised by scientists since they know the needs of researchers.

Finally, with regards to perceptions of the role of science in national development, it was seen as essential, as expressed in the words of one respondent, “Since food security, conservation of biodiversity and health are continuously demanding new local knowledge from researchers”. Another colleague noted that, “… sadly, the role of science in Bolivia is still misunderstood and underestimated, particularly by the government and politicians. The only way to change this is to keep researching, showing results and educating people”.

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae

Director

Recent blog posts

Two of our many grantees

Dr Yin Tongming

Dr Yin Tongming
China

No. of IFS Grants: 1 (1999)


Current position:
Researcher, The Key Laboratory, Forest Breeding and Gene Engineering, Nanjing Forestry University, China


Awards:
IFS Jubilee Award 2003

Dr Lateef Sanni

Dr Lateef Sanni
Nigeria

No. of IFS Grants: 2 (2000; 1996)


Current position:
Researcher, Dept of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria

> Find out more about our grantees

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