“Science is a beautiful story of human effort, sometimes without a clear purpose”

It seems that science does not pay in Colombia. Spending on research and development barely reaches 0.2% of GDP, far from 2.4% of the OECD average. To top it off, in the General Budget the allocation to science fell 20%, a sign that many do not see it useful. But it does, as Laura Sprechmann, CEO of Nobel Prize Outreach, emphatically states in an interview with LR.

The leader of the organization that promotes the Nobel values ​​globally launches a call in defense of the transformative power of science and education, especially in emerging countries such as Colombia.

What are they doing?

We are dedicated to sharing knowledge and inspiring people around the world, based on the Nobel Prize. Showing how the work of the laureates addresses the great challenges of our times, promoting decision-making based on scientific evidence; promoting education, learning and the importance of collaboration.

For the first time we held a regional event for all countries in Latin America, uniting students from the entire region in conversations with the winners; conversations about the social responsibility of science, and the interaction between the scientific community and politicians and decision makers. We talk about how science plays a key role in society. Six students from Colombian universities participated: the National, the del Valle and the Javeriana.

Why is it valuable to promote scientific research?

From a personal point of view, doing science is fun and very rewarding. To learn things, to discover; it’s like opening a book and more and more things. You see that you were wrong about something and you try something else. It is very exciting, as a human being, to discover things.

In a broader context, any of the biggest problems that we have as a society today, we can face through scientific research. And the beauty is that you build on it.

If we take covid, for example, it is not like someone invented the vaccine in a week; It has been built on many years of applied research and development of new technologies. And this is how humans are able to create a vaccine, or cure cancer, or discover the universe. It is knowledge that has been built over years, from mistakes, from attempts.

Science is a beautiful story of human endeavor, which does not always have a clear purpose. Sometimes we go in circles and eventually we make new discoveries.

There is the most obvious research, such as the discovery of penicillin or immunotherapy to treat cancer, but there are also many that have evolved over the years; discoveries that at the time perhaps we did not know their effect. If you look at the GPS, for example, behind it are many Nobel laureates. Inside the microscope there are also several Nobel.

It is a beautiful story of humanity to see how we have built on different discoveries.

And the economic impact?

What we see is that science is good for our well-being. If we look at the relationship between countries and their investment in science as a percentage of their GDP, we can see how it benefits society in economic terms. It’s probably not the main purpose of science, but it’s certainly an interesting aspect.

And for emerging countries?

Pursuing science is important for a society to discover new things, learn, increase its knowledge. And in the long term to tackle big problems, offer key insights for decision makers. If we want to have healthier societies in terms of well-being, in terms of human development, that investment in science and education is very, very important.

What will it take for these countries to win their Nobel?

In the long run, the key is to invest in a good education from early school through higher education, so that young people are interested in science careers. But it also requires getting decision makers to invest in science. But if you ask the winners, they will never say: oh, I did research to get a Nobel. That was not his main motivating force; It makes you scientific because you are interested in a topic, you are curious about something, a problem that you want to solve, and you are passionate about that.

What would you say to a young person interested in doing science?

Do not stop asking questions, follow your curiosity and find a good teacher; that stimulates your curiosity and does not put up barriers but opens your mind. You have a wonderful and exciting life ahead of you if you decide to pursue research.

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“Science is a beautiful story of human effort, sometimes without a clear purpose”