2015, Productos

Colciencias: an institution that learned, unlearned and still struggles to consolidate itself


From time to time it is wise to ask where government institutions come from and where they are headed. In the end, they are the ones that reflect the history of nations, the interest of different social groups, and become a space where tensions belonging to arrangements that may benefit or be detrimental to citizens are experienced.
The institutional evolution of Colciencias does not escape this logic. From its creation in 1968 until today, it has been an institution that has learned, forgotten some important lessons, and is still trying to consolidate itself. But, where did the idea that the Colombian Government needed an institution to guide and manage the matters related to science, technology and innovation (STI) come from? Institutions do not just come out of nowhere. Nor do they materialize in empty space. They are the product of many actors, history and the context of each country.

For Colciencias, most of the analyses agree that its origins are closely linked to the socialization of ideas regarding planning and coordination of a scientific and technological policy, which was encouraged by international organizations like the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); or the Organization of American States (OAS). This was a typical phenomenon in all of Latin America. When looking back into history, we can see that between 1965 and 1970 institutions of a similar nature were created in countries like Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. The coincidental appearance and similarity in the type of structure of these institutions has led some authors to speak of a «similarity» or an «institutional isomorphism».