Lessons on the human resources training policy for research done in Colombia

Training human resources with the ability to carry out research is a basic component of any science, technology and innovation (STI) policy, especially in developing countries like Colombia. Human resources are considered as input that nurtures knowledge systems. This topic has been on Colciencias agenda since its beginning and encouraging the topic has become so important that in recent years more than 50% of the institutional budget has been used to finance activities of this sort.
A recurring idea over the last 45 years is that Colombia does not have enough scientists and engineers, and the country’s objective is to strengthen the scientific and technological abilities in specific areas. The numbers confirm this idea. According to the report of the Network for Science and Technology Indicators- Ibero-American and Inter-American (Ricyt in Spanish), in 2011 Colombia did not even have one full-time researcher (0.37) for every thousand people of the economically active population, while Portugal had 9.10; Spain 5.64; Argentina 2.98; Uruguay 1.05 and Mexico 0.9. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2011 this same statistic was 9.96 for Japan; 8.08 for the United States; 8.81 for France; 8.39 for Canada and 8.02 for Germany.

Upon reviewing how these kinds of programs have been structured, history shows that their design and execution has been supported by loans that the country has negotiated with international organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) or the World Bank. The different evaluations made to the programs financed between the Colombian government and the IDB from 1995 to 2004 show the importance of training Colombian doctors abroad and in the country; an aspect that is without a doubt essential for the consolidation of the Colombian scientific community. Said community is precisely the one that has the ability to design and execute research and innovation projects, the main condition to strengthen research and development in Colombia.