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Government-funded universities in Venezuela are witnessing a flight of scientists and professors, leaving them unable to fill posts, according to recent reports.

At Simón Bolívar University, around 240 professors have quit over the past five years — an unusually high number, says Rafael Álvarez, a representative of the university’s Association of Professors.

The Central University of Venezuela has lost around 700 faculty members between 2011 and 2012, according to its Association of Professors.

About 400 of those who left were considered to be the next generation of professors and researchers, says Víctor Márquez, president of the Association of Professors of the Central University of Venezuela.

The University of Zulia has 1,577 unfilled professor posts, according to reports given in late 2013 by the administrative vice-chancellor Maria Nuñez.

Neighbouring Brazil has 1.33 researchers for every 1,000 inhabitants, according to a 2010 UN report. According to an article in Nature on 11 June, the equivalent ratio in Venezuela is 0.4.

“Much of Venezuela’s technology and scientific capacity, built up over half a century, has been lost in the past decade,” writes Claudio Bifano, president of the Venezuelan Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, in that Nature report. “We need to restore respect and funding to basic research to halt the brain drain and reverse this catastrophic trend.”

De la Vega says the brain drain is due to high crime rates, a lack offunding for universities and low salaries.

“In 1995, a Venezuelan researcher earned US$800 a month. Today, he earns US$433, taking into account the cumulative inflation the country has suffered.”

Why are scientists leaving their jobs at prestigious universities? Read the complete story on www.scidev.net
 
   
 
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