A few days ago, Conicyt (our National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research) wisely called for a science at service of the country. It is important to have in mind that science, like any other human activity, stems its forms and facets from the social context in which it is inserted.
The neoliberal model, which seems to have reached an unviable stage in Chile, has exerted enormous influence on our current perspective of what is high quality science. Morevoer, this model has impacted the way we think our academic careers, how we relate to other researchers and to the institutions that house us. All these aspects are strongly shaped by this “spirit of the time” (i.e., Zeitgeist).
Today we live an individualistic science. Focused on products rather than processes, on concrete -applied- results rather than on the generation of knowledge. Indeed, today researchers are classified according to the number of articles published, the impact of those manuscripts, the number of grants, licenses registered, etc., evaluated through refined and severe metrics. This has led to a very competitive and solipsistic activity that has silently eliminated the most valuable contents of the researchers’ trade: scientific curiosity, yearning for knowledge, and disinterested collaboration. Along the way, basic and social sciences, philosophy and the pursuit of knowledge as a human virtue have been devalued.
Chilean science is far from a mature stage, as it fades when compared to the experience and development of other countries. Today there is an opportunity to rethink and restructure our Academia from its basic principles. This process must lead us to reflect about collaboration, mutual respect, collective development, and the valuation of a wider and more heterogeneous spectrum of sciences. The excessive culture of “what is it for” has taken us too far from our human need to wonder “why”.
We have wanted to transmit this idea in our PhD in Developmental Sciences and Psychopathology, which navigates the same waters of our national context. However, since the very creation of the program, our academic and research efforts have focused on building a collaborative environment, focused on the integration of diverse voices and the creation of substantial knowledge based on the interaction of diverse research lines. Our proposal to use a frame of reference (i.e. the interpersonal mind) as a pretext to elaborate stimulating questions for a broad spectrum of researchers becomes more meaningful and relevant in the light of the present events. Although at times we are indistinguishable from the scientific culture that frames us, we have the true intention of promoting the seek of knowledge with a purpose, focused on projects that promote social value and theoretical relevance.
As researchers of human behavior across the lifespan, aware of the interpersonal character of the human mind, we are called to continue this path and improve it. In the coming months we must deepen our awareness of the social role that our research programs have. We should not neglect the responsibility of expanding our scientific knowledge, seeking mechanisms and methods to establish bonds with the community and strengthen our contribution to the national environment in its broad spectrum. The possibilities are multiple, and the limitations are restricted to the strength of our creativity and propositivity.
Dear colleagues and doctoral students, I invite you to think about the future of our program in the light of our trajectory and rise to the challenges that the current times demand of us.