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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The impact of university law: Peru is the second country in Latin America with the highest growth in scientific production

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In mid-December 2021, the Congressional Education Commission approved two opinions that violate the university reform led by the National Superintendency of Higher University Education (Sunedu). The first one grants a second chance to the universities that had been denied licensing. This opinion, which was approved with eight votes in favor, of the banks of Peru Libre, Fuerza Popular and Renovación Popular; proposes to give them a period of two years to remedy their deficiencies and offer their services again. The second is intended to modify the composition of the Sunedu Board of Directors.

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Hours later, 16 public and private universities, which were licensed, issued a statement in which they opposed the initiatives approved by Congress. University law 30220 published in July 2014 has aimed to promote the continuous improvement of the educational quality of universities and to regulate their creation, operation, supervision and closure.

Thanks to this, important changes have been generated in areas such as research. The university law put it as a fundamental pillar. Every university must have a vice-rector for research or a similar area. “All the universities that were not graduated, had problems with research”, says Percy Mayta Tristán, Director of Research at the Southern Scientific University. These institutions did not publish, did not have researchers, did not have projects or did not have an adequate structure.

Currently, the impact of the law is evident, the country went from having only three universities that published more than 100 articles in Scopus, the largest database on science Y technology in which there is access to bibliographic references of more than 14 thousand scientific publications, in 2014, to 24 universities in 2021, according to figures from Scopus and Scimago collected and analyzed by Mayta Tristán, who has been for more than ten years doing research the topic. Even the figures for 2021 could increase if it is considered that institutions can continue adding publications from that year until April 2022.

Scopus and Web of Science are the most important databases of scientific articles, among other points, because they can measure impact and have quality entry criteria. Scopus gained visibility in Latin America thanks to the creation of the Scimago Ranking.

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If we compare the percentage of growth that the Latin American countries had in 2014 and 2020 in their production at Scopus, Peru is the second with the highest growth (244%), only surpassed by Ecuador (460%), which has also undergone a reform major college. From 2010 to 2020, the country has climbed eight positions in the Scimago Ranking, which measures the production of countries in Scopus and which can only be entered if more than 100 publications have been made in this database.

When this ranking appeared, only three Peruvian universities were considered in it. “It was hard to convince the universities that the presence in rankings is based on research, either as an entry criterion (as in the case of Scimago) or as part of the same evaluation “, says Mayta Tristán, who emphasizes that this idea was reinforced with the university law.

The law allows universities to allocate budget to the research. “Regardless of the type of university (corporate, associative or public) one of the most important issues was the budget”, mentions Mayta Tristán. Given that the function of the university is oriented more towards training, almost everything went to the academic part. However, this situation has been changing, because research is a requirement that Sunedu places and it is not possible to take away the budget.

As a result, production has increased considerably. The growth of the peruvian research it is linked to universities. Together, they went from 63% between 2013 and 2014 to 83% between 2020 and 2021. Public companies went from 29% to 35%, while corporate companies went from 2.5% to 26%. “They have multiplied by 10 their national production”, highlights Mayta Tristan.

Qualified investigators

Another point that has helped to improve the production and quality of university research is the creation of National Registry of Science and Technology Researchers (REGINA), in 2015, which brings together “qualified researchers according to the standards established in the Regulation approved by Resolution 184-2015- CONCYTEC-P”. As Mayta Tristán explains, this registry gives the possibility of identifying who is a researcher and who is not. “It is a filter. Before, many people said they were researchers, even though they had never published and taught research at the university “, he points out.

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University law also establishes the researcher bonus. Those professors who are part of REGINA have a bond in public university. “That improved the salaries of researchers and, in a good sense of the word, created a market: universities began to fight over researchers”, says Mayta Tristán. All this translates into the quality of the work of both teachers and students.

As emphasized by the investigator it is important that students have the ability to investigate and have teachers who can teach them to do so. In this way they will be able to carry out quality baccalaureate thesis.

“Many of those who oppose the law are those who do not produce”, warns Mayta Tristán. If the law is broken, they will no longer be required, for example, to have a master’s or doctorate, or to be in REGINA. The bonuses that researchers from public universities receive can reach up to 2,500 soles per month.

Long term impact

The Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos has tripled its scientific production in Scopus: it went from 236 in 2014 to 788 so far in 2021. It is the leader in national production. However, it is important to consider that in research the results they are always long term. “This is a job of the previous administration, the results of the management that the current administration will have will only be seen in two or three years,” emphasizes Mayta Tristán.

To have scientific production you must invest in researchers, laboratories, projects. Once these tools are in place, the time from project completion to publication is two to three years. And it will be evaluated two or three years later. There are no immediate results.

For this reason, the impact that university law has had is only becoming clearer at this time. “The results of any modification that damages the law will not be seen now, but it will take two or three years to see the impact of those decisions”, warns Mayta Tristán.

As he explains, despite the mismanagements that can be made, the growth of scientific production will continue in the immediate time. However, in a couple of years it will be possible to see how the changes to the law hurt.

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