The “Último Jueves” (Last Thursday) from “Temas” celebrated 20 years of continuous activity with the discussion, on 24th February, around the relationship between scientific knowledge and practical politics. It was shared on Telegram and Facebook via voice message Exchange and video respectively, from the ICAIC’s Sala Polivalente “Héctor García Mesa”, 24th February 2022
Rafael Hernández: Today we have with us Jenniffer Bello, a Pedagogy graduate in the field of pedagogy-psychology. She has taught these subjects at the university and is currently working as a digital content manager at Cinesoft, a computer and audiovisual media company within the Ministry of Education (MINED). In addition to having been president of the Federación de Estudiantes de la Enseñanza Media (FEEM, Federation of Middle School Students), she has been a Representative in the National Assembly of People’s Power since 2013.
Carlos Rodríguez, Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Havana, graduated in physics-mathematics in the Soviet Union. He has been honored with the Academic of Merit Award and is Vice President of the Cuban Academy of Sciences (ACC). He has published several books on these subjects and also on the history and social impacts of science.
José Ramón Acosta Sariego, Doctor of Medicine and PhD in Philosophy. Master in Bioethics. Coordinator of the Chair for Bioethics at the University of Havana; full professor at the Victoria de Girón Institute of Basic and Preclinical Sciences, and vice president of the UNESCO Latin American and Caribbean Bioethics Network.
Reudenys Salas Hartemant, Assistant Professor and PhD in Pedagogical Sciences at the University of Guantánamo. He is a specialist in Afro-Caribbean Studies and, in addition, holds the position of First Secretary of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) in that province. It is not the first time that we have a representative of Guantánamo in a panel of Último Jueves with us. There was also the time when we discussed the Guantánamo Naval Base, although we would like to have them participate more often. It is a rare opportunity to have him join us.
Dr. Ricardo J. Machado, Sociologist, Professor with many years of experience, Doctor of Science from the Humboldt University, Berlin. He has particular experience as an adviser to the Council of Ministers. In addition, he is a contributor to the magazine Temas, and has devoted himself for a long time to the relationship between science and politics.
Rafael Hernández: I am going to ask the panel to answer in three rounds. The first question is, what are the roles of the politician and the scientist? What kind of beasts are they? How do you distinguish the politician from the official? How can we distinguish the scientist from other intellectuals? I’m inviting Jenniffer, our only female panelist, despite having invited others, sitting at the far end of the table to speak. Please go ahead.
Jenniffer Bello: There is a very important element: the relationship between politics and science to be able to define these roles. There are many definitions about how these are seen among politicians and scientists, but it is necessary to contextualize the way in which the roles are established or perceived, because a certain economic-social formation or the prevailing political system will always put a particular stamp on how the role of the politician and that of the scientist are perceived, therefore the answer must be examined within the context of Cuba.
In our country, the serving politician must represent the opinions, interests, and concerns of the population with a high degree of responsibility, sensitivity, and scientific-cultural preparation to analyze comprehensively the problems faced and thus be able to develop, channel, direct and implement public policies to provide solutions and promote real participation in decision-making. This may be the ideal or, at least, what we have wanted to support, and we have sufficient evidence to prove it.
In relation to scientists, they fulfil a very important social role by generating new knowledge with the purpose of solving problems that impact political, economic and social life, hence their high level of commitment to applying scientific knowledge, technology and innovation in service of the full and integral development of society. It is increasingly essential to understand that knowledge, science, technology and innovation are decisive for the economic-social, educational and cultural development of the country, mainly for the exercise and art of politics.
As for distinguishing the politician from the public official, if we view it in our context, sometimes these roles are blurred. It could be that a public official is also a politician, or that the latter sometimes performs certain roles of the former. In a general sense, the politician possesses, or should possess, a wide range of skills such as good communication, leadership, empathy, resilience, self-management, reconciliation, negotiation, and being empathic-resilient.
Furthermore, the official must contribute experiences derived from their knowledge of management and public administration, from their professional technical skills, but also from institutional knowledge. For this reason, it is necessary to guarantee that the professionals who occupy these roles are trained in them, a situation that sometimes becomes difficult when there are no appropriate managerial models for the exercise and performance of their functions.
In the current scenario that is underway, and in the very transformations in the ways of government, management and administration are carried out in the country, it would be very valuable to establish clear boundaries or define the roles that the politician and the official have, because it sometimes seems to be difficult to tell them apart.
And with regard to telling the scientist apart from other intellectuals, we have the vision, the perspective, of social scientists, and of many intellectuals who also talk about matters of science.
There are three elements that distinguish the intellectual in their broadest sense, intellect, critical analysis and their discourse fitting for that activity, also expressed in that sphere of society, which as a result actively takes the intellectual into the public sphere, cements their political status and, through the discourse, conveys their commitment and critical ability. In this sense, the scientist, and in particular the Cuban social scientist, consistent with their function in society, uses the scientific approach to interpret reality and its future movements. Their knowledge allows them to predict, which needs to be in perfect harmony with those who exercise political power, which contributes appropriately to decision-making, and said method also allows them to assist in drafting policy.
I close this question with by quoting Pablo Freire, now that we are touching on the transformation of society from popular education: “the intellectual scientist has a political-pedagogical responsibility in which they establish a relationship with the masses, because it is them, and not the scientist, who needs to be the protagonist in society”.
Carlos Rodríguez: I am not going to present a conceptualization of the subject, I have to base myself on my experiences and, in my opinion, politics and the activity of politicians have to do, above all, with getting into power, maintaining it and exercising it, in order to transform society and its institutions to achieve particular ends.
The key role of the scientist is to generate new knowledge, based on verifiable evidence, and to apply it for supposed human progress.
Each activity has principles or areas, methods, rules of the game, timescales, and various problems. What we are talking about here is politicians and scientists, especially when they come together and begin to collaborate. Throughout history there have been many cases, even from ancient times, of politicians who surrounded themselves with scientists or intellectuals, as well as artists, writers, etc., not only for patronage purposes but also to use their knowledge according to their needs and political objectives.
For their part, the scientific community seeks the necessary support of politicians, resources for their work, recognition to interact with other sectors of society, although there are scientists who do not want to know anything about politics, there is a growing number, not only in our country, but across the world, something I am going to mention later, of scientists who understand that one of the fundamental missions of science is to help make sure decisions, policy formulation and actions undertaken in society, are based on the best knowledge, on evidence, and not on beliefs, much less on myths, pseudoscience, disinformation, etc., that is, on the part of scientists, a very strong and very important motivation.
The difference between the scientist and the intellectual depends a lot on who each one is, but I know of some examples in history in which scientists are closer to technocracy and more involved with studying a problem, making a diagnosis, coming up with an explanation, or making recommendations. However, when it is necessary to capture a bit of society’s spirit and soul, artists and writers do that. For example, when fascism surged in Europe, how did scientists react, with some exceptions, and how did artists respond, also with some exceptions.
As for officials and politicians, I tend to see the politician as the decision maker, with the boss who makes the decisions, and the official as generally having a more auxiliary role, more supportive, although they also make their own decisions. In the relationship between politicians and scientists, the official usually stays in the middle, sometimes facilitating and other times hindering that relationship.
Perhaps I should add that scientists tend to be more cosmopolitan, and that politicians have more roots in their place of origin. This is a general idea that can be controversial because, in addition, random cases can occur, but many scientists have studied abroad, have spent long periods of study in other places and that, sometimes, makes them have a slightly more universal vision.
José Ramón Acosta: I agree with almost everything Carlos said, in nearly all the areas he mentioned relating to this first question, because for me politics is related to power, with obtaining and managing power, while science manages and is related to the acquisition of new knowledge and its practical application, on the basis of a method that allows us to monitor, and establish —as Carlos rightly said—, verifiable evidence, in other words, to validate the evidence as knowledge.
It may seem that they are different areas, but throughout history, and since long before modernity, the notion of science and scientists, the management of political leaders was based on the knowledge and advances of their time. To the extent that the knowledge, the new technologies expanded, so too did productivity, power even measured according to the tools that were available, political management ever since ancient times has used what was available. If we analyze several examples in history, this is sufficiently clear long before science and scientists were talked about, that is, that political management has always been based in some way on knowledge, and in more modern times on science, and obviously, scientists have required the support, the backing, of the political classes at the different levels in which they have developed to see through to fruition their ideas and their proposals. For example, Leonardo never persuaded Ludovic the Moor to apply his inventions. What interested the latter out of all that he was presented was the bronze casting system to make the equestrian statue of one of his ancestors, to highlight the power of his family, and nothing else that he was presented with, however interesting, did not satisfy him, did not attract his attention. This example from the Renaissance is illustrative of how the scientist needs the support of politicians.
As for the difference between the official and the politician, in my opinion, the latter is at the level of strategic decisions, in the design and implementation of measures that involve policies, whether they affect the public or the private spheres, while the official is at the level of fulfilment and implementation. A politician may be an official, but not necessarily vice versa. The same happens with the scientist and the intellectual, not all scientists are intellectuals, there are artisans of science, there are some very good ones, and of technology, and yet there are scientists who are first-rate intellectuals because they integrate into their work the best spirit of their time, the summary of the culture of the moment in which they live.
Reudenys Salas: Today is an important day. We are talking about the politician and the scientist, and if we are talking about politics, we have to remember that February 24 for Cuba is a significant and very important date for the nation’s own destiny.
I believe that I embody the essence of both the politician and the scientist, based on the tasks that I take on as the First Secretary of the UJC (Union de Jovenes Comunistas – Communist Youth Union) in Guantánamo and, furthermore, as a man of science who is dedicated to investigating and producing new knowledge in pursuit of the very transformation of society.
Each one of the responses, of the opinions that have been put forward, is very interesting, because there are some common threads, which ultimately are the essence to be able to find the most appropriate response to identifying the essential roles that distinguish the politician from the scientist.
From the perspective of science itself, the fundamental role of the politician is to ensure the general interest of citizens and remain within a professional ethic of service to the people, and I agree with Jenniffer, it needs to be seen in context, because we are not talking about the same politician in socialist Cuba, with a totally different economic background, as a politician in the capitalist world. Therefore, it is very complex, that constitutes an essential element when it comes to being able to identify or be able to determine the essential role of the politician, which from the Cuban perspective has to remain within that professional ethic of service to the people and not to themselves, which also, ultimately, constitutes one of the contributions of the Cuban process itself given the legal system, which considers the politician as a representative of the people in terms of managing and administering resources, and as a formally recognized and active member of a government that generates influences on the way in which society is governed. There is an element which is up there with the essence of the role of the scientist, and that has to do with the influence on how society is managed, is governed through knowledge based on social dynamics in the exercise of power. Therefore, when we look at the essence of what we consider the fundamental role of a politician, we find it in their behavior, in that professional ethic of service to the people, based on the knowledge derived from the social dynamics in the exercise of power.
I agree with an observation that an eminent Cuban scientist who, moreover, has also dedicated himself to the study of the social problems of science, addressed in one of his most recent texts: Jorge Núñez Jover, explains in Science and Technology in Social Processes what may result from non-scientific education. He claims that the political and military powers, business management, and the mass media, among others, rest on scientific and technological pillars, which tells us that obviously you cannot divorce the point of view generated by the politician from science and the activities of the scientist. For that reason, I consider that the essential role of every scientist responds to the transformation of that society from a perspective of knowledge of an eminently humanistic essence given its class character, which is sustained in the social vision that it assumes based on its specific goals.
This allows us to interpret science as a social process, that is, as a complex undertaking in which cultural, political and economic values help to configure that process which, in turn, affects the values themselves and the society that it supports.
I listened attentively to the opinions of my colleagues on the differences between the politician and the official. From my point of view, every politician is an official, and it seems to me that the difference lies precisely in the levels of decision that he can adopt, because ultimately every politician, as a State official, responds precisely to certain interests, and in my opinion the difference is at that decision-making level when taking on any role.
I quoted Núñez Jover because, basing himself on the difference between scientists and intellectuals, his book also gives us the possibility of understanding the very differences that exist between the scientist and the intellectual. In this sense, I consider that every scientist is an intellectual, but we have to take into account that the laws of knowledge also tell us that there is scientific and non-scientific knowledge. That scientific knowledge, validated on the basis of the reasoning to understand that it is governed by objectivity and has attributes of knowledge, is what they use to be able to produce a specific outcome that transforms a concrete problem beyond that spirituality mentioned by one of the panelists, and it is that the scientist as an intellectual needs a certain categorical framework to be able to consider variants and variables that allow them to specify research tools in order to obtain an outcome, a new conclusion, which is specific and objective, regardless of the science that is applied; while other intellectuals, and I assume that by this we are referring to those performers, artists, writers, in short, to everyone who moves in the sphere of art, face reality from that creative, subjective, spiritual approach, reflecting and recreating through their work a specific outcome, shaped by that subjective world in which they live. I could define that as non-scientific knowledge, and it is what is going to differentiate the scientist as an intellectual. It is the perceptions based on what is sought, examining the roles of the scientist, of the politician, which is what marks them apart, and distinguishes them from other intellectuals.
Ricardo J. Machado: Thank you to Rafael for the invitation, for a special reason. It is precisely on this issue that I have been working for some time, with some partial results. I do not consider myself an expert, but someone who has been researching what has been written on this subject. There is an extensive bibliography in recent years. I have used classics that everyone knows, The Politician and The Scientist, by Weber, which everyone quotes, and more recent sources on science and government.
The other source has been my experiences of more than ten years as an advisor to the Council of Ministers. There I had the opportunity to interact with members of the sixteen departments of the Central Committee at that time. I had hundreds of conversations with officials. I found that they were very educated people, very careful with expressing personal opinions, sparing with words, that was my perception.
There are two trends in the literature on science and government. The one that talks about politics and science in relation to the issues, let’s say, of the state budgets for science, of the policy for doctorates, of the way in which, for example, the study of basic sciences, the biology, technology, etc., are managed.
One trend refers to the specific problems of science management linked to the grounding of government decisions.
The second line of research, the one that most interests us, is the one that sets out the rules about the operational functioning of government, and here a question arises: can we teach people to govern well? Weber said that, as there are processes of professionalization in politics, it is necessary to start training politicians professionally, not in a haphazard way, as in the past. Each country has a model for training politicians.
Officials are generally linked to operational issues. Weber says, in his description of officials, that they are people who do not in the main have personal convictions, they are the convictions of the party; while the politician, although they share the party’s convictions, has greater independence. The politician is more oriented to the future, and the civil servant to the present; the politician is more oriented to action and the official to the mission, to what has to be done.
Using another image, the politician is forward-looking, occasionally checking the rearview mirror. The official spends more time focused on the rearview mirror. I want to comment on the question: what is the area of control that needs to exist? In the Cuban case, the State, with too wide a sphere of control, as typically happens with historical, vertical, centralized socialism, sometimes causes a series of chaotic events, because so many things cannot be controlled. At the other extreme, the prevailing neoliberalism in the world today produces chaotic effects similar to excess control. There is a management maxim that states: «the more one exerts control, the less control one has.»
To clarify the difference between the politician and the scientist, let me offer an example. When the pandemic emerged here in March 2020, the president had the foresight to get ahead of himself and know that we did not have the financial resources to buy vaccines. He expressed the problem to the scientific community and outlined it clearly. The scientists in this case formulated the problem in scientific terms and worked out the practical implementation that led to a response to the problems. The politician has to be able to sniff things out. Fidel spoke about this thirty years ago saying that a lot of intuition is required to anticipate the future.
The differences are in the characteristics of the work process of intellectuals, officials and politicians. The politician’s work process consists of appealing to the nation, making a speech in front of a million people, and also guiding and training the operational officials. The government official has a work process that is implementation, practical, concrete actions; although sometimes there is a departure from the politician’s intention, as the politician’s way of working is not always aligned with the official’s practical task.
It has been pointed out, for example, about the functioning of the political bodies of our Parliament, that meet very few times a year, with very little time to analyze thirty, forty or fifty problems in two weeks. It would be worth studying the functioning of our Parliament, as an important body that reflects the opinions of elected representatives
Rafael Hernández: Thank you very much. In a certain way you have begun to answer my second question. However, before expressing it below, I want you to include two sub-questions in it: When a politician refers to «collaboration with science», is he thinking of natural or of social science?, and does the politician always believe that natural science can contribute in the same way as the so-called social sciences, the science of government, the science of society, social relations, «the spirit and soul of the nation,» which is what the sociologist supposedly studies, not just the artist and the writer?
The other sub-question: you, the scientists who are on the panel, who have probably held positions of responsibility in an institution, and from that point of view have functioned as politicians or as officials within it; and the panelists who carry out political activities, and have an academic training and focus in their work; how have you experienced carrying out both roles at the same time? Are they inseparable? Here we are in an analytical discussion, and as in any analysis, it is about separating functions and roles, which was the focus of the first question.
And if you could be precise: when you think of a politician are you thinking of a member of the National Assembly or a leader of the UJC? At the precise moment when you say “the politician”, are you thinking of someone who was elected, who has a representative function, whose role is defined by that function and not by occupying a position within a structure? To what extent is that the case?
My second question to the panel: What would a politician have to learn to be able to really make use of scientific knowledge in all its forms? What do politicians still need to learn? What are the questions that a politician usually has, not the ideal type of politician —as Weber would say—, but the real, common one? What are the shortcomings of the real, run-of-the-mill politicians in taking advantage of the different modalities of scientific knowledge in line with the development and activity of the politician, and of everything that the politician has to deal with? And on the contrary, to what extent does the scientist need to understand what the politician has to deal with? And why is it important that he understands them, in terms of it being essential for the function of both the scientist and the politician? If you could please think of something important that many scientists do not understand about what the politician’s role.
Jenniffer Bello: In line with your question, I think this is becoming more complex and has become a mega-question with I don’t know how many aspects. These questions are expressed or mediated by a fundamental relationship between power and knowledge, in other words, how power is assumed, how it is exercised, and the know-how in producing or constructing that knowledge and, on the other hand, the production and outcomes of knowledge in the exercise of power itself, and according to many interpretations it triggers, we could say there are two aspects interrelating, a relationship between the politician and the scientist, politics and science, which are very complex, very controversial in the ways in which they are undertaken.
And in that learning that each one must have, learning from the problems that emerge, from the perspective of the relationship or a vision of the ethical standing of the politician, we need to understand and become aware that in order to really exercise their functions that are incumbent on them by virtue of their role in society, they need to be familiar with the most advanced aspects of science, technology and innovation, because they have been granted their role, and when Rafael asked what types of politicians came to mind, I thought of all the manifestations that these may have, be it the president of a People’s Council, or in the Municipal or National Assembly, or at the level of the entire Cuban State or government apparatus such as the secretary of the Party or the governor of a province, although there is an apparatus of structures, of officials under their leadership, but they are also politicians in the way in which they administer and manage their assigned functions. In addition, I am speaking of the elected representatives, of course, and of the delegates in the municipalities, who may be elected directly or indirectly; that is, the role of the politician is granted and attributed to these functions.
In that ethical relationship that needs to exist, and the politicians’ awareness of their need for science to be able to exercise their functions, perhaps there are more examples in our society of how we could see technical, natural, exact and basic sciences for decision making. An example of this was what happened with the impact of the pandemic.
However, the social sciences are unfamiliar or a pending subject for many, but they are being taken up significantly, or there is clarity, awareness that they are needed, because they study or explore, or investigate, or study the exercise of politics, and sometimes it can be in that relationship and in those difficult issues that the politician also has the responsibility to balance or stabilize the policy. If a social scientist, from his research, now comes along and says that we have to change politics, sitting in my comfort zone I have a hard time understanding that I have to take a leap towards change, that’s why I said that it is mediated by an ethical relationship. I have to be aware that what he is telling me has to allow me to channel and assume public policies, and these are concepts that are being internalized now and are becoming more visible to everyone.
However, making use of what we have already learned, there is now a National Innovation Council, there is a State structure accountable to government to advise Cuban politicians, those who have to make decisions or direct the implementation of public policies. This exists at a national level, but I believe that it must also cascade down to other structures, that is, so that others can better carry out their functions supported by science —experts, the Party secretary and the governor of a municipality or province, respectively, or the president of the Municipal Assembly, and not just from the point of view of empirical evidence or to carry out a particular task, but rather to ensure that the science supports any particular decision.
Let’s imagine a president, a People’s Council that identifies who the people in their district are, the experts, the scientists, the educators, the intellectuals, whether or not they work there, but those who live there, and who are constituted as the advisory group so that the president of the People’s Council, which should have more power, can then exercise their functions.
And in this learning process, politicians need to learn from scientists, especially the scientific methods in order to be able to interpret their reality —which is so difficult, hard, complex, elusive—, which is being transformed, and the only way to do that is by applying a scientific method. Therefore, our politicians as part of their training, whether they are professionally specialized or not, have to assume scientific methods in order to exercise in politics. Scientists can learn from politicians an understanding of the important role they have, that is, they also understand that comfort zone that is sometimes difficult to break out of, so that when they present the results of their research, they can be the clearest and most effective possible, and so that they also take on and understand that they need to modify attitudes and behaviors when applying them.
Carlos Rodríguez: The relationship between scientists and politicians is complex, generally conflictive on some issues more than others, obviously more so in the field of the social sciences than in the natural or technical sciences, etc. Jenniffer touched on some of the reasons for that. Let’s put it this way, I have never seen a politician who thinks he knows physics. He asks the specialists and accepts as accurate what the physicists tell him. However, it is not like that when it comes to economics. It is not the same, it’s complicated. What a physicist can state may have a degree of accuracy because they use simpler, more controlled systems than those of an economist.
There are politicians who have a high cultural level, a tremendous thirst for knowledge. In my experience, I have seen dozens if not hundreds of politicians and officials pass through University laboratories, and I could count perhaps with the fingers of one hand those who were truly interested, and not because they were scientists, but because they really wanted to know and understand to be able to communicate later. For example, Fidel spent two hours in the Faculty of Physics asking questions about superconductivity. He was not going to dedicate himself to this area nor tell us what we had to do. What he did was support and take an interest in what it did, etc., and there are other similar examples.
Scientists also need to know a little about how politics work, how consensus is built, how decisions are made. They must know that they are called upon as experts to contribute scientific knowledge, not opinions; it is about drawing the line between where constituted science ends and where more or less expert opinions begin. It is necessary to know how to communicate science clearly to non-scientists, without distortions and concessions that distort it. A good diagnosis and an explanation of a phenomenon is a great scientific result, but politicians need, above all, solutions, and generally urgent ones, which is why they demand rapid suggestions.
Whenever possible, several different possible actions should be offered, not attached to a single alternative. It is the politicians who make the decisions, which are usually based on a combination of different kinds of elements, not all of them scientific. Nor is it up to scientists to explain or implement decisions, that is the task of other people. In many circumstances, scientists are likely to be under pressure to provide the scientific foundation for already decided policy options or preconceived ideas; they need to know how to resist or avoid such pressures, or withdraw.
For their part, politicians need to be aware of how science works, especially remembering that scientists study idealized or simplified systems, not reality in all its complexity on which the politician has to act.
Scientists need time to study each problem. One can draw on what is already constituted science, on what has already been done, but studying a new problem takes time. For them, a good diagnosis and the explanation of a phenomenon is the starting point in the search for solutions. Without that understanding there can be no solution, there is no application. They also have personal passions, opinions and interests, which they sometimes mix with strictly scientific information, and they often exaggerate the value of their results.
You have to create trust, respect the independence of personal opinion without reprisals for those who say what they do not like. Study to understand. Everyone remembers Che, how he organized the study of mathematics, physics, and computing, in the Ministry of Industry. Fidel, in the middle of the sugar harvest of 1970, sometimes went to cut cane with Chomy and later they studied mathematics together, because he knew that he had to study, he had to know.
The roles we are looking at here need to grasp that understanding each other takes time, and offers an opportunity for dialogue, and that without ethical behavior a good relationship is not possible.
José Ramón Acosta: The sub-question is very important. It caught my attention because a large number of our politicians and officials still operate within the limits of the classic epistemological paradigm, where there are hard and soft sciences, and the answers fall into an explanation of what has already happened, rather than making an important contribution to the design and implementation of policies.
The recent law that modifies and updates the entire science, technology and innovation system is a broad framework that was later translated into several Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA for its Cuban initials) resolutions, and the resolution that restructures the scientific categorization system —despite the fact that the country’s government is insisting on the need for the social sciences to have a more active role in the design and implementation of policies – eliminates the “social problem in science and technology” requirement for obtaining a scientific category until the highest level; and despite the fact that the Decree-Law has a section where it admits or gives the possibility of creating independent commissions to evaluate projects, in that resolution that establishes the project evaluation process, the research ethics committees are not included.
And within the points that Carlos pointed out, the question of the timings of the sciences seems very important to me, which do not necessarily have to be the same as the timings in politics. I had the opportunity to be part of the research ethics committee that controlled the Phase III clinical trials of the Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus vaccine candidates, and the intervention studies with Abdala in Havana, and this experience —I have been president of an ethics and research committee—, the Decree-Law and the resolutions of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment affect me directly, because the researchers of my faculty are saying: “The research ethics committee no longer has a reason to exist”, despite there being four resolutions from the Minister of Public Health that require that all research projects be evaluated by an ethics committee, because since it does not appear in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment resolution, it is seen as not necessary. It’s a hot debate.
As citizens we are very focused on the need for the aforementioned research to produce the results that they eventually yielded. However, —as Carlos said— any investigation takes time; the political decision makers were scrupulous in granting us the time it required, and of course we did everything on our part to work as fast as possible without stepping over anything. This clinical trial project was not endorsed until it complied with sixteen mandatory indicators, that is, despite the fact that the vaccines were needed, the entire process was scrupulously monitored. You have to see the Latinoamericano stadium full, you have to see all the schools functioning, to know that we were on track. The other question is in relation to the timings.
Rafael Hernández: We’re going to leave that for the third question.
Reudenys Salas: Regarding the sub-question that Rafael asked about, whether the representatives of the UJC can be considered politicians, I think so, because they respond to policies and they generate them. In one way or another they are validated by different organizations or institutions; therefore, they are also representatives of the people. In fact, the UJC is part of the Cuban political system; consequently, all its representatives engage in politics and consider themselves politicians.
I share the opinion regarding the relationship between power and knowledge: it is definitely necessary. There was talk of the need for collaboration between politicians and scientists for decision-making and that transformation of society. Although politics and ethics are not synonymous, even though they could even be in conflict with each other, ethics has to mediate in the power-knowledge relationship. In my view, it is a cardinal principle and, moreover, because of the necessary relationship of coordination-subordination that has to be established between politics and knowledge itself.
In order to determine the variables that could help us to understand or make the knowledge-power relationship clear, I ask myself, what is the necessary knowledge that this politician needs from the point of view of science to be able to carry out his work and have better results? What is that part of science that systematizes in order to implement these ideas or put them into practice, and which we can use to empower ourselves?
Something that has been very novel in Cuba and that has been giving results in recent times is the government system based on science, technology and innovation, from the President of the Republic, that is, the power-knowledge, politics-science relationship, emerging from the very structure that is established within that government system; but, furthermore, it’s no accident that in the case of Cuba, one of the pillars on which government stands is precisely the three columns, based on the results themselves, and I invite you to recognize the scientific theory of Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is a PhD in Science, because he illustrates all this with the concrete example of COVID-19: how Cuba was able, in 2020, 2021, to deal powerfully with the pandemic by applying that system.
The politician in these conditions needs to analyze the phenomena always attending to the contexts, especially for decision making. According to Feuerbach’s Theorem, it is necessary to know the context in order to transform it, and the politician needs to analyze a phenomenon just as the scientist does, and to be able to determine what might or might not be the external variables or those that might or might not influence directly on the specific result.
I share what was said about scientists before. They need that essential element that the politician has, which contributes to decision-making, especially in terms of broadening the application of scientific results, because the scientist puts the concrete result in the hands of the politician, but in the end the responsibility for decision-making is in the hands of the politician. We must continue working to be able to obtain concrete results and to be able to strengthen that power-knowledge relationship.
Ricardo J. Machado: I am going to change the order of my comments and begin with an observation that you made, which I interpreted in terms of the role that the social sciences play as opposed to the hard sciences in terms of the sustainability of the political system; this issue is decisive today, I associate it with the concept of development.
The concept of development is essential for positioning a society’s sustainability. A group of European universities long ago created a university course called «Technology, Economy and Social Development», articulating the technological variables. These technological variables by themselves cannot produce development, or applied just to the economy they cannot produce development. That only happens when they are linked to the social sciences, which are the ones that have to do with what goes on inside people, with the intangible, with feelings, with motivations. If we take, for example, motivations, these are linked to some of the failures in the functioning of our economy, since motivation is what fuels the human brain, and depends on a balance between the social interests of the State and private interests. When the interests of the State harm and divide the interests of individuals, motivation is lost. We have to work hard to make our socio-political system more sustainable.
The basic and technological sciences, for example, medicine, provide a lot of sustainability to a political system, health, education. But if there is no science that deals with the intangible, with the legitimacy of a government, with credibility, with government communication, with whether first- and second-tier politicians use inappropriate phrases, it is not possible to truly consolidate the sustainability of a political system.
The role of the social sciences, of the behavioral sciences, those that address social relations, are critical for a political system to advance, develop and stabilize.
Underestimating the importance of the social sciences is a serious mistake. When we analyze the enemy’s strategy of confrontation and the enormous barrage it is circulating internationally through social networks, through YouTube, and we analyze it, we find that they have created a system.
The struggle for the awakening and the destiny of man, of what is defined today, is a struggle that is within the human consciousness, and it can only be reached with tools that deal with emotions, with thought and with the human brain.
European universities, in Spain, for example, have been studying the control of social processes for years, since 2012. We are just starting now. It is about bringing together mathematics, computing, sociology, brain sciences. We cannot wait to be taken aback on account of not having that knowledge. They have set up the plan of attack against the Revolution on the level of consciousness. I remember every now and then a phrase from Das Kapital where Marx says: «Productivity and efficiency are within the personality of the worker.» He was 150 years ahead of the concept of intellectual capital. Marx realized that productivity is in the inner makeup of the human being, in the development of his motivation, of his values, that is the basis of productivity, of whether he wants to work. And that is true for scientists and to some extent for politicians.
The common point they all have is ethics. The ethics of the politician are not the ethics of the common man. The common man, in other words we, can handle doses of truth. Politicians are obliged to handle the truth. I have debated with politicians about whether telling the truth is more dangerous than telling a lie. Politicians have to know how to manage the truth. Fidel was a master at that. And it doesn’t just have to do with his political culture; and with the contribution of the Greeks, of philosophical thought, during the two years in the Isla de Pinos prison studying philosophy and philosophical thought, according to people who were with him at the time.
Rafael Hernández: We are already entering the final part and the post-final even. The number of interventions that we could have had was lower because some of the people who used to join us have stopped listening, because our connection has been failing.
Rafael Cruz: The politician in Cuba is the person within the people who is in charge of specialized tasks in the society’s political management, the one who manages those demands in the social distribution of work, and of course, is mandated by the people, and I also see it working the other way, as a process that is a scientific discipline. Behind the practice of political leadership there must be science, especially in a country in socialist transition with its conditions and level of development; but division, even as a science by itself, cannot solve what reality imposes and that’s why the whole of science is needed, of scientists as well, that is, a kind of communion of science and leadership, which must enhance the decision-making process, and therefore, provide a dialectical unity between theory and practice. Let’s not forget that if there is no revolutionary practice there is no theory, and vice versa. So this process is more effective when it is supported by methods, resources, tools, which science has created for use in science itself such as systematization, analysis, and research for the diagnosis of issues and solutions.
In this sense we are observing the articulation of the scientist and the politician as essential for solving the contradictions and the demands of reality, and, conversely, those elements which disturb it: immobility, improvisation, mismanagement, authoritarianism, and other negative practices in the exercise of leadership.
Finally, we need an appropriate socio-political environment to publish research, innovation, creativity, and for this it is necessary, among other things, to identify science and reality at the same time; increase academic achievement and development; establish a dialectical coherence between theory and practice; raise the profile of and stimulate creativity, innovation and those who produce the results, and establish alliances and discussion forums that contribute to exchange between research centers, universities and academia, with management structures for decision-making.
Rafael Hernández: Thank you Rafael.
There is a question that came in via text that says: «There are different generations on the panel, do you notice any generational differences in the issue or the topic that we are analyzing? Would you say that there are significant differences in relation to the problems that we are analyzing, as perceived by people of different ages and generations?”
Those of you who are still connected, or are rejoining us, please ask your questions via text message.
Jesús Guanche: (Anthropologist and Professor. Hebei University, China) Let me run through for myself the questions that have been put to the panel. Firstly, the function of the politician is to apply the policy in the correct manner and in order to do this, they make use of multiple sources, from accumulated experience, advisory groups, national and international contexts, the states of opinion and what has been proven or suggested by science. This leads the politician not to think in a sectoral or unilateral way, but to take into account the multiple factors, for and against, that can influence decision-making.
The scientist’s job is to reach levels of knowledge in any field of knowledge using one or more methods, which allow them to systematize and add to previous knowledge, and communicate their results; either through publications, events, teaching activity, etc., and use these results as tools to suggest or propose policy decisions.
That is precisely what distinguishes the scientist from the official, who may or may not implement political decisions appropriately or may slow them down to suit the interests of individuals or groups, interpreting them in another way or taking into account other circumstances which are unrelated to the direction of the decisions that have been taken. As we well know, that is the big difference between what is said and what is done, everything depends on the characteristics of each official and the role that the official plays in monitoring agreements, decisions, implementations or other ways of introducing policy.
Also, the activity of the scientist marks the difference with other valuable intellectuals who draw on different resources such as imagination, lived experience, images, fantasy, orality, technology, the arts and literature to express multiple feelings, opinions, arguments about (their) reality, which may or may not coincide with scientific activity, but which have undoubtedly been enriching the knowledge and actions of humans from early history to the present.
The problems that arise between politicians and scientists can be very diverse; among them, the intention of politicians to subordinate scientific activity to their perspective, criteria and interpretation of certain problems; or to try to impose or suggest that the political discourse should guide or condition science. If scientific activity submits itself to politics, it takes on a political discourse in a complacent way and the science becomes blurred.
This is also related to the timescales in which politicians and scientists are now operating. For example, one of the many experts on the way think tanks operate points out in relation to the use of time and their objectives: (paraphrasing) «The scientist and the politician have different timescales: the former can grant himself a long time; the latter almost always has to take decisions in a state of necessity and urgency. Also their responsibilities are different. The responsibility of the scientist is to clarify the terms of a problem; that of the politician is to resolve it with a decision, which cannot be postponed indefinitely”.
Therefore, the possible solution to these and other problems is permanent dialogue between them, a task that has now been undertaken systematically and should lead to success, which also has to do with the role of scientists in evaluating the application of proposed policies resulting from the scientific activity itself. This facilitates two-way learning. Politicians need to have results and policy suggestions that are clear and measurable over time, and scientists need to have resources, connectivity and conditions to keep up to date, both at the national and global levels, on problems, their solutions and perspectives. Let us not forget that we scientists frequently use the comparative method. What may work for one country may not work in another, or what works in a densely populated city may not work in a remote area. So the criteria for generalizing a result can also be very useful in some cases and highly dangerous in others.
In this sense, scientists have a lot to learn from the work of politicians, and they should be more involved in decision-making, since a correct decision can show a local or general application of a result of scientific activity; but if the suggestion or proposal is not fully endorsed, the politician’s decision can lead to very unfavorable situations for the country or at some higher level.
For several years now, dialogue between various institutions dedicated to scientific activity and decision-makers has been common in the Social Sciences Pole of CITMA. This has generated a way of doing things that consists of identifying the fundamental problems of a field (social, economic, demographic or other situation) and proposing or suggesting a set of solutions so that they form part of the political decisions. I believe that the issue is not only to do this, but to what extent are some suggestions accepted and others not? Who interprets the proposals? Who is responsible for implementing them? Whether or not the implementation process works, how do the proposals affect certain interests or old-school mindsets? In short, a kaleidoscope of questions that go beyond the duty of achieving results and proposing solutions.
Therefore, the debate and cooperation need to be monitored, both to validate or not the scientific activity and also weigh the success or failure of political decisions.
Iramis Alonso: (Editor-in-Chief of the Juventud Técnica (Technical Youth) magazine). Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the panel on time, but I would like, if you allow me, to share now the answers that I had prepared for this session.
Scientists are skeptics, people who doubt and question whatever they observe, including what they already know. Their role is to seek, discover and develop new information or knowledge about the world around us, based on a methodology agreed upon within the community to which they belong, to solve problems that arise in society. In contrast, the role of the politician is based on representing an ideal or the interests of a segment of the population, in a particular context, and exercising power for the benefit of the society. In other words, they serve to solve certain problems or aspirations of a social and economic nature, with the support of a group of people who they represent and by whom they were elected. Both have aspects in common, while the politician also tries to find ways to resolve certain problems and situations, looking for the best possible variant, ideally for the benefit of the people. And both need to convince, share, and communicate their ideas or achievements so that they are assimilated into the social fabric. However, the actions of a politician are marked by their ideology and the ideology of the group of people they represent or who elected them; while, for the scientist, their actions would be marked by the search for new knowledge, for the truth.
It is common to hear that the politician leads or governs and the official administers. That is, the politician conceives, directs and promotes the lines or programs for the public management of government, in line with a specific program; while the official, as an expert in the various matters necessary for this management, would be fulfilling a task of advising or executing the regulations that make it possible to put into practice the programs outlined by the policy. Thus, the politician would have the initiative and the official would be a kind of tool for delivering that service. But the most important distinction is probably that for politicians, unlike officials, in order to move forward with their projects, it is essential they engage in dialogues and reach agreements, based on collective consultation.
In the past, the scientist and the intellectual were separated, insofar as it was understood that the intellectual was a humanist, a creator (artist, philosopher or writer) linked to the study, reflection or understanding of the human condition. With the development of society, and the rise of multi- and inter-disciplinarity, that separation, that thick veil between one and the other, has become translucent and porous.
Social reality is not only influenced by ideas or by the way in which they are described, recreated or disseminated. The natural and exact sciences, with their discoveries, also make it possible to build (or destroy) social and spiritual alternatives. You need only take a look at the social and political impact caused in Cuba by the biotech industry and its creation of five home-grown Covid-19 vaccines, which stands as a beacon of a universal and free model of understanding access to medicine and health.
The social repercussion of the scientist is, in this case, as evident as that of the classical intellectual. What would distinguish the scientist from other intellectuals would be the notion that each achievement of science goes further than the previous one and extends the search for evidence (provability), based on methodologies, practices or specific techniques for the type of science in question; said another way, participating in the scientific process according to certain norms and values that make up how it is organized.
Amongst the problems that arise in relations between politicians and scientists, I would like to mention the following:
• Lack of understanding or awareness of the particularities of the timescales, dynamics of action, professional practices and roles of each one;
• Mismatch between the main areas of interest to science and scientists with the socio-economic and political needs of the country;
• Low level of participation of academic expertise in policy formulation;
• Imbalances in priorities according to specialties of science and in social recognition of scientists according to their areas of research (eg: basic sciences/applied sciences);
• Low priority given to scientific activity and the allocation of financial resources for it. Insufficient application of the results of science in society;
• Priority being given to the opinion of authority over the evidence provided by scientific results;
• Lack of communication and shortcomings in the channels of communication between science and politics or in the institutional mechanisms to link research and politics. It is also related to the language used which is different between politicians and scientists, as a result, on the one hand, of shortcomings in the scientific training of people who work as politicians, and, on the other, the inability of scientists to communicate their ideas in a simple and direct way and to go beyond a vision limited to their own specialism.
Politicians need to learn that the scientist is a critical observer of reality, a skeptic by nature, a permanent questioner of the facts and that this way of dealing with phenomena and processes usually allows for more and better solutions to be found. They have to learn that an unwanted or expected result is not necessarily negative, but rather it can clarify a path that needs to be left behind and it opens a door to the search for a new one. That is, they need to learn flexibility and a greater ability to recognize and deal with mistakes. Scientists still have to learn how to present their ideas and proposals in a simple, clear and direct way. They need to adopt a more comprehensive view of the need to establish public spending priorities in line with the needs of the population and the real conditions of the economy in question. And both should understand that information is a public asset, that the development of science and society demand an increasingly rapid access to data and learn to communicate their knowledge and decisions in a more systematic and appropriate way for the different audiences.
In these last two years, the correlation between making early decisions, based on science, and the best experiences in managing the Covid-19 pandemic has been really clear. That permanent link –which the public could see– between researchers and politicians, that commitment to the search for all the options that science could offer, accompanied by messages for the benefit of the public, and the interweaving of social actors from a wider range of areas, including the arts, is the most recent example of how much this cooperation between politicians and scientists can provide.
At the same time, it has been obvious that misguided decisions related to the management of the pandemic itself, or the support for medicines or products to treat it, both in the world and in Cuba, have had to do with limitations that still exist in that interplay between science and politics, which at various times resulted in some cases in a loss of credibility in the measures adopted, and, in others, overconfidence.
This indicates that the democratization of knowledge and transparency are essential for people to be able to make informed decisions on matters that are essential to their lives and happiness. Human society evolves in a framework of permanent transformations that demand rapid adaptation in a universe of excessive information, much of which is contradictory or simply false.
This is even more complex in situations in which siege conditions exist, like the ones our Island is experiencing, where reducing the chance of errors in policy design has to do with survival. The importance of decision-making in this context is so great that it will only be possible by cultivating the ability to use knowledge from all fields of science responsibly. For this, it is essential to have the ability to weigh up and evaluate circumstances and proposals with sound logic. In summary, it is from this dialogue, debate and cooperation that the ability to think critically and to be able to properly select the best option in each circumstance will emerge.
Among the issues raised by the panel’s responses to the second question and the sub-questions, is the issue of a variable that affects politicians and scientists: the cultural level. Among different generations of politicians and scientists, is their cultural level of significance? Starting, naturally, from the fact that they do not have the same backgrounds, and that not all scientists share the same type of experience, or expertise outside their specialized field of science, what significance does their cultural level have?
I have sometimes heard scientists complain that politicians don’t understand a problem. It’s not always because they don’t understand it in the strict sense of not being able to grasp its meaning due to not having sufficient scientific knowledge to understand it. Carlos’ example about Fidel’s two hours asking questions about superconductors has to do with the culture of a politician who believes that if he does not have a basic grasp of something, if he does not understand what it is about, he will not be able to argue for and shape decisions, nor understand what is behind proposals made by scientists. In other words, the politician’s understanding is not necessarily associated with whether or not he may or may not know about science in particular, but with something basic prior to the mastery of science or of his basic knowledge: an openness to knowledge that is cultural, derived from the ability to learn something, to understand it, and which, on occasions, can be at the root of the resistance to making a decision since it is very difficult, not just for politicians, but for human beings in general, to make any decision about something that is not well understood.
The issue of level of knowledge also has to do with the multiplicity of politicians that Jenniffer mentioned. We are including in the same category people from different generations, life experiences, cultural levels, even different specific levels of politics, depending on where they are preforming their duties. By where they are performing their duties, I mean that we could be talking about a local leader in Guantánamo or in the Ciénaga de Zapata, in the Sierra de los Órganos or in Centro Habana, who have to face very different problems in a strictly policy-focused sense.
Let me come back with the question: what happens to a scientist who has to take on a responsibility? To a scientist who, by random chance, ends up becoming a minister —or something similar? When the scientist has to make decisions within an institution, a structure that may not necessarily be a government structure, but as a decision-maker within it, do they have a way of seeing things which is different from how they saw things while they were researching in the lab, or studying, or systematizing data, or conducting surveys? or seminars?
More questions occur to me because you have brought to the table a number of different dimensions of this problem. But now I’m going to pass the floor back to you.
Ricardo J. Machado: I still want to mention something from the second question about interpersonal communication between scientists and politicians. If you do not find a common ground for the exchange of ideas based on being aware of how to dialogue, conflicts will arise within the relations between scientists and politicians.
I echo what both Carlos and Jenniffer mentioned: the ethical integrity of the scientific advisor is decisive. The scientist is there to say what they think, not to make the decision maker like them. Otherwise, as Carlos defined it, it’s about keeping your mouth shut and walking away. If the politician wants to impose his opinions, it may happen that the scientist doesn’t speak up and simply says yes, which unfortunately has happened many times. I have anecdotes that begin with «so as not to upset the Comandante.» Those who manage politics have to learn to accept unpleasant information, because unfortunately most truths are unpleasant. They have to swallow a lot of unpleasant information and know how to handle it. If scientists only gave good news, politicians would most likely not have the clarity to see the problem.
The other issue is that a good scientist is not necessarily a good adviser. A good scientific adviser is one who knows how to lay out a problem, who knows how to channel the communication to the minister, with whom one cannot speak in the same way as with a member of the scientific community. Scientists tend to communicate in the language of the speaker, not the listener. It is a defect they have.
On the problem of difference and what they have to learn, real scientists, who are aware of what they do not know, have to be humble, in order to establish interactions with another who does not share the same area of ignorance.
I’ll end with a famous anecdote. A great Chinese philosopher and thinker accepted one disciple each year, among many who came from different provinces. He had them write what they knew on a piece of paper. But there was one that what he did was write what he did not know. This one was chosen because he was the wisest, since he knew what he didn’t know. Both the politician and the scientist need to recognize what they do not know. The scientist has to take into account the humility of knowledge, the human limitation of knowledge, and all the emotional and personal factors. And both the scientist and the politician have to become aware of their ego, which has shaped both of them.
Reudenys Salas: Science as an institutionalized activity and, furthermore, one which is permeated by values and social interests, cannot be neutral, and therefore needs the cooperation from all sides to achieve its goals.
Both the politician and the scientist need an essential quality, which from the point of view of communication is valid and necessary, empathy. That is, each of them has to manage to put themselves in the place of the other, the politician in the place of those who lead, the scientist, in the shoes of society in order to also have a much more direct result, based on its transformation. In this sense, it is necessary to promote multilevel dialogue (national, provincial, municipal) that allows favoring their joint action, which should strengthen that unity and displace the tendencies towards sectorialism, verticalism and excessive centralism that occur. This dialogue also requires appropriate legal and regulatory bases that allow the promotion of knowledge, science and technological capacities at the local level. It is about the need for communication when establishing the relationship between science and politics.
Children are not a reflection of their parents, but of the times, and, these days, I’d also say of the context.
I do not consider the difference between politicians and scientists to be a cultural issue, at least in the Cuban context, because in today’s Cuba the training models, especially those at higher levels, seek the need for university graduates to leave with a certain cultural awareness, development of scientific culture, and scientific-research knowledge that forms part of the curriculum, therefore, that same student who is trained under that paradigm, tomorrow —in the case of Cuba— is the politician. What will have to be determined are the knowledge or the scientific-research nodes that the politician needs in order to understand society, since science is linked to the construction of the new knowledge.
Faced with the question, what happens to the scientist when they take on a role in government? It seems to me that they have a more comprehensive vision of society, they observe it from different angles and fields, regardless of the scientific specialization they come from. They are objective in the analyses they undertake, and do not waste all their time identifying the problem but in looking for the causes behind it, and immediately seeking its solution.
In today’s Cuba we don’t have to worry, in my opinion, about a generation gap, because today’s educational models themselves allow a university graduate to leave with a scientific-research foundation that enables them to assume responsibility as appropriate.
José Ramón Acosta: I agree with you, Rafael, that it seems to me that in the training of scientists there is a lack of trans-disciplinarity and sensitivity to many problems that emerge at the political level in society, that science has to support, and they stem from that lack of analysis from the different viewpoints of the same problem.
The scientific debate has to become more integrated into political analysis. We have a strength in that there is a political will on the part of the State to base decisions on the results of science and technology, opinions on evidence —as Carlos said at the beginning— obtained through scientific methods, and to listen to sometimes conflicting criteria.
For example, when the regulations were being agreed upon relating to approving genetically-modified crops in Cuba, none of us scientists who raised objections were invited to the debates, not Freyre, not Carlos Delgado, not Funes, not me. That means that if you create a setting for things to be approved, you are not matching the political decision with the way in which scientific evidence should be incorporated or at least scientific opinions, because we were not rushing into anything or making it up as we went along, we had arguments that may have been valid or not, but they should have been considered in the debate.
Carlos Rodríguez: Of course there are differences between generations, because we also have past examples, representatives of younger generations who are scientists and who are politicians, and that makes us hopeful that having had great politicians, the ones we will have in the future will be even better.
When a scientist is given a political responsibility, one thing that may happen is that they can feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, because their colleagues say: «Hey, what was it you were saying about that?», and on the other hand they are under pressure from the reality that sometimes forces them to make decisions just to buy time because they don’t even have the best solution, but they always have the idea of listening to scientists, of surrounding themselves with them, because there have always been politicians who have done that, and there are those who have surrounded themselves with shamans, sorcerers, spiritual guides, and above all with sycophants, which is quite common.
It is good to think that there are more and more politicians in our country who are doctors, who are scientists, or at least who have gone through some studies of science and are familiar with it. There is a good trend in this regard especially since the triumph of the revolution.
The first generation grew up and was shaped at a time of a high level of social cohesion, where science took a giant leap in this country with great opportunities for young people, in direct contact with the leadership of the Revolution, especially with Fidel, who was a tremendous champion of science and who believed in it, and he spoke some immortal words about it.
Regarding the organization, today we are in a good moment, especially because the mechanisms are being institutionalized so that they depend less on people, and on their inclinations.
There are many science-related issues to be faced by Cuba and the whole world: environmental, energy, social policies, disaster research. I read Nature and Science journals every day, and the editorials are always political. The problems of the adviser who resigned, the one that Machado mentioned, is in an editorial in yesterday’s Science, which outlines how a scientific adviser should be, because the one who was in that position has just resigned and now they have appointed two in his place, interestingly, one for the social sciences and one for technical sciences or technology, and so on.
In the end, science is the best thing that society has, or one of the best things that we humans have for facing the future.
Jenniffer Bello: With respect to the generations, a good level of communication has been achieved here between experience and youth, and there was no adult-centric spirit at the table.
We have learned, because learning is a life-long process, and above all because each one started from their experiences, from our own points of reference, therefore this has further enriched the proposals or the evaluations, those multiple perspectives to build a dialogue, an analysis, and it seems to me that this interrelation of different generations has also been very beneficial.
Regarding the cultural level, I am going to disagree with my friend Salas on some elements. That phrase so often uttered by our Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, that Cuba has to be a country of men and women of science and thought, implies the scientist, the politician, the economist, the educator, that is, everyone in society, that its population has a comprehensive general culture, with a global vision of the world, but so that they can transform that society or that world, in whatever position in which they find themselves. With this cultural level, the politician has a more holistic vision of the phenomena or the problems to face in order to transform them; the scientist must also have other multiple views. We have to continue betting on multidisciplinary training, continue advancing in educating for science. In our master’s and doctoral theses we say that we assume the dialectical-materialist method, the Leninist theory of knowledge, from live contemplation to abstract knowledge, and from there to practice, but sometimes we do not know how to read and interpret reality, and much more difficult transform it.
In that comprehensive general culture of the politician, of the scientist, there is also a look at education, in its general sense, of that person who goes through educational levels, who is getting trained, and we have to aspire to that person becoming that man or woman of science and thought so that from what they are learning they can contribute to transforming their environment.
And with regard to skills, the most vivid expression is sometimes Che himself, who was a soldier, politician, economist, had to lead a government ministry, that is, in each of his roles he had a broad general sense of vocation. All these responsibilities also have professional skills or certain characteristics of their own, and when one is going to take on any responsibility, one has to be aware of those challenges and what has to be learned; perhaps we need more training for management, because management has its skills, it has its techniques, one has to reach agreements. Now there is talk of participation and how people are brought together, but if I don’t know how to participate, if I don’t know how to give the other the opportunity to be part of the decision-making, however aware I am that I have to achieve participation and consensus, I am not going to achieve it. When I take on a responsibility, I have to understand that there are certain challenges and risks, and that there are other skills that I need to adopt and learn, how to bring people together and, of course, that in this holistic vision the scientist is going to provide a different viewpoint.
On the question of whether a politician can be a scientist, I would say if we educate in such a way that scientific knowledge is holistic, multidisciplinary, with different perspectives, we will even have politicians with a vision of scientific knowledge who should be able to read reality, and even scientists with the possibility of other leadership roles in their functions.
Rafael Hernández: I always knew that because of the make-up of this panel it was going to be exceptional, however it has exceeded my expectations.
Although we have had fewer people participating via Telegram than normal, due to connectivity issues, at the same time you have covered a range of issues between you. The “Ultimo Jueves” programs are valuable to the extent that they bring problems to the table. Not necessarily because of how they respond to them. You have made up a panel that has greatly enhanced our ability to comprehend the number of problems. You have translated the questions into problems to be dealt with, and that is definitely what moves the future and the viewpoints we can explore on a topic like this. In fact, I have nothing to conclude, because the two ideas that I had in mind have been brilliantly summarized by Jenniffer with Fidel’s quote and by her outline of what elsewhere is called the revolving door between science and politics, i.e., in different governments and at different times, scientists go from being academics to being politicians, and then they leave the world of academia and re-enter that world. That revolving door, as our panel said, will probably be more common in the Cuba of the future, to the extent that it is also part of the fact that politicians can have a much clearer and different vision of the role of science, and a scientific-cultural training that equips them for that.
Sometimes, speaking about the characteristics of political leadership in Cuba, I have seen that we have a Council of Ministers with a certain academic background. If you study the Council of Ministers and see what they graduated in; if you study politics taking into account what the Party secretaries were trained in in the different provinces and compare it with thirty or forty years ago, we are inevitably going to find enormous differences, related to educational training, and the role of knowledge. The fact that a Party secretary has studied at a teacher training institution, and that they have once stood up in front of students, is significant for understanding the importance of learning to communicate. The intellectual who is a teacher has a capacity for communication, transmitting a message and listening, which is part of their training. So it is difficult to understand how politicians think about the Cuban reality if we see it only from an ideology, and not from what they learned to do and how their heads were organized, so to speak. Right there is one of the many issues of political sciences in Cuba that is yet to be further developed.
I thank you very much for agreeing to sit on this panel. Yes, it was deliberate to look for young politicians and old scientists, instead of young scientists and older politicians, as we have so often done in our panels. Being able to bring together a group like yours, who have interacted in this way, has been a brilliant way to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Último Jueves. Many thanks.
Traductor: Jackie Cannon