“Scientists are trained not to speculate, although the politician wants us to speculate and society sometimes needs it. But if you speculate too much you stop being a scientist and become a charlatan. In science, ‘I think’ It is always a wrong word. ” Uruguayan researcher Rafael Radi explains why science has an increasingly important role, but also more complicated to define, in a society that faces challenges that are also increasingly complex. Radi speaks, in particular, of human right to science, which supports the idea that every human being should have the possibility to benefit from the advances of scientific and technological progress. During conferences recently held in Montevideo on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Unesco’s office in the region, Radi and other Latin American researchers explained that the time has come to talk about that right, and to defend it.
“The universal declaration of human rights already contains it, in article 27, but it is true that, for a long time, the right to science has remained in the background or in the background. The point is that, today, the complexity of the issues that we must resolve on this globalized planet, such as the aging of the population or the brutal challenge to the environment, makes science have to be visualized as an integral part of human rights. ”, Explains Radi to EL PAÍS. “Scientific thinking, critical thinking and evidence-based decisions would help a lot to resolve these issues. I do not see another sustainable path in the future of the planet than to incorporate the scientific arsenal to all dimensions of human activity. ”
The complexity of the issues that we must resolve on this globalized planet means that science has to be visualized as an integral part of human rights. ”
Rafael Radi is one of the most recognized and prestigious Latin American researchers. Born 56 years ago in Montevideo, this biochemist and biomedical works on the molecular mechanisms of free radicals. He is the director of the Biomedical Research Center (CEINBIO) of the University of the Republic (Montevideo), the president of the Academy of Sciences of your country, also a member of the Academy of Medicine, and is the first Uruguayan to be elected as a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. As a member also of the Academies of Brazil and Argentina, he knows very well the state of science and biomedical research in the region. “The basis, that is, that there is a critical mass of researchers, research centers and infrastructure, is in many countries. In the Southern Cone, sure; Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, which is what I know most, ”he explains. “But moving from preclinical research to the clinic is a very complex leap in highly demanded healthcare systems that don’t always have enough resources. Assistance beats research, because it is always the priority, ”he adds.
Radi says that one of the problems of biomedical research in Latin America that day in university hospitals in the region, where “clinical research is always in a second step because what needs to be resolved is the care and there is no tradition of set aside time to do research. ” The opposite happens in the best American or European hospitals: doctors spend more hours researching than in clinical practice, since the results of that research are indispensable to improve that practice. “That virtuous circuit must be encouraged, because research feeds better clinical practices and medicine generates new questions. Biomedicine research has to be an integral part of a country’s healthcare system, ”explains Radi. “WHO says that the health system should invest 2% of its expenditure on R&D. Uruguay and the countries of the region are far from that, they are surely between 10 and 50 times below that value. But we have gained a lot, in these 30 or 40 years, in generating the basic capabilities so that our systems have the future capacity to generate these investments, ”he adds.
The researcher believes that part of the problem is the “lack of scientific culture” that detects a large part of the political class. “This is a problem that also crosses the entire Southern Cone policy; Very few politicians are genuinely interested in science, beyond the anecdotal. In our national Parliament, in which there are 99 deputies and senators, those who approach science may be five or six. I think politicians see the issue with interest and with good mood, but you see them still away, they find it elusive, they realize that the thing is going there, but they don’t know very well where to grab it. And they fear that the wave will pass over them. And this is a matter of country, of national sovereignty, no matter if the right or the left wins, science has a lot to contribute in an evidence-based policy, in topics such as health, climate change, education… ” , he explains, blunt.
Fight against cancer
The researcher is optimistic about the “arsenal” that science is discovering in its fight against cancer and neurodegenerative diseases; This year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded precisely to the discipline he studies. “In two years, Nobel Prizes have been given to a set of investigations that begin with very basic elements but have implications for cancer in both cases, one with immunotherapy, and the other, the actions to take the metabolic advantage they have tumor cells in relation to hypoxia. What we have is a larger and more selective arsenal to fight cancer. ” What happens is that the growing aging of the population is going to make precisely cancer and neurodegenerative diseases become a growing biomedical challenge. The researcher explains it like this: “One of the great challenges of modern medicine is how to identify the pathology associated with aging, how to modulate and correct it so that the expansion of life expectancy is accompanied by another expansion of health expectation . And there we have neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cancers and a very important issue, which is little talked about, and that is the first reason for disability in older patients: the fragility and collapse of the musculoskeletal system ”.
“One of the great challenges of modern medicine is how to identify the pathology associated with aging, how to modulate and correct it so that the expansion of life expectancy is accompanied by another expansion of health expectation
Radi returns to the initial idea: science is the only tool with which modern societies can face this brutal challenge, that of an increasingly aging population and a system that cannot take care of all of them. “The idea is that the caregiver is the last measure, not the measure. WHO speaks of a single health: human, plant, animal, environmental … are all interconnected. And it is that another matter that appears in the panorama are the centenarians and the supercentenarians, which are going to be multiplied by ten in the next 20 years. They are great dilemmas of the 21st century, and this is where politics and science have no other to interact, ”he concludes.