Trends in planetary science research in the Puna and Atacama Desert regions: Underrepresentation of local scientific institutions?

A. Tavernier, G. A. Pinto, M. Valenzuela, A. Garcia, C. Ulloa, R. Oses, B. H. Foing

Version of Record online: 27 March 2023


“In 2019, while launching a multidisciplinary research project aimed at developing the Puna de Atacama region as a natural laboratory, investigators at the University of Atacama (Chile) conducted a bibliographic search identifying previously studied geographic points of the region and of potential interest for planetary science and astrobiology research. This preliminary work highlighted a significant absence of local institutional involvement in international publications. In light of this, a follow-up study was conducted to confirm or refute these first impressions, by comparing the search in two bibliographic databases: Web of Science and Scopus. The results show that almost 60% of the publications based directly on data from the Puna, the Altiplano, or the Atacama Desert with objectives related to planetary science or astrobiology do not include any local institutional partner (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru). Indeed, and beyond the ethical questioning of international collaborations, Latin-American planetary science deserves a strategic structuring, networking, as well as a road map at national and continental scales, not only to enhance research, development, and innovation, but also to protect an exceptional natural heritage sampling extreme environmental niches on Earth. Examples of successful international collaborations such as the field of meteorites, terrestrial analogs, and space exploration in Chile or astrobiology in Mexico are given as illustrations and possible directions to follow to develop planetary science in South America. To promote appropriate scientific practices involving local researchers, possible responses at academic and institutional levels will eventually be discussed.”