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Shared concerns and aspirations around AI in Latin America and the Caribbean 

A recent workshop around preparing national research systems for artificial intelligence (AI) revealed shared views on AI in science across the vast and diverse region.

The workshop was organized by the International Science Council’s (ISC) through its Regional Focal Point for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Latin American Open Data Initiative (ILDA) as part of the ISC’s Global Knowledge Dialogue in Santiago, Chile.

Participants from across the region – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Uruguay – shared how their national governments are preparing their science ecosystems for AI, the impact of this integration, and the current challenges and opportunities for regional collaboration. 

This workshop makes part of a larger project led by the ISC Centre for Science Futures. In March 2024, the Centre published a working paper entitled “Preparing National Research Ecosystems for AI: Strategies and Progress in 2024″. The paper explores how different countries around the world are thinking about integration and uptake of AI into their science ecosystems. The different contributions, written by experts involved in driving such plans in their country, are completed by a literature review on the issue. An updated and expanded version, with additional country case studies will be published in October 2024.

Preparing National Research Ecosystems for AI: Strategies and progress in 2024

The report offers a comprehensive analysis of the integration of artificial intelligence in science and research across various countries. It addresses both the advancements made and the challenges faced in this field, making it a valuable read for science leaders, policy-makers, AI professionals, and academics.

Key take-aways 

One take-away from the workshop is that the awareness and recognition of the importance of integrating AI into national research ecosystems is shared among all countries. Participants acknowledged the need to embrace AI’s potential and its role in driving scientific advancements.  

Secondly, while countries in the region are at different stages of AI implementation, ranging from initial observation to cutting-edge developments, they are all proactively working to integrate AI in research.  

Thirdly, there was consensus on the significant opportunities AI presents and the efforts and resources required for its effective utilization in scientific endeavours across Latin America and the Caribbean. The participants underscored the importance of coordinated actions and regional collaborations to integrate AI into science systems. There is, in other words, willingness to leverage resources, expertise, and efforts to maximize the benefits of AI for scientific research and innovation in the region. 

“There was a surprisingly consistent discussion throughout the workshop, with quite similar assessments of the areas where action is required and what the needs are”, says Mathieu Denis, Head of the ISC Centre for Science Futures.

Exploring data as the basis for ethical, accountable, and inclusive AI developments 

There is a need to continue promoting discussions around AI with a focus on data policy and management.  

Robust research data is the basis of any successful integration of AI in science. It is therefore essential for countries to develop clear guidelines for data management policies that are fit for purpose for research in all disciplines. It is also important for data policies to address issues of underrepresentation of certain minority groups, and to ensure that data from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are used to train and run AI tools.  

David Castle, Project Chair, shared: ‘Participants considered the relationship between open data as a kind of general orientation to data governance, and the more technical and strategic issues about how to implement standardized approaches such as FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) data. Data can be FAIR and open, but not all data that is open is FAIR; this nuance has significant implications for data policy and governance’. 

The region has a vibrant and connected Open Science community involved in advancing open data and AI. These networks can be mobilized for regional initiatives on research data, possibly starting with a few areas of common interest, such as climate change and food systems.

Building a community to coordinate efforts in the science and AI agenda 

Engaging with fellow stakeholders in the scientific ecosystem and fostering synergies with various forums across Latin America and the Caribbean dedicated to AI development discussions is essential. This approach allows to pool efforts, establish a unified regional perspective, and advance AI initiatives tailored to the region’s needs. 

“We see that the debates on AI in the region are fragmented into different spaces and approaches, and countries are at different levels of implementation, so there could be an opportunity to strengthen this dialogue among national academies of sciences, research centres and policymakers.” – Gloria Guerrero, executive director of ILDA, said. “This is a space where ILDA, the ISC and many other regional actors can help.” 

Promoting collaboration based on best practices is essential to allow for interdisciplinary co-creation and knowledge management in the region. This collaboration can trigger other processes related to training, advocacy, and the formation of thematic support groups to share practical experiences at the intersection of science and AI. 

The information, opinions and recommendations presented in this article are those of the individual contributor/s, and do not necessarily reflect the values and beliefs of the International Science Council.

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