The founding of the National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences (Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, ANCEFN), one of the oldest institutions of this kind in Latin America, dates back to March 26, 1874, as a consequence of a decree establishing the creation and operation of bodies that would form the University of Buenos Aires. After half a century, on June 16, 1926, it was declared an autonomous civil institution with its own statutes and regulatory provision enacted by the National Government.
As provided in its statutes, the Academy has the mandate to be: “A civil association, of a scientific nature, with legal status, that aims to foster the advancement, development and promotion of exact, physical and natural sciences and their technologies, with the purpose of contributing to the progress of the Nation”. On the other hand, the Academy played a decisive role in the creation of the National Research Council-CONICET (1958) and one of his members, Bernardo A. Houssay, was the first President of this Council.
The Academy has also a Library that consists of more than 400 regular publications and over 2,000 books. This material is obtained either by purchase, donation, or exchange with national and international institutions. The ANCEFN headquarters are located on the fourth floor of the “House of National Academies” building, which was declared National Historic Monument in 2002. The Statutes and Special Regulations presently in force were approved on July 7, 2001.
The Academy is formed by forty Regular Members (a number established by the law of creation of National Academies) grouped in specialized Sections (presently the three Sections are: Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy; Chemical, Earth and Biological Sciences; and Engineering. Each of these Sections is headed by a President and a Secretary).
To be elected as a member of the Academy the candidate has to be an Argentine citizen, who has performed outstanding contributions to science or technology, and who deserves public concept of irreproachable honorableness. The membership is honorary and for life. The nomination and election of new Members is an attribution of the Academy itself. It is a duty of the Regular Members to participate at the plenary meetings of the Academy and those of the corresponding Sections, where they have voice and vote.
Apart from the Regular Members, the Academy has Honorary, Corresponding and Emeritus Members. Today, ANCEFN has 33 Regular Members, 8 Honorary Members, 2 Emeritus Members (Academy members who have had an outstanding performance as Regular Members but have already retired, usually by extended health problems), 36 National Corresponding Members and 79 Foreign Corresponding Members. Both the latter and the Honorary Members must have been directly involved in scientific or technological activities in our country.
Among the Members that have honored the ANCEFN there are three argentine Nobel laureates: Bernardo A. Houssay (Medicine & Physiology, 1947), Luis F. Leloir (Chemistry, 1970), and César Milstein (Medicine & Physiology, 1984). Other Nobel Prize winners that were ANCEFN’s Members are Albert Einstein, Severo Ochoa, Ilya Prigognine, Jean Roche, and Antoni Zygmund. Other Nobel Prize winners that are still Honorary Members are James W. Cronin, Leon M. Lederman, Frederick Sanger, and Richard Ernst.
The membership of the Academy has neither age nor sex limitations. Therefore, there are no special programs devoted to the incorporation of young scientists or women into the Academy. Today, we have 10% women among Regular Members. The percentage of women (full-time dedication) in all the branches of science in our country is about 46%.
The Governing body of the ANCEFN is the Executive Committee, made up of a President, a Vice-president, a Secretary General, a Minutes Secretary, a Treasurer and an Assistant Treasurer. These authorities serve a two-year term, but can be reelected indefinitely, except for the President and the Vice-president, who can be reelected only for two consecutive terms in the same function. The Executive Committee meets one or two times each month between February and December. The Plenary of the Academy, constituted by all of the Regular Members, meets on a regular basis, the last Friday of each month, between April and December.
There are a series of Permanent Committees (Grants; Scholarships and Awards; Library; Publications; Interpretation and Regulations; Scientific Policy; Institutional and International Relations, and Supervision of the Darwinion Botanical Institute). Ad-hoc Committees can be established to solve special problems or to perform special activities; for instance, an Ad-hoc Committee on activities related to scientific teaching has just been established.
From 1928 the ANCEFN annually publishes the Anales de la Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales which contains information of general interest related with the activities of the Academy, and conferences and scientific papers.
In certain cases, papers presented at special scientific sessions or workshops are published in the form of monographs. In the last years a number of books of general interest have been published as well.
The Academy receives an annual budget from the Ministry of Education and Culture. In 2007 this budget was of $.460.000 (U$S 146.000). Besides, ANCEFN searches for sponsorship from national or international companies, or from public or private national institutions, for the organization of specific activities.
Historically, ANCEFN has annually awarded up to nine Prizes to leading scientists and technologists for their contributions at the national level. These prizes cover the different areas represented in the Academy. During 2006 and 2007 these prizes were awarded to young scientists (up to 40 years) in order to stimulate excellence in research between the new scientific generations. On the other hand, in 1999 the Academy launched the grant program “National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences”, intended for young researchers who carry out their Doctoral Thesis work in universities or research centers in Argentina. It also runs memorial scholarship programs for Mathematics, Chemistry, and Biological Sciences university students.
Since 1934, the ANCEFN together with CONICET, runs the Darwinion Botanical Institute (IBODA), donated by Regular Member Cristóbal M. Hicken and located in the Parque Aguirre quarter, in the locality of San Isidro, province of Buenos Aires. The IBODA is specially devoted to taxonomic studies of the Argentine flora. It has an herbarium that consists of more than 600,000 specimens, with important and valuable material from the 19th. century. The collections continue to expand at a rate of approximately 7,000 specimens per year, from either new collections, or exchanges with other national and international institutions. Its Library is one of the most complete and dynamic in the field of Botany in Latin America, comprising about 60,000 volumes, including important and rare works from the 16th. and 18th. centuries. The IBODA also publishes the journal Darwiniana, a recognized publication in the field of Botany. The IBODA’s Web site (www.darwin.edu.ar) allows access to the Catalog of Vascular Flora in Argentina and to the abstracts of papers published in Darwiniana.
The ANCEFN is in close contact with other national and foreign Academies, as well as with international organizations, universities and scientific institutions. Furthermore, together with CONICET, it is the local representative of the International Foundation for Science, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and awards research grants in many countries around the world. The ANCEFN also had mutual cooperation agreements with organizations such as the American Philosophical Society, the Indian National Science Academy, The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Academy of France and the Academia de Ciencias de Chile.
The Academy has also active participation in the Global Network of Academies of Sciences (IAP) and in the Inter American Network of Academies of Sciences (IANAS) since those networks of Academies of Science were established. It has also active contact with the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) and is a member of the Consortium on Science, Technology and Innovation for the South-COSTIS (formerly TWNSO).