Why I applied to join SNI: the Mexican National Researchers registry
A few days ago a friend of mine told me that I was on the list of newly admitted SNI members. A few have asked me since why did I request to join it. So here’s my public reply.
Woo! Ya soy "Investigador Nacional Nivel I" en el Sistema Nacional de Investigadores de CONACyT en México @Conacyt_MX 🎉💪🏾🇲🇽— 🇲🇽 Leonardo Collado-Torres (@lcolladotor) September 26, 2018
I'm a National Researcher lvl I in the Mexican National Researchers Registry ^_^ 🎆🎉https://t.co/hud7Z22WLY
Gracias @malacopa_genome por el aviso! pic.twitter.com/NWnf90KOF1
First let me tell you what SNI is. It stands for Sistema Nacional de Investigadores which translates to National Researchers Registry. It’s a way that the Mexican government created in 1984 to recognize high quality researchers and encourage them to continue to do great research, teach the next generation of researchers and promote innovation (Wikipedia). There are three types of members:
- Candidato a Investigador Nacional: Candidate to National Researcher
- Investigador Nacional: National Researchers with 3 levels (1, 2 and 3)
- Investigador Nacional Emérito: National Emeritus Researcher
To become a member you have to submit documentation to CONACyT showing that you have made contributions to science, technology, culture and society through scientific or technological developments, training new students, popularizing or translating science and technology, among other criteria. Once you are a member, you have to keep submitting new documents every couple of years to stay a member or advance in the ranks.
The real reason behind joining SNI
I’ve read a little bit that there are many critics of the SNI system. Most of the criticisms are based on how they decide what is a good contribution and how they judge applications. The reality is also that the process of sending the necessary documentation is cumbersome to say the least. The CONACyT website breaks often enough that it can be painful to use.
So why do people want to join the SNI and go through all this complicated process? The main reason (I think) why people want to join the SNI is because being a member comes with a financial supplement. It’s enough that I’ve heard that it can constitute about a third of your salary. You can find headlines such as how CONACyT’s support to researchers went from a priviledge to a salary. This financial supplement is given to those members that work 20 hours a week on Mexican institutions.
Given how important this boost in salary is, I can understand very well the frustrations that come with interacting with the CONACyT website: specially when the website goes down and you have to submit your application before a given deadline.
So why did I apply to join SNI?
You can find on CONACyT’s website an interview on why it’s important to join SNI or go elsewhere to read a study on the motivations people have for joining SNI. But why did I apply to join SNI given that I’m outside Mexico and won’t be getting the financial supplement?
My main motivation was protection.
Lets say that I return to Mexico as a researcher at UNAM or another Mexican institution. Currently there is only 1 call for new SNI members per year. If I were to return today (September 2018), I would need to wait several months for the 2019 application cycle. Then I would need to wait several months for all applications to be evaluated and would probably start receiving the financial salary boost on January 2020. That is a lot of time to wait!
Furthermore, right now I don’t need the salary boost. But if I were to return then it could be a significant portion of my salary. Having all this riding on a cumbersome application (I’d be afraid of making a silly mistake in the application) and on an external evaluation would be stressful.
So the stakes for me were low right now. Now that I’m a SNI member if I were to return to Mexico I could start receiving that financial boost much sooner. Thus I’m also protecting myself by keeping my options open to stay abroad (in the US for me) or return to Mexico. For example, I have a verbal agreement with my boss on the length of my current job, but technically I’m an employee at will and can be fired pretty easily.
I also applied because I have several friends that were applying or recently applied and helped me a lot navigate the application process1. Also, you never know if the application process will change and become more complicated later on: though I hope that it will get easier!
But back to protection and security. My father has taught me that it’s our responsibility to cover our backs. Lets imagine that I have dependents. It would be irresponsible of me to miss out on the financial supplement because I didn’t send my documentation on time or because I forgot to send in the renewal documents: maybe it wouldn’t affect me, but it would affect them. Completing my application in time is under my control. What CONACyT cares about, their evaluation process, the clarity and reliability of their website are not.
This attitude goes beyond SNI. That is why I compete when I can for awards and scholarships that I think fit me, even if its a long shot. No one will come to you and say, “hey, your work is great, now you are a SNI member” (or any award). I believe that you have to keep working and make it hard for others to say no to your applications. You have to keep trying though because you won’t get them all. That was one of my messages in my recent CDSBMexico keynote.
Here are my slides for my #CDSBMexico remote talk tomorrow for day 1 of the "Latin American R/BioConductor Developers Workshop 2018". 70 slides for ~20 min, I can do this! 💪🏾 Right @jtleek @Shannon_E_Ellis?https://t.co/xKh2214YbM#rstats #teaching @Bioconductor @CDSBMexico pic.twitter.com/SULAoPbHeZ— 🇲🇽 Leonardo Collado-Torres (@lcolladotor) July 29, 2018
Here are some of my recent applications:
You still have time to participate in this year's SciLifeLab prize! I wrote a blog post about it & shared my unsuccessful 2017 entry https://t.co/6y7DOP1m1a Got Qs? SciLifeLabPrize@aaas.org @sciencemagazine #academia #science Thx @jtleek for the last minute recommendation letter! pic.twitter.com/Yfyq7j9RTc— 🇲🇽 Leonardo Collado-Torres (@lcolladotor) June 20, 2018
Check our #Bioinformatics Peer Prize III entry at https://t.co/WdggoD6KPh highlighting recount2 https://t.co/tK6iRfUT21 We appreciate the votes! Team submission w @AbhiNellore et al #RNAseq #rstats #reproducibility #scitwitter Video code https://t.co/J0nwUcV3O4 w ari @seankross— 🇲🇽 Leonardo Collado-Torres (@lcolladotor) February 5, 2018
I just submitted my rstudio::conf(2019) diversity scholarship app https://t.co/nmZY7UJsiP @rstudio Text entries have a 1000 char limit!— 🇲🇽 Leonardo Collado-Torres (@lcolladotor) August 22, 2018
I'm sharing mine https://t.co/q3wqbSuVbW in case it helps other @LIBDrstats @CDSBMexico & #rstats members at large.#tip Always ask for help!
I just submitted my application for the "Early Career Clinical Research Symbiont Award". If I get selected, then I'll be able to attend #PSB19 @PacSymBiocomp. Thx to someone who prompted me to send my application! You should submit yours too. Deadline 9/30 https://t.co/Pv1aHySVbI— 🇲🇽 Leonardo Collado-Torres (@lcolladotor) September 28, 2018
So what happens now? I updated my CV as a friend suggested to list that I’m a SNI National Researcher Level 1.
I want to thank my friends that helped me during the SNI application process!
Gracias @sur_hp, @FSanchezQuinto, @mariagutierrez, @areyesq, @malacopa_genome, @mgschiavon, @AleMedinaRivera por el apoyo en todo el proceso de enviar la solicitud y motivarme a enviarla!— 🇲🇽 Leonardo Collado-Torres (@lcolladotor) September 26, 2018
Ahora.... me falta obtener la FIEL para firmar el doc de @Conacyt_MX (creo)... ugh!
This blog post was made possible thanks to:
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Actually, we are still trying to find out how we can sign the agreement from abroad.↩︎