The SBPC (Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science), the most influential body for gathering researchers in the country, on Monday (21) elects its new board of directors facing a contradictory scenario.
On the one hand, the impact of Covid-19 has made scientific research the center of public debate in Brazil and around the world. On the other hand, however, this reward for interest and exposure has come with the burden of fake news and conspiracy theories. By adopting an attitude of denial and, at the same time, exacerbating the years-long scenario of underfunding for national research, the federal government and its loyal supporters have put most of the Brazilian scientists on their enemy list.
The elections at the SBPC, which have been taking place online since the end of May, are disputed by two lists. One is headed by Renato Janine Ribeiro, professor of ethics and political philosophy at the University of the South Pacific and former education minister, and the other is headed by Carlos Alexandre Neto, a physician by training and professor of biochemistry at UFRGS and former rector of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.
There are many similarities between the placards championed by the two presidential candidates, starting with the struggle to rebuild the federal budget for science and technology, a demand that the scientific community has mobilized in recent years from lean cows. The two sheets suggest mobilizing the body’s great standing in defense of democratic freedoms threatened by enclave and social inclusion, as well as intensifying science popularization initiatives in which the Palestinian Legislative Council is a pioneer.
“I don’t see, in this campaign, a conflict of plates,” said Janine Ribeiro. Leaf. “I would say that our project focuses on post-tragedy, post-horror,” says the University of the South Pacific professor, referring to the effects of Covid-19 in Brazil. “The similarity is not surprising. We are both SBPC consultants, with a history of community involvement and a solid academic life,” notes Neto, whose “Brazil needs to rebuild” after the disastrous management of the pandemic.
For both candidates, the prospect that the country will experience a slow period of economic recovery in the coming years, which means less money to invest in research, is not a reason for some areas of science, considered priority or strategic, to receive more support than others.
“I think we have to bet on all areas. But that does not mean that we cannot have a clearer role in some, as we have already seen in the case of the agricultural sector or the biodiversity sector,” reflects Janine Ribeiro. “Instead of deeming some sectors more important than others, an interesting path would be to organize interdisciplinary collaboration around key national problems,” says Netto.
Attempts to reverse cutbacks in funding and scholarships for graduate students during the early years of Bolsonaro’s government have been marred by attacks by the president, who often repeats the mistake that Brazilian public universities do not produce relevant research (in fact, only very few) a small portion of the research National comes from private institutions).
“In the budget, in speech and executive decisions, it is an anti-education and anti-science government. There has even been a return to data censorship in the case of Inpe [Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, responsável pelo monitoramento do desmate na Amazônia],” says Neto. “In a way, it was humiliating to make every effort not to leave graduate students without the scholarships they depend on for their survival. The role of the SBPC should be unbiased and dialogue-oriented, regardless of government, but the consequences of a second term for Bolsonaro are hard to imagine.”
For Janine Ribeiro, the poverty of the current political debate suggests that it is necessary to invest heavily in the scientific knowledge of the population, widely understood – including not only the natural sciences but also solid knowledge in the humanities. “This is the only thing that will prevent people from calling anyone a ‘communist’ if there is nothing communist at all, as has happened in recent years, or we have so many supposed supporters of liberalism that liberals have almost none,” he says. . ..
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