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We are lagging behind on investing in science | Antonio Joyce

In terms of political polarization, the United States owes nothing to Brazil. However, last week, Republican and Democratic senators joined together انضم Passage of the largest industrial policy act in US history. Contrary to what usually happens in Brazilian crony capitalism, the main destination of the $250 billion in the package will not be in subsidies to artificially increase corporate competitiveness. The main motive for the law – which was not voted on by MPs – is investment in science and technology, out of fear of losing leadership in this area to China.

In the same week that the US indicated more investment in the sector, the news in Brazil was going in the opposite direction. Bruno Alfano reports on Globo last Monday He revealed that 30 out of 69 federal universities were unable to ensure the continuation of basic activities until the end of the year. And they were cutting back on scholarships and research. In Fulha, reporter Doulgas Gavras showed on Wednesday that The number of US work visas for highly-qualified Brazilians – including scientists – was applied for in 2020 the highest in a decade..

In an article on the cover This month’s edition of FAPESP Research Journal, reporter Rodrigo de Oliveira Andrade showed that the budget of the Ministry of Science and Technology – after deducting mandatory expenditures – has suffered successive cuts since 2013, to the point that the R$1.8 billion projected for 2021 represents only 16% of those registered in 2013, given the inflation period .

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It is clear that Brazil’s potential resources in science and technology cannot be compared to the investment capacity of the United States or China. However, unlike what we see in basic education, in terms of scientific development, we have always been at the forefront in Latin America, a position that is beginning to be compromised.

Rankings that suggest comparing the performance of universities between countries always carry some subjectivity, as the weight or selection of different criteria makes the institution’s own standing differ depending on the entity that ranks it. Even with this caveat, in all the surveys, Brazil has always been highlighted in the Latin American scenario thanks to public universities.

In one of the most recent reports, prepared by the British consulting firm QS, Brazil was the country with the highest number of institutions (94) among the best institutions in the region, followed by Mexico (66), Colombia (60), Argentina (42) and Chile (40 ). The three most prominent Brazilians were USP (second), Unicamp (fifth) and UFRJ (ninth). The leadership among the institutions in this survey, which used to belong to the USP, now belongs to PUC Chile. Commenting on the Brazilian situation at the time of the survey’s releasePim Sutter, Director of Research at QS, stated that “Although Brazil remains a regional leader in higher education from a research perspective, its dominance has diminished.”

As always in the case of education, we can say that the problem is not only a lack of resources. The debate on how to increase the efficiency of our research is legitimate and necessary. But drastic cuts that threaten even the basic functions of public universities will not solve this problem.

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