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When does science come back?

When does science come back?

Photo: Anna Shvets/Pixels

Photo: Anna Shvets/Pixels

In the distant year 2007, an editorial in the journal prison cell, one of the world’s most important scientific journals, published: “Latin America Science Goes to the Center of Attention”. This was a time when countries such as Argentina, Mexico, and especially Brazil, celebrated an unprecedented increase in scientific output and investments in human resource training, innovation and technology.

In Brazil, the sector as a whole has gained, by organizing subsidies on the basis of sectoral funds (a reserve consisting of mandatory contributions from companies exploiting the natural resources of the Brazilian territory), a secure base for the consolidation of a national system of scientific inquiry that will allow the country to take a leading role in the Agenda of the Century Twenty one.

The following period, with increased investment until around 2013, was one of continuous expansion in knowledge generation, particularly associated with employee training. Brazil jumped from 27th to 13th in production of published scientific articles. The Brazilian science left its “landing ground”, training professors and clinicians capable of developing a system of research and innovation that had previously been largely restricted to the axis of public institutions and aggressively expanded to include community universities.

The effects were also felt in education in the following years through the absorption of knowledge production, with the arrival of this new group of professionals at the new universities that opened away from the traditional training centres. Graduate programs spread across the same geographical horizon, allowing to overcome historical regional disparities in the formation of highly qualified human resources. The implications of staff qualification remain sensitive in faculty working in tertiary education and even in secondary and primary education.

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However, as of 2014, as public accounts absorb this ethereal entity often called “the market,” there is the beginning of a decline in federal spending on science and technology affecting scholarships, capital, and funding. The decline from 2016 onwards is dizzy and affects the country’s largest agencies, including Capes, CNPq and Finep. From 2018 onwards, the twilights of the system continue, and despite the efforts of the scientific community and even individuals most connected to the field of science and technology in the executive branch, the amounts in the federal budget no longer constitute a total or the amount that they once did was what was only intended for CNPq, for example.

The epidemic comes and Brazil has fever, shortness of breath, coughing and suffering. Science, that cute genetic, is called fast. It responds and generates solutions, universities and research centers are mobilized and concerned with what is essential in the fight against the epidemic in the most diverse aspects: diagnosis, communication and studies of the most diverse technologies, in short. And this is in an environment where part of the population glorifies science, part of it simply and ruthlessly attacks it, even with the encouragement of the authorities. There is a constant struggle between sobering truth and warm tales of miraculous painkillers. But, finally, the battle against the virus and against a heavy dose of obscurantism is gradually being won, here and in other corners.

The world is now beginning to breathe without much fear – by the way – which is the fault of science. Competitive football on the world stage has been put at the center with the pandemic, right? To any reasonably educated individual, if there is a crisis accompanied by the epidemic that has struck all countries, it seems strategic to think that it is time to warm up the engines, and speed up with all the strength available to turn to the future or at least get out of the delay and get to the present.

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We, rational beings, believe that through science, technology and innovation we will move forward, stimulate new minds in the country and strengthen, through knowledge, our repositioning in the global context. right? No. A right to you and me, not to the “market,” not to a short-term rentier view and well-fed minority interests running the country’s economy. We experienced a 90% reduction in sector financing, which is, to say the least, a recession. The plan is consolidated to keep us relentless in the development lantern. It is sad to believe in science and its power to change society these days in Brazil.

* Fernando Spielke, Dean of Research, Graduate Studies, and Advising University of Vevel.