Outlook for Brazilian Science Discussed at SBPC Congress in Maceió

Participantes da mesa-redonda sentados e falando ao microfone

Left to right: Representative of FINEP, chair of CONFAP, representative of SBPC and president of CNPq


(31.07.18) At the 70th annual meeting of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), the scientific community came together at the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL) in Maceió between 22 and 27 July. At the stand of the German House for Research and Innovation São Paulo – which also hosted the exhibition ‘The Brazilian World Heritage Site of Serra da Capivara – The Oldest Traces of Settlement in America?’ – representatives from the DFG’s Latin America office were on hand to provide information about research and funding opportunities in Germany.

The varied scientific programme included discussions of the situation regarding Brazilian research in view of the current crisis, which is also making its impacts felt on funding organisations. It was a good opportunity for the DFG to learn about the current situation and future prospects for its partner organisations.

During a panel discussion on the afternoon of 23 July, Prof. Dr. Mario Neto Borges, President of the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq, also a partner organisation of the DFG), explained that scientific publications have increased significantly thanks to investment in recent decades and that Brazil now occupies 13th place in relevant rankings.

“In 2017, over 20,000 postdoctoral researchers and 40,000 master’s graduates helped Brazil to achieve a good position with a substantial number of scientific articles. But we are not making corresponding progress in terms of knowledge gain and especially in the creation of technology and innovation,” Borges added. In spite of some improvements in recent years, he said, Brazil is still at an unsatisfactory 64th place in the international innovation ranking. In Borges’ view, this is due firstly to poor links between research and industry and secondly to bureaucracy and a funding shortage.

Grupo de estudantes diverte-se na Expo T&C


“Around 1% of Brazil’s GDP is continually invested in research, technology and innovation. But when crisis hits, this sector is the first to suffer cuts because science is not regarded as an important investment. Yet science and innovation are the only ways to create prosperity, contribute to society and achieve autonomy,” he added.

Zaíra Turchi, chair of the national association of state funding organisations CONFAP, underlined that in addition to federal funding, for instance through CNPq, the continuous allocation of funds to the state funding agencies (FAPs) was of crucial importance. Recently, some of these organisations have struggled to meet their payment commitments for grants and project funding, as they have not received sufficient funds from the federal state governments. One of the agencies affected was DFG partner organisation FAPERJ in Rio de Janeiro.

According to Turchi, one key measure is to introduce percentage-based mandatory investments in research and development which should be embedded in law in Brazil’s federal states, as is the case with the DFG partner organisation in the state of São Paulo (FAPESP). Since 1989, as stipulated by the constitution, the institution has received 1% of state revenue annually in the form of monthly instalments – a system which has so far proved successful and which ensures regular payments of funding.

“The FAPs are of vital importance to regional scientific progress. They currently exist in nearly all federal states, which is an outcome of many years of hard work by researchers all over Brazil,” Turchi explained. The only state which does not yet have its own FAP is Roraima in northern Brazil.

At the end of the event, the audience was given the opportunity to share their views. They called for greater efforts to increase investments in the research sector and to ensure the timely and regular payment of grants.