Turning science and technology into a priority in Brazil


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In a previous contribution to this blog, I said that science and technology is not a priority in less developed countries, including Brazil. I recently described why this is in Scientia & Ricerca. Brazil’s government claims it cannot treat science and technology different from other areas. If it cannot double the investments in other areas, it cannot double the investment in science and technology. Since the Gross National Product (GNP) of Brazil cannot double in one year we are stuck with investments in science and technology at 1% of GNP historically.

Yet we can still support this strategy. Consider that we multiplied our publishing output in science and technology by six over the last four decades through the work of returning Brazilians who had studied abroad, and through fellowship and scholarships supplied by the Ministry of Education. Still, Brazilian bureaucrats do not see the importance of translational work. When Fernando Cardoso was the President of Brazil, a ministry member said technology development is not for less developed countries and that we should buy technologies abroad.

As a National Secretary in Research and Development in Brazil at the Ministry of Science and Technology for thirteen years, I’ve heard four Presidents and six Ministries of Science and Technology say they would double the investments in science and technology in Brazil up from the 1% of GNP. In 2017 the investment was again at 1%.

In my experience, all Presidents and Ministries believed that science and technology is essential. So how to actually get increased investment? It is best to start small. First, presidents must accept that in order for science and technology to become a priority in the country, investment must increase. The second step is to negotiate an actual increase with the federal planning bureaucrats. I postulate that we should double the investment over five years, but we must be prepared to accept a different proposal.

Is that the end of the story? Of course not. In all developed countries the private sector invests up to 2% of the GNP in science and technology. This will only be possible if the economic and financial context in Brazil changes for the better and corruption comes under control.

Luiz Antonio Barreto de Castro

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