Brazilian scientists struggle to recover science resources

After Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro passed a law eliminating 690 million Brazilian real (US$122 million) in funds for science managed by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), several Brazilian scientific societies are struggling together with directors and the funding agency. To recover what was lost, compromising the CNPq process.

“We are working with other ministers and with the scientific community to try to reverse the situation,” said Evaldo Villella, head of CNPq. SciDev.Net . Network.

The story began at the beginning of the year (2021), when the government promised the agency R$690 million, and entrusted the Ministry of Economy with a bill guaranteeing the transfer.

The resources will come from the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FNDCT), a source of additional resources to those provided in the annual budget, which must be invested in science. The funds will be used to pay for scholarships, support more than 100 National Institutes of Science and Technology (INCT), and fund research.

However, after a maneuver by the Ministry of Economy with parliamentarians on the eve of the vote on the bill, more than 90% of the estimated amount was transferred to other ministries (agriculture and health), leaving only 55.2 million Brazilian real (US$9.7 million) to produce Radiotherapy for cancer treatment.

The bill’s amendment, congressional approval and presidential sanction on October 15 (all in one week) put CNPq in an awkward position, as the government’s promise of money at the beginning of the year to the agency led to a public call for research grants.

“We need these resources so that we don’t affect the payment, because of the R$250 million expected in our call, R$200 million is coming from the fund (FNDCT).”

Evaldo Villella, President of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)

The 8,800 submitted projects are still in the analysis stage and the result should be published in December (2021), but there is no certainty that they can be undertaken as there are no guaranteed resources.

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“We need these resources so that we don’t affect repayment, because of the R$250 million expected in our call, R$200 million is coming from the fund (FNDCT),” explained the CNPq head.

According to the pyramid, the new bill will be an alternative to recover the lost money, but it will have to be voted on at the end of 2021.

To justify its initial maneuver, the Ministry of Economy argued that the resources intended for science had not been used. In contrast, scholars question the argument and claim that quantity will quench the system of science and technology.

“Our immediate battle is to hand over resources to CNPq,” he said. SciDev.Net . Network Physicist Eldo de Castro Moreira, former president of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC). This group is one of the eight scientific entities that, in a letter sent to the Senate (October 7), shortly after the vote in Congress, opposed the law amendment and demanded a review of the resolution.

According to Moreira, what is at stake is a deliberate action to withhold resources from Brazilian science, which is not the first attempt. The researcher added that Bolsonaro’s government “has a clear difference when it comes to investing in science.”

In 2019, a proposal for a constitutional amendment proposed the termination of 240 public funds, including the FNDCT. Under pressure from the academic and scientific community, the government backed down.

Then, in 2021, the scientific community was also able to veto the enactment of a supplementary law (Law 177), which provided for the prohibition of freezing the resources of the fund, freeing them up for their legal purposes to pay expenses related to innovation and development. . Scientific and technological.

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For biomedical scientist Helena Nader, vice president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC), an institution that is a signatory to the charter, the current problem is that the victory was celebrated in advance.

We are not aware that our opponents are capable of violating the established law. The government did not take the resource, but the right to use the resource, to give it to other sectors. And we don’t even get into the merits other ministries deserve. “But without knowing it is better to shut the door,” he said. SciDev.Net . Network.

According to Nader, going to the Supreme Court could be a good strategy. Moreira adds that the problem is not a lack of money. We know that there are R$2.7 billion in the fund. So much so that the invitation to CNPq was opened with reference to the existence of this resource,” he said.

The researchers explained that 2.7 billion Brazilian reals (480 million US dollars) should be issued in December, because this money is raised at the end of the year. In addition, another issue facing the scientific community is the vote on the science budget for 2022.

no future

as he knows SciDev.Net . NetworkResearchers who submitted projects to CNPq feel threatened by the future of their research.

“We are losing employees, from researchers who have gone on to work at institutes in other countries to young scientists who have given up their careers or are going to do postgraduate studies abroad. “We don’t see the future,” said Rodrigo Nunes da Fonseca, a researcher at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

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His team presented a project investigating cellular and molecular mechanisms of regeneration in some animals, knowledge important for thinking about regeneration therapies for humans.

For Walter Pace, a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, whose project is looking at a fungus that could biologically control an epidemic, with these kind of cuts “science would not be a functional option.”

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