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Afro-Brazilians received just 22 per cent of approximately 63,300 fellowships for master’s degrees, PhDs and researchers provided in January by Brazil’s main public science funding agency, a report reveals.
The study by this agency, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), flags up problems related to funding access for minorities. Afro-Brazilians make up around half of Brazil’s population, but are often underrepresented in science. Indigenous people are also losing out, with only 0.3 per cent of overall fellowships targeted towards them.

“The gap in access to science for black people is being reduced, and we believe that this has to do with the policies launched in Brazil to increase social and racial inclusion.”

Maria Lúcia de Santana Braga, CNPq

When looking solely at ‘productivity researcher fellowships’ — grants given to the most productive researchers — the gap is even greater, the report shows. Of the 14,000 productivity researcher fellowships awarded in January, 75.5 per cent of the recipients were white.
In addition, 64.4 per cent of these fellowships were awarded to men, highlighting the gender imbalance at the top of Brazilian science.
The results are part of a series of reports, launched by the CNPq on 16 March.

But the report found that the participation of Afro-Brazilians was higher among students, with Afro-Brazilians winning about 30 per cent of the 27,800 fellowships given to undergraduate students.

“The gap in access to science for black people is being reduced, and we believe that this has to do with the policies launched in Brazil in recent years to increase social and racial inclusion,” says Maria Lúcia de Santana Braga, one of the report authors and a sociologist at the CNPq.

The authors highlight the need to continue efforts that address racism and other access restrictions. In 2013, the CNPq started to include information on race on its Lattes Platform, an online CV repository of all the people it has funded.

“The inclusion of the information on race in the Lattes Platform was done to meet a frequent request by the black community,” says Braga. “It is justified by the need to generate data in order to understand the panorama of participation of Afro-Brazilians in the scientific and technological system. This helps the creation and improvement of programmes that target ethnic and racial inclusion.”

Licinia Maria Correa, a researcher on social inclusion at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, says the report confirms current understanding. “We already knew that the Brazilian scientific system is white and male,” she tells SciDev.Net.
But Correa adds that the data offers an opportunity to revisit existing mechanisms to improve racial equality, and could be the starting point for more research. There is a “need to qualify these statistics, which requires an effort to specifically examine the combinations of factors that shape the academic life for historically marginalised groups”, she says.

Link to the CNPq report (In Portuguese)

This article was amended on 28 March 2015. There was a further revision on 1 April 2015 to correct some discrepancies around the terminologies used for the Brazilian fellowships.