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[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil's new science minister, who took up office on 21 July, has pledged to uphold the policies of his predecessor Eduardo Campos.

"My presence in the Ministry of Science and Technology will not mean any changes of strategies or priorities," said Sergio Rezende, who is a physicist and former head of Finep, a funding agency linked to the ministry.

In his inaugural speech, Rezende stressed Brazil's need to improve science education, particularly in state schools.

He also talked of the importance of attracting more young people to science, by increasing efforts to popularise the subject.

This was necessary, he said, because Brazil needs more than ten times the number of researchers it has now.

"Brazil has about 50,000 researchers, who are producing a growing proportion of the world scientific output," said Rezende. "We have the biggest and most qualified scientific community in Latin America."

But he added: "We should have more than 500,000 researchers."

Another challenge, noted Rezende, is to encourage Brazil's business sector to get more involved in research, development and innovation.

Rezende — who has a doctorate from the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology — is well known in Brazil's scientific community and is professor of the Federal University of Pernambuco.

His appointment was part of a wider cabinet reshuffle prompted by a political crisis of recent weeks, in which members of president Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva's Workers' Party were accused of corruption.

Rezende's predecessor Campos stepped down when the president asked him to resume his role as a deputy in the National Congress, where the Workers' Party has a minority and rules through a parliamentary coalition.