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[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil has announced a new programme of science and technology fellowships for high school students, which aims to encourage more of them to take up scientific careers.

The Brazilian minister of science and technology, Roberto Amaral, announced last week that, in total, 14,000 fellowships would be provided this year — an increase of 9 per cent on last year. Of these, 3,000 will benefit high school students involved in scientific activities. And US$7 million is being allocated to graduate fellowships.

Fellowships and professional development are key policy areas for Amaral, who was appointed in January by Brazil’s new government. "We need to guarantee that we have sufficient scientists with PhDs and Master degrees to ensure that we achieve scientific and technological development," he says.

But the announcement still falls short of expectations of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), which in December tried to persuade the National Congress to approve an additional US$31.5 million for graduate fellowships.

According to Glaci Zancan, president of SBPC, the number of fellowships is not the only issue at stake. "We strongly recommend an increase in the value of fellowships, in all categories, because they have not been adjusted to take account of currency deflation," she says.

Zancan is also concerned about the scale of the new student programme. "In my view, this programme should start with fewer fellowships. This would allow for evaluation of the initiative before it grows too large."

She is also concerned about Amaral’s decision to create new fellowship categories without first consulting the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). "It diminishes the autonomy of the organisation, since any new mechanism should be approved first by the CNPq deliberative council", says Zancan.

Source: SciDev.Net

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