Brazil releases science blueprint
[CURITIBA] Brazil hopes to guide its science policy to new heights with the launch of its 'Blue Book' last month (22 December).
The much-anticipated official document, released by the country's Ministry of Science and Technology, is a summary of discussions about the future of Brazilian science at the 4th National Conference for Science and Technology, held in May.
"Never in Brazilian history have we seen such a mobilisation in the name of science," Luiz Davidovich, coordinator of the meeting and a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told SciDev.Net.
The book says national science policy should be guided by two key areas: innovation and sustainable development.
Key to boosting science is decentralisation, it says. Historically research has been concentrated in the south-central region, particularly São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and surrounding areas.
"That's not healthy for the country," said Davidovich.
Another goal is investment in work on under-researched areas central to the country's development, such as marine sciences and the Amazon. Much of Brazil's 8,000-kilometre coastline is understudied, while the book says that Brazilians no longer view the forest as a source of wood but of new medicines.
The book also explores the relationship between universities and the private sector, proposing the creation of institutions that can facilitate public–private dialogue.
This interaction has proven fruitful for the company Fras-le, for example, which has partnered with the Federal University of Santa Catarina to develop brake systems.
"From a technological perspective, this partnership is great," said Fras-le engineer Paulo Varante.
Other goals include investment in science popularisation and attracting young people to scientific careers. The book says Brazil should invest around ten per cent of its GDP (gross domestic product) in education by the end of the decade. Currently half this amount is invested.
Sergio Rezende, former minister of science and technology, said Brazilian science is growing three times faster than the world average.
"In the first decade of this century the National Fund for Science Development increased from 2.2 million Brazilian real [US$1.3 million] to 3.1 billion [US$1.8 billion]," he said.
Other Ministry of Science and Technology goals include doubling scholarships for researchers, increasing patents ten-fold and achieving an annual budget for science, technology and innovation (STI) of 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2022.
The Blue Book was released in the last days of President Luiz Lula da Silva's term. Dilma Rousseff succeeded him in on 1 January, and the general expectation is that she will maintain good investments in STI.
The budget for 2011, approved by Rousseff, appears to have avoided mooted cuts of US$363 million — 10 per cent of the core S&T funding — opposed in a joint letter by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science last month (22 December).