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[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil needs to take a regional approach to building scientific capacity in the northern states that make up its Amazon region, say science secretaries in the states' governments.

They warn that the current approach fails to take account of the region's diversity and favours the most scientifically capable states.

The science secretaries were speaking at a regional meeting of the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science, held between 26 and 29 September at the Federal University of Amazonas in Manaus. They called on the federal government to invest in human resources and research infrastructure in both large and small states.

According to the Amazon Working Group, a non-governmental organisation, the Amazon contains 60 per cent of the planet's tropical forests, a quarter of its plant and animal species and 20 per cent of the Earth's freshwater.

The region's science secretaries say it is therefore surprising that Brazil has yet to implement a national policy for scientific development across the Amazon.

Marilene Corrêa, science secretary for Amazonas, the biggest state in northern Brazil, said the federal government implements policies that are not part of a wider effort to develop the region. Instead, they are isolated initiatives that only benefit states with existing scientific infrastructure and human resources, she said.

Corrêa said that states with few available funds often cannot take part in the Ministry of Science's programmes, as projects funded by the government require states to contribute resources beyond their means.

The challenge, according to the meeting's participants, is to develop science policies for the Brazilian Amazon that recognise differences between its states.

José Maria da Silva, science secretary for Amapá — one of Amazon's smallest states with just 600,000 people and three research institutes — says the government must not think of the Amazon as a homogenous green area.

"Policymakers are not aware of the region's plurality", says Silva. "There are things in common and things that are totally different between states' culture, environment, science capacity, and development level."

"All of these have to be considered to implement an efficient policy for developing the Amazon."

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