The Impact of Brazil's Crises on Science

Brazil spends about 1% of its GDP on research and development, an amount far below what other countries of similar means invest into science . The economic and political crises has made things even worse for science. Recently, the government proposed several cuts that directly affect the future of research in Brazil.

Currently, public universities (federal and state universities) are struggling to pay basic amenities such as electricity and water. Some universities do not even have enough money even to cover the payroll. This is the case of the São Paulo’s state universities. They are using their reserves to cover the payment of professors and other staff. On the top of this, the federal funding agencies (CAPES and CNPq ) that are responsible for the investment on education, research and technology have been allocated a minuscule budget. This budget is supposed to cover laboratory equipment as well as fundings for research projects and fellowships all over the country.

In 2016, there was a 25% decrease in the budget proposal requests for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) compared with the previous year. There were also freezes in the new scholarships for exchange programs such as the Science Without Borders. The number of new research grant and fellowships has also severally decreased in the last years. The situation is no different this year and it seems that there is no short-term solution for the funding problem.

The restrictions of private investment in Brazilian research, the lack of partnerships with companies compounded with a poor public administration has lead Brazilian science to a bleek future. Without equipment and resources, sometimes researchers use their own money to keep laboratories afloat. Bad work conditions constantly hinder the advancement of this “young research”. The quality of the research is being affected as well as the training of new researchers. As a result, researchers migrate to other countries in search of better working conditions and funding resources. It seems that science in Brazil is doomed to keep crawling at the edge of its fundings limitations in the coming years.

Brazilians see these warning sign as an indication that something is really wrong, but politicians insist on turning a blind eye. I think that education and research are crucial for a nation to grow. However, the paths chosen by Brazilian leaders are of dubious intentions: Are them really thinking about Brazilian people or just trying to put the money somewhere else where it may give more political viability for themselves?