Twenty years ago, developed countries accounted for 95 percent of the world’s research and development efforts. In 2002, this had dropped to 83 percent and then to 76 percent in 2007, thanks to the work of new players, mainly China, India, and Brazil, in the world of global science. This changing set of circumstances and its implications for global development set the underlying tone of the Unesco 2010 Science Report, released on November 10 by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science, and Culture (Unesco) in Brasília and in Paris. The document, published every five years, provides a diagnosis of the status of science in the world.
One chapter in the report focuses solely on Brazil. It was written by Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of FAPESP and a professor at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), and by Hernan Chaimovich, coordinator of FAPESP’s Centers for Research, Innovation and Diffusion (Cepids) and a professor at the University of São Paulo (USP). “The report shows that along with the classic triad of countries that are always outstanding in the world of science and technology – namely, the United States, Japan, and the European Union, other countries, such as South Korea, India and China, are becoming increasingly important. Brazil, albeit still modestly, has begun to play a role that will enable it to grow and progress,” said Vincent Defourny to Agência FAPESP. Defourny is Unesco’s representative in Brazil.
According to Irina Bokova, general director of Unesco, the emerging countries in terms of science are creating a more competitive global environment and are developing their industry and technology potential. “One of the consequences is increasing competition among countries to attract scientists from abroad and retain or invite back their best researchers and graduate students living abroad,” she stated.
According to the report, in 2007, the world invested 1.7 percent of its GDP in R&D, the same percentage as in 2002. However, a change has occurred in terms of global influence.
Among the emerging countries, the report highlights the performance of China, Brazil, and India, together with that of Iran and Turkey. Led by China, India and South Korea, Asia accounted for 32 percent of the gross expenses in R&D, up from 27 percent. In the meantime, the participation of the European Union dropped from 26.1 percent to 23.1 percent , influenced by the performance of France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Russia is outstanding in terms of the number of researchers, but not in terms of financial resources for its R&D system.
In the chapter on Brazil, the numbers indicate significant evolution, thanks to the development of a scientifically competitive academic basis. “But Brazil still has many challenges to deal with,” said Vincent Defourny. The US$23 billion spent on R&D by Brazil in 2008 is comparable to the investment level of Spain (US$20 billion) and Italy (US$22 billion). However, R&D in Brazil has advanced more slowly than the economy as a whole. From to 2002 and 2008, gross domestic spending on R&D increased by a mere 10 percent, up from 0.98 percent to 1.09 percent of the GDP. In the same period, Brazil’s GDP increased by 27 percent, up from R$2.4 trillion to R$3 trillion.
One of Brazil’s special characteristics is that the public sector accounts for most of the investments in R&D (55 percent), a common phenomenon in developing countries. Brazil’s share of corporate R&D (0.48 percent of the GDP) is only 32 percent of the average of the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OCED). To reach the average of the OCED’s public financing in R&D, Brazil would need to invest an additional R$3.3 billion a year, or three times the budget of the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). In terms of corporate R&D spending, the average amount invested by the OCED member countries is three times the amount spent in Brazil. To reach this level, Brazil’s private sector would have to increase its R&D investments from US$9.95 billion a year to US$33 billion. “Industry R&D needs to get more attention, even more than the attention given to academic research,” said Defourny.
The report points out that the Brazilian business community has achieved some good results, as exemplified by oil extraction and the manufacturing of jet airplanes and dual fuel automobiles. However, Brazil got only 103 patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2009.
Signs of stagnation
Approximately three-fourths of the scientists work in the academic sector. Brazilian researchers published 26,482 scientific articles in journals indexed by the Thomson Reuters – Science Citation Index in 2008, which ranked Brazil as the 13th biggest producer of science in the world. However, 90 percent of these articles were generated at public universities. However, the training of researchers has begun to show signs of stagnation.
The growth rate in the number of PhDs, for example, had been 15 percent a year for quite a long time. In the last five years, however, this figure dropped to only 5 percent a year. “The recently elected government will have to analyze this data in great detail,” Defourny stated. Another cause for concern is that the latest Technological Innovation Survey (Pintec), released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), showed that the number of researchers working for companies in Brazil dropped from 2005 to 2008 (see next article).
Public R&D spending increased in most areas between 2000 and 2008. The exceptions were the defense, energy, and aerospace industries, and the fields of earth and atmosphere exploration. Some sectors lost part of their priority status, even though the related investments did not drop. According to the report, this is the case of agriculture, which accounted for 12 percent of the total public budget in 2000 and for only 10 percent 8 years later, a 17 percent decrease. “The fact that less priority is being given to agriculture specifically should be viewed with concern, given this sector’s economic importance for Brazil,” the report states.
As emphasized in the chapter by Brito Cruz and Chaimovich, the challenge is to create more effective public policies than those employed so far by the Brazilian state. According to Brito Cruz, besides underscoring the regional inequality of scientific production in Brazil, the report also highlighted the need for better alignment between the federal and state government initiatives. “An alignment between federal and state government policies is not restricted to the transfer of funds from the Federal Government to the states. It is imperative, for example, that the states participate in determining the programs and priorities, especially as 35 percent of the funds allocated for R&D in Brazil come from state government sources. The science, technology, and innovation policy must be a national one, rather than a federal policy that is disconnected from the states,” said FAPESP’s scientific director.Republish