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A federative pact for science

We must have cooperation between all the regions of the country

Fernando Peregrino

There is no way of denying that Brazil is an unequal country. Not only from the point of view of the concentration of income, which puts it into the shameful position of last place but two in the ranking of nations, in terms of the Gini index, according to a report by the UN, but in regional inequalities as well. This is how capitalism developed in our territory, concentrating its development in the southeastern region, to the detriment of states in regions like the northeast, north and center-west. The phenomenon occurred in a similar fashion with our scientific and technological complex, even though worthy efforts and important conquests have been achieved against this. Without delving into the political reasons for all this concentration and imbalance, it is worthwhile discussing this asymmetry a bit. The fact is that over 60% of our scientific and technological production is concentrated in the southeastern axis.

The Forum of the Secretaries for Science and Technology has pored, as a priority, over this issue. In the first place, as the forum is in a privileged position for acting as a mirror of the federation. Secondly, because we are talking of a political issue, albeit not a partisan one, but political in the full sense of the word. In third place, because e understanding that science and technology in Brazil are powerful tools for putting economic and social development back into balance, since everyone recognizes that these two tools are this millennium?s fulcrum for progress. That is, there is no way of developing the country without more regional equilibrium. And there is no way of developing these regions without these fulcrums.

Some still believe that overdevelopment in the southeastern axis “overflows” into the other regions. Joyful illusion. Or they even say that competition for resources is the natural solution for resolving these inequalities. Wrong as well. It is worth recalling a program developed in the USA, in the 80s, by the National Science Foundation (NSF), when they found that just three centers of excellence were contracting almost 80% of this development agency?s resources. The other entities remained in limbo and in a vicious circle. They were not “excellent” because they did not have resources, and they did not have resources because they were not “excellent”. The NSF then decided to allocate sizable funds and to distribute them over the states that were in this situation. The result is that competition today is far greater than before, no longer among unequal competitors, but amongst similar ones.

The forum also recognizes that, instead of fierce competition, we ought to have unrestricted cooperation between all the regions. There is not the slightest possibility of these less developed regions attaining a higher level of scientific development without strengthening the solid base created in São Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro, to stay with two states that have had the opportunity to develop. That is why the forum, which was held in Recife and Porto Alegre this year, proposed a federative pact for science and technology, a pact in which cooperation would replace predatory competition, and where the federation would be effectively respected.

The role of the secretaries, then, grows in importance, because the political component of their roles has been highlighted in this process. The FAPs will also be benefited, because they should have greater backing for their local actions and will help to make the pact viable. There was gladness and confidence to find that this policy was given decisive support by the Ministry of Science and Technology, in particular from its head, Minister Roberto Amaral. He soon gave prestige to the forum and its decisions, such as the construction of an Integrated Action Plan with the states, linking the national policy for science and technology with the state policies. This federative pact is getting a good blast of wind in its sails!

Fernando Peregrino is the State Secretary for Science, Technology and Innovation of Rio de Janeiro and the president of the National Forum of the Secretaries for S&T.