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A good time for Brazilian science

Nature praises national research and highlights São Paulo's autonomy and the strength of its production

A report published in the June 10 edition of the scientific journal Nature says that “Brazilian scientists have never seen better times.” The reason is the federal government’s investments in the sector in recent years and the fact that many Brazilian states are “trying to emulate the rich [state of] São Paulo, which has the strongest scientific tradition” in the country. Signed by journalist Anna Petherick, who covered the 4th National Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation, held in late May in Brasilia, the text stresses the benefits achieved by those states, such as São Paulo, that undertake to finance a considerable part of their research regardless of the volume of funding provided by Brasilia. According to the article, in the early 1990s, when hyperinflation eroded the funds available for research, “the funding dried up in other places in the country, but researchers from São Paulo experienced fewer interruptions.” In the report, Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s scientific director, recalls that since the 1947 São Paulo State Constitution, the state has had its own laws ensuring the investment of a fixed percentage of its tax revenue for scientific research. “Possibly no other research promotion agency in the world has this kind of security and financial autonomy [from the federal government],” Brito Cruz told Nature.

The article by the journalist alludes to figures that illustrate the current strength of Brazilian science, such as the progressive increase in public investment in science, a process that, at the federal level, began with the term of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and has continued during the two terms of his successor, Lula. Another positive fact mentioned is the rising number of scientific articles published by Brazilian scientists in international journals. As one of the great pieces of work done by Brazilian science, the report highlights the sequencing of the genome of the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium, the agent that causes citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC) in orange groves, an initiative concluded in 2000 and fully funded by FAPESP.