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Letter from the editor | 149

Building leadership in the long run

It is only from the standpoint of superficial and basic appearance that the article featured on the cover of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP is limited to the institution that publishes this magazine. From a broader and sharper point of view, it actually concerns the economy of Sao Paulo and of Brazil, as well as the role the country intends to play in future years in the international arena in connection with one of the most crucial infrastructure issues for the planet’s future, one that involves both the structure of societies and the conservation of the environment: redefining the energy system on a global scale. With no megalomania and based on the competence of the scientific and technological research gathered within the state of São Paulo, BIOEN (the Bionenergy Research Program), launched by FAPESP on the  3rd of last month and described in detail by our scientific and technological policy editor, Fabrício Marques, starting on page 20, may provide, going forward, effective technical and scientific contributions for a consistent and irreversible expansion of ethanol within the energy system, in particular with regard to the transport industry, where it is seen as the undeniable rising star for the replacement of oil-derived fuels.

As Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s scientific director, states in the article, “Brazil has major advantages in the production of first generation ethanol, made by fermenting sucrose, but there are many challenges that we must overcome to improve productivity”. Besides this, he adds, “there are major opportunities for the technological development of second generation ethanol, produced from pulp, which has been the target of research in many countries. BIOEN works on both fronts”. To this end, the program is organized along five main lines: research into biomass, focusing on sugarcane improvements; biofuel manufacturing processes; ethanol applications for automotive engines; studies on biorefineries and the chemistry of alcohol; and, last, the social and environmental impact of using biofuels. The details, including coordination with other institutions such as CNPq (Brazil’s National Scientific and Technological Development Council) and large private-sector enterprises can be found in the article in question. Unmissable reading, believe me.

It is interesting that precisely  in this edition we  bring an interview full of quick repartee with former minister João Paulo dos Reis Velloso, reflecting his tireless thoughts on the economic paths for Brazil’s development, largely based on science and technology, a subject he has been poring over for almost six decades. The first part of this interview, in which he talks about his childhood as a boy in the state of Piauí and about his contributions to setting up the country’s institutional science and technology structure in the 1960s and 1970s, was actually conducted in late 2005 for my PhD thesis. We had been trying ever since to get our schedule in sync to complete the interview, which only happened, finally, on Thursday, June 26, one month after the opening of the 20th National Forum, the round number edition at an annual event that he has been organizing since 1988 in order to talk about Brazil. The forum is almost always opened by the president of the Republic and this one was no exception. However, at its end, after four mornings and afternoons of exhausting talks and debates with ministers, CEOs of large companies, renowned researchers from several fields and other experts, the former minister decided to be absolutely innovative: after the presentation of so many ideas and proposals about the society of knowledge that we must build in Brazil, based on a creative economy, and after   reiterating, in several ways,  the rare opportunity for Brazil to become a player of the fundamental kind, as it is commonly said, on the international scene, or “the best of the BRICs”, as Reis Velloso wants, he put together a round table to discuss “Love in these unloving times” and to close the forum’s proceedings with great emotion at the end of Friday morning, May 30. One can check the vision, or visions, of this tireless economist in the article that begins on page 12.

The article on stomach reduction surgery, by our assistant science editor, Maria Guimarães, is also worthy of highlighting. In this text she explains why this operation, besides largely solving the issue of morbid obesity, also helps to treat diabetes and even provides some protection against certain cancers. The article would have been a strong candidate for becoming the chief cover feature were it not for the fact that we have a subject with a more far-reaching scope, the ethanol research program.

To end, a very sad event that took place in June, the sudden death of anthropologist Ruth Cardoso, is the subject of journalist Gonçalo Junior’s article, starting on page 106. He writes about the  path of this very special woman, her meaning for education and research in the field of the social sciences in São Paulo and, in parallel, her capacity to transfer to political practice her academic thoughts, in particular while she was the country’s first lady, from 1995 to 2002. On page 109, we would like to highlight the small but precious and sensitive testimonial of philosopher José Arthur Giannotti about Ruth Cardoso.