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Interview

Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz: An igniter of change

FAPESP scientific director shares how he encouraged behaviors that helped improve research in São Paulo

Léo Ramos Chaves

Utilizing its historically stable financial resources in a way that is recognized by the scientific community and society as legitimate is not the only responsibility of FAPESP, although it is an enormous task. The organization’s role, according to Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, its scientific director for the past 15 years, is to contribute to the progress of the research system as a whole.

According to Brito Cruz, the key mechanism for achieving this objective is using these resources in a focused and effective manner that encourages and stimulates change in the way institutions and researchers behave. This strategy can be illustrated by the Code of Good Scientific Practices, introduced by the Foundation in 2011, and by the requirement for institutions that host projects funded by FAPESP to provide institutional support to the researcher. In recent years, São Paulo universities and institutions have established offices that help their researchers accomplish bureaucratic tasks, thus allowing them to focus on science. In his assessment, the excessive number of nonscientific tasks assigned to researchers is an obstacle to improving the quality of science in Brazil and it is up to the institutions to offer them project management services—as do the foreign universities with which they seek to compete.

Age 61
Area of expertise
Ultra-fast phenomena, scientific policy, S&T studies
Institutions
Gleb Wataghin Physics Institute at the University of Campinas (IFGW-UNICAMP) and FAPESP
Education
Undergraduate degree in electronic engineering (Aeronautics Institute of Technology), master’s degree and PhD in science from IFGW-UNICAMP
Publications
106 scientific articles

Another similar measure was encouraging collaborations with both Brazilian and foreign institutions and agencies. “The quality of science benefits from a researcher interacting with the best scientists he or she can find. This promotes an exchange of ideas, methods, and procedures, and it creates opportunities for students,” he states.

Despite the severity of the current situation, with the world facing the new coronavirus pandemic, and Brazil in particular also facing an economic and political crisis, Brito Cruz believes research developed in São Paulo and in Brazil today is more exuberant, more popular, of a higher quality, internationally impactful, more visible to the general public, and more connected to the challenges faced by society. That is why, he argues, defending science today is more effective than it was 15 or 20 years ago.

Both an engineer and a physicist, Brito Cruz was president of FAPESP (1996–2002) and dean of the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) between 2002 and 2005. Just before the end of his fifth and final three-year term, in April, the scientific director granted the following interview to Pesquisa FAPESP, available in an extended version on the website.

In 2005, when you took over as scientific director, you called your views on Brazil’s scientific development ‘optimistic.’ Now, fifteen years later, are you still optimistic?
I am still optimistic. We are going through an adverse moment, but research activity in São Paulo and in Brazil has grown and improved significantly. It is more exuberant, more popular, of a higher quality, more internationally impactful, more visible to the general public… I never would have thought, back in 2005, that we would see an article in O Globo newspaper signed by politicians—including the president of the Federal Congress—fighting for science. Science and technology research has earned its place among the values of Brazilian society and has proven to be more connected to the challenges faced by society, both for emergencies and purely for intellectual advancement.

Despite the advances, there is a belief that science is under attack.
Quite true. This is one of the adverse aspects of our current situation, which are not limited to the lack of funding or the economic crisis. It is about the issue of credibility and discussions on the value of science. But we are holding our own in this debate. The criticism and aggression leveled at science cause the research community in Brazil and worldwide to be more concerned with the impact of their work and making results more visible. Science in São Paulo and Brazil is on an upward curve. It could be growing even more if it were not for certain obstacles. Because it is increasing, defending science today is more effective than in 2005.

How is FAPESP relevant nowadays?
The Foundation remains extremely relevant for two reasons. The first is its financial resources: they are stable, predictable, and utilized in a way the scientific community recognizes as legitimate. The second is the Foundation’s effort to establish criteria to provide access to funds, thus encouraging and stimulating certain behaviors in institutions and researchers. These two aspects are complementary.

It cannot be the researcher’s job to call a travel agency to buy tickets for visiting researchers

Could you give an example?
By introducing a Code of Good Scientific Practices, as it did in 2011, FAPESP influences behaviors and increases visibility of the issue in a positive and effective way within institutions. Adopting good practices means enforcing fair and strict measures for prevention, training, and investigation; this encourages institutions and individuals to behave in certain ways. This was simply not discussed before, and whenever there was a scandal, all parties promised exemplary punishment. It is not like that anymore.

Are there any other examples?
The fact that FAPESP demands from institutions what we call institutional support for researchers. The lack of such support is one of the main obstacles to improving the quality and impact of the science and research produced in São Paulo. If we want São Paulo researchers to compete with those from Stanford, École Polytechnique, or Cambridge, they need to receive from their institutions a level of support similar to that provided by such institutions. And we are nowhere near that, although there has been a lot of progress. About three years ago we had 200 institutional research support offices in the state—that is not enough, we need 600. In 2005, we had 10 at most. It cannot be the researcher’s job to call a travel agency to buy tickets for visiting researchers, or gather the necessary documents for their grant, or call a technician for maintenance… Meanwhile, their colleague from Cambridge is writing papers, advising students, having discussions with colleagues, and generating ideas. With more institutional support, we could multiply the effect of any funds granted by 1.7, or perhaps by 2. It is essential that an organization like FAPESP require institutions to fulfill this role.

Why should FAPESP be the one to make this happen?
Because it will never be put on the agenda unless an organization like FAPESP pressures institutions to do so. The scientific community realizes this is a problem but formulates it differently; they say we need to “reduce the bureaucracy.” Reducing bureaucracy does not mean eliminating the rules required by a democracy for the use of public funding. It means taking the burden of bureaucracy off the scientist’s shoulders. For decades, FAPESP worked under the assumption that providing funding to top researchers would be enough for science to progress. It has progressed, but it has come to a point where there will be no further significant advancement without institutional support.

How do you assess the strategies adopted by the Board of Scientific Directors over these last 15 years?
Far beyond selecting research projects, I took it upon myself to try and elevate the entire system, like the tide that raises all boats at once, not just one or two. It is possible to develop a program that is successful within a certain area but immersed in a system that pulls the rest down. My concern from day one, as described in the plan I presented to the FAPESP Board of Trustees, was: “The Genome Project was amazing, but how many other possibilities did we miss or simply not pursue?” Encouraging certain behaviors changes everything; it affects all areas, from younger to older researchers, and both well-established and emerging institutions.

Is promoting international cooperation also a strategy to encourage such behaviors?
Yes. We had little interaction with foreign entities before 2005. There was—and still is—a kind of shyness in Brazil’s scientific community. With our encouragement, many researchers have taken an interest in and held leadership positions in international collaborations. Today, many important projects are carried out in São Paulo, such as the Sampa chip for the CERN [European Organization for Nuclear Research] detector, the FERMILAB neutrino detector (Arapuca), and the most important world report on bioenergy sustainability, led by researchers from the Bioenergy [BIOEN] and Climate Change and Biodiversity [BIOTA] programs. In Brasília, they thought international collaboration meant exporting students. For us, it means conceiving the research together, fighting side by side for the project to be approved both here and abroad, and, if approved, developing it as a team. Then yes, it does makes sense for researchers and students to travel abroad. Today, nearly 15% of thematic projects are international collaborations from day one. The percentage of articles coauthored by foreign and São Paulo researchers jumped from 25% to 45%.

Isabela Carrari / Santos City Hall A barrier erected on the shoreline of Santos (São Paulo) to mitigate the impact of climate changeIsabela Carrari / Santos City Hall

How has international collaboration been encouraged?
We have gradually learned how to work with the main research funding agencies in the world. The first ones to help us out were from the United Kingdom. On the initiative of the British Consulate, the Research Councils were receptive, and we were able to set up our first relevant joint funding agreement, involving end-to-end collaborations on research projects of all sizes. We had never funded large projects alongside foreign agencies before. The experience allowed us to initiate several international agreements with prominent agencies. We set up similar collaboration agreements with DFG, a German research agency, and with the National Science Foundation [NSF], from the United States. We imported some of their procedures, such as how to organize meetings, what types of forms to use, how to extract better and more detailed assessments from our advisors. Our system as a whole was improved. Today, FAPESP is one of the agencies that offers the most opportunities for international collaboration in the world. That is one of the reasons why FAPESP has become a major player with international organizations, such as the Global Research Council, whose 2019 meeting was held here and featured myself as chair of the governing board.

There is an interest in not only sending Brazilian scientists abroad but bringing those from abroad here as well. What was the main challenge in attracting good researchers from abroad?
That was only partially successful. The international collaboration strategy developed by FAPESP includes reciprocity as a key value. We look for collaborative projects in which the contribution from researchers from São Paulo is comparable to that from their colleagues from other countries. This raises the bar. Part of that reciprocity becomes tangible when we insist on bringing in people from abroad. This is a challenge because, despite the efficiency of FAPESP, there are many other issues, such as the “Brazil cost.” Even with these struggles, the number of grant beneficiaries from outside of São Paulo has increased. We bring researchers from other states, which is also important. And the number of researchers from abroad has also increased—20% of our postdoctoral grant beneficiaries come from other countries. They come from all over, including France, Canada, India, Pakistan, Germany… Some companies that have received funding from the RISB [Research for Innovation in Small Businesses, or PIPE in the Portuguese acronym] program had a number of projects led by researchers that we had brought from Europe. They came as postdoctoral students, decided to remain here, and are now leading business research.

This strategy was based on three elements: bringing researchers from abroad, sending researchers abroad, developing projects together. Were they equally important?
We spend more on BEPE [Research Internship Abroad] and collaborative projects than on bringing in foreigners. Whenever possible, we try to make sure the trips of BEPE students or invited foreign researchers are related to collaborative research projects. Our goal is for these three elements to work together. Take SPEC [São Paulo Excellence Chair], a program that creates the opportunity for very distinguished researchers to spend time here, leading a project, interacting with students, experiencing the department for a certain number of weeks per year. SPEC creates many opportunities. One of these researchers, Emilio Moran, is on the National Science Board of the United States, which is the NSF Board of Trustees. Our strategy is not focused on repatriation, but on bringing excellent scientists to work in Brazil, whether or not they are Brazilian.

From 2005 to 2015, FAPESP expanded partnerships with other Brazilian institutions, such as other research support foundations (FAPs) and federal institutions.
When I applied for the position, I argued that FAPESP needed to further explore opportunities to collaborate with entities interested in S&T in Brazil: BNDES, FINEP, CNPq, CAPES. We began pursuing opportunities. From 2005 to 2013, part of the federal agencies’ strategy involved cultivating a good relationship with the FAPs. In 2005, we presented a project to FINEP, the PAPPE Grant. To this day, this program helps fund phase 3 RISB projects. The INCTs [Brazilian National Institutes for Science and Technology] was one of CNPq’s important programs that received startup support from FAPESP, which was the second largest source of funds. We then made an excellent agreement with CAPES to fund fellowship programs totaling R$240 million, of which R$167 million has already been distributed. And we achieved something unique, a partnership with BNDES; we built the IPT light structures laboratory together in São José dos Campos. We made agreements with several FAPs—from Pernambuco, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro—and we recently began making more comprehensive agreements with many others. Collaboration has come a long way.

What was the role of FAPESP in encouraging innovation and interaction between universities and businesses?
Innovation may or may not include research—and FAPESP works exclusively with research. If a research project leads to innovation, it can be supported by FAPESP. I have seen meetings, quarrels, and fights over assigning to FAPESP the mission to support innovation in a lato sensu context, which would be against the law. We strove to expand the focus of FAPESP in innovation research, so that, in addition to receiving projects from researchers, we would make agreements with businesses to jointly fund PITE [Research Partnership for Technological Innovation Program] projects. We made Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in partnership with dozens of companies—Oxiteno, Braskem, Intel, Microsoft, Vale, pharmaceutical companies. With this, we were able to increase the number of PITE projects and the amount invested in them. In 2013, we established the Engineering Research Center [CPE], a hybrid of Research, Innovation, and Dissemination Centers [RIDC] and PITE. These research centers are partly funded by specific businesses for 10-year periods. We have 16 of those and should soon have two more on artificial intelligence, one on water, and one on early childhood. We have even partnered with international businesses that have never done research in Brazil. The other part of doing research with businesses, RISB, took slightly longer because we had to learn new things. We carried out a reform as it developed.

Léo Ramos Chaves With Jorge Tezon, from Argentina’s CONICET, and Peter Strohschneider, from the German Research FoundationLéo Ramos Chaves

What was that like?
The first part of the reform involved learning from the NSF how to select small business projects. I examined RISB and then spoke to them. It was very enlightening. We created a new procedure: bringing in specialists instead of having coordinators assess the projects. It greatly improved the quality of the assessments. Then we worked on achieving higher visibility for the program. We began running ads and promoting meetings to guide the writing of quality projects. We put together a ceremony to announce the approved proposals. As a result, over the last three or four years we have had the highest number of approved projects and the funds for them increase annually. These projects with businesses, which I call research “in” and “with” businesses—RISB and PITE, respectively—received close to 10% of the Foundation’s funding last year, which was a first. It was very successful.

How did these initiatives impact the academic environment and the economy?
Their first impact, pointed out in a 2009 assessment, is that the funds from FAPESP make it feasible for businesses to invest a much higher amount of their own funds in the project. This was also illustrated by a chart published in Pesquisa FAPESP, showing how many employees the businesses had before and after the RISB project [see supplement PIPE FAPESP – 20 years of innovation]. InVitro started with 30 and later had 268 employees. Griaule went from 5 to 45. We saw a large increase in the number of businesses that come to us interested in building these engineering research centers through PITE, so it does have some results. But this is an indirect impact. The most explicit impact was dispelling the view that conducting a project in collaboration with a business is a mediocre effort which hinders the careers of researchers and students.

A long-held prejudice…
Prejudice is usually unfounded; this was based on reality. The researchers were basing these views on what usually happened in the past: most projects were simply consulting services. Many organizations still mix up collaborative research and subsidized consulting services. PITE helped change that and the CPEs have dissipated it entirely. Every business we partnered with in the CPEs is interested in advanced research. They are not looking for incremental research; they want to create the future. This is evident in the public calls, which has aroused the interest of the scientific community, and it matches the conditions for the involvement of an agency such as FAPESP. In my opinion, it only makes sense to use public funds to support innovation research if the business in question achieves something it could not achieve using solely its own money. The goal must be sufficiently complicated, risky, or uncertain for the business to not pursue it on its own. Taxpayer money reduces risk. This way, we are adding something to the system. Otherwise, businesses will simply think: “Now we have government money, so let’s take the funds we would spend on research and put that toward marketing, distribute it among stakeholders…”

There is potential in universities that Brazilian businesses are not utilizing enough

Was this what motivated your recent paper, which indicated a 14% increase per year in collaborations between universities and businesses between 1980 and 2016?
In part. I saw here at FAPESP a number of projects involving businesses—both small ones, that employ students and postdoctoral researchers, and large ones, that pursue partnerships. But at meetings on collaborations between universities and businesses, the starting point is usually that they are not a thing, or that they are weak, or incipient. That made me wonder: Why is there so much demand for it but everyone speaks to the contrary? I looked for data on it and found only anecdotal evidence. It is a prejudice based on specific cases. It is also based on the misconception that, in the United States, businesses are the ones to fund research in the universities. That is not the case. Nearly two-thirds of their funds come from the federal government, one-third from the state government, and only 6% from businesses. I searched for indicators and made two discoveries. The first is that the ratio of external funds received by USP and UNICAMP to that of businesses places them alongside the top 10 United States universities. The second is rather unfortunate: none of the other universities in Brazil keep track of this. They do not know how much money they have received from businesses.

Was that why you decided to keep track of the papers produced through university-business collaborations in Brazil?
That’s right. I watched a lecture here at FAPESP, by a researcher from the University of Leiden, on how to measure collaborations between universities and businesses through coauthored scientific articles. He showed the results from Brazil, based on the website Web of Science, and there were about 10 papers. I loved the idea of counting coauthored papers, but I noticed they weren’t counting properly. They did not know that Apis Flora, InVitro, and Griaule are businesses. Their idea of a business is IBM, GSK, Novartis, Microsoft. During the lecture, I searched the database for articles including the terms “ltda” and “corp.” I got a lot of hits, which made me believe there was something there. Clarivate was putting together a report and I complained to them that the percentage of articles coauthored with businesses was inaccurate. The same happened with Elsevier and Scopus data. I took all the articles from Brazil, ruled out hospitals and universities, and selected the rest. I then looked them over one by one, since some of them did not include terms like “ltda” or “corp.” It took me three or four weeks to check over 400,000 articles. The Clarivate report showed that it is not accurate to state the numbers are low. I found that information valuable: it proves reality is the opposite of what everyone thinks.

Could that be because of how hard it is to clearly see the wealth generated by each partnership?
It is hard to see that clearly—everywhere. The study showed that a large part of the interactions, perhaps nearly half, are with foreign companies. They come here seeking the knowledge of university researchers, something that businesses in Brazil do not do. There is potential and value in universities that Brazilian businesses are not utilizing enough.

Business innovation indicators have stagnated in recent years. Why do they seem so disparate from these indicators of collaboration between universities and businesses?
This is another discovery I made while producing the FAPESP indicators. The dissociation happens for another reason. In the state of São Paulo, 57% of researchers are business employees. Of the R$25 billion invested in research in the state, 60% was spent by businesses to pay 47,000 researchers. The question is: How do they spend so much, yet we don’t see results as remarkable as those of businesses in other countries? The Data section of Pesquisa FAPESP published an educational chart a few years ago illustrating why there has been no headway in innovation indicators. The chart shows, in selected countries, the number of patents, the number of researchers working in businesses, and how many patents are obtained for each group of 10,000 researchers. In Japan and South Korea, there are 900 patents per 10,000 researchers. In Brazil, 10,000 researchers are paid but they only produce 29 patents by the end of the year. The 47,000 researchers employed by businesses here are working with a poor research agenda. This is not due to a lack of effort; it is due to a lack of a bold agenda driven by the pursuit of international opportunities.

We began to invest most of the funds in projects that are bold and competitive on a worldwide level

Let’s discuss some of the FAPESP programs. BIOEN focused on five areas: sugarcane improvement, biofuel production, ethanol engines, biorefineries, and social and environmental impacts. Which of them have had the most results?
They all had important results, but biofuel sustainability had the greatest impact, thanks to the work that resulted in the Scope [Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment] report. Bioenergy & sustainability: Bridging the gaps became required reading on the subject and it illustrated our strategy of seeking international collaborations in which we hold leadership positions. In this report, three Brazilian scientists led a team of 137 researchers from 80 institutions in 24 countries.

What was the impact of the report?
It was quite unique and valuable for Brazil: defining the conditions under which biofuel can be produced sustainably on a large scale. The main obstacle to expanding biofuel production in the world has been the criticism that it would cause hunger or decimate forests. These objections generally come from studies led by European scientists. This report included German, Dutch, French, and North American researchers and arrived at reasonable results, showing the wrong and the right ways to do things in this field. And the way we do it here is generally not the wrong way.

The Global Change Research Program was launched to help make decisions about risk assessment, as well as mitigation and adaptation strategies. However, the Executive and Legislative branches do not seem moved by it. Why is that?
I’m not sure that’s quite true. Results on rising sea levels are leading coastal municipalities to create new rules and legislation. It may have less visible results than BIOTA because it is a more challenging topic. Its consequences are very long-term: it is necessary to act now to avoid issues 50 years from now. It is not just politicians who are reluctant. There is a worldwide debate, which has escalated somewhat due to the ignorant reaction of certain politicians. This ended up creating a wave in favor of valuing research and results. Sure, there are parts of the program that could have worked better. But that’s normal. The challenge these programs often face is getting researchers to redirect their interests a little in order to work together and increase the quality and effectiveness of the results. The role of an organization like FAPESP is to lead and encourage by persuasion.

Detail from the article published on May 11, 2019, in O Globo, signed by the president of the House of Representatives and party leaders

Has any other program produced remarkable results?
The programs mentioned are oriented toward certain topics. Another aspect of our actions is related to traditional FAPESP programs, which have undergone significant change in how funds are distributed. Around 13 to 15 years ago, we used to invest more in short-term projects, the regular grants. We are currently investing most of the funds in grants for projects that are bold and competitive on a worldwide level—the thematic projects, the RIDCs, and the Young Investigator Award. The funds toward individual grants have decreased, while those toward projects with larger teams have increased. This was done deliberately and carefully. It involved convincing advisors to lessen restrictions on higher-risk research. Research is supposed to be risky. Your thought process is supposed to be: I’m not sure this will work, but has the proposing team managed a complex project before? If so, it is a good reason to bet on them. What defines a bold project is the size of the issue it addresses and how it intends to address it; whether it will tackle a problem that nobody has ever addressed before, or at least not in the same way, and whether the project can lead to a remarkably higher degree of understanding than we have today.

How has FAPESP managed to cope with the growing demand from the community, with so many complex programs and international agreements?
Between 2005 and 2013, both the demand and the real revenue of the Foundation increased. We were able to save funds between 2005 and 2014, recovering part of the endowment fund lost during the crisis between 2001 and 2005. We increased the number of grants and began the strategy to shift from short projects to long and bold ones. In 2013, we spotted crisis on the horizon, which has only worsened since. Demand has been surprisingly consistent since then. I cannot tell you why. In the face of the revenue crisis, considering the state of the Brazilian and São Paulo economies, we made the process of awarding fellowships or grants more rigorous. The success rate, which was 55%, fell to 40%. We are now on our way to 38%, because the crisis has not abated. From 2014 onward, the Board of Trustees has allowed us to use part of the fund to comply with the FAPESP zero rule—all projects that have been contracted will be paid. At the same time, we had to contract fewer projects in order to have fewer commitments in the future. Before 2001, the approval rate ranged from 75% to 80%; from 2001 to 2005, it ranged from 40% to 45%; from 2005 to 2009, it rose to 55%; and in 2014, it was 40%. It is not bad compared to other major agencies in the world, and it is an average of every criterion we use. We approve 60% of applications for scientific research fellowships and 28% of thematic project grants. The NIH [National Institutes of Health, in the United States] approve 11% of all five-year projects. The NSF approves 17%. Being more competitive improves the quality of the system. It compels researchers to try a lot harder with their projects.

FAPESP invested in producing S&T indicators. How do you assess the ability to produce information that helps with decision-making?
What changed was the fact that we connected the indicators with strategy-setting for FAPESP. The way I work involves valuing access to indicators. I encouraged the production of indicators relating to the outside world and FAPESP. By looking at the indicators, we can, for example, create a new area panel. Through our Virtual Library [bv.fapesp.br/], today anyone can find out how many grants have been approved in any given area. It is easy to see all that goes on, and that can be used in decision-making. For S&T indicators, the Executive Board has made an even more robust effort since 2015, with the arrival of Professor [Carlos Américo] Pacheco.

In your words, FAPESP seeks to have a social, economic, and intellectual scientific impact. Are they equally important, or should each branch be weighted differently at varying times?
The impact of research needs to be evident in these three dimensions. But I never said that every project needs to impact all three dimensions. These three aspects should be achieved by the system as a whole. It is up to an agency like FAPESP, or to the government, to strike the right balance—which is a dynamic one. There are times when we want more or less applied research, depending on the problems we face.

Has that changed over the last 15 years?
I’m not sure whether there has been a relative change. We have been able to expand our impact in all three areas. We are seeing a larger impact of research on businesses, more coauthored papers, more collaborative projects. We managed to increase our impact on science, because we see our papers being cited more often; we have a more significant international presence. And we have achieved a higher social impact, which can be seen in environmental decrees based on BIOTA results, or in the study on the effect of agricultural research on food production. Other things are harder to measure, but not to perceive. For example: a higher quality of care in hospitals due to better protocols, resulting from research funded by the Foundation. Or even the recent topic of genome sequencing of the Covid-19 virus (see report). We have improved in all three aspects.

In such a scenario of restriction and low growth, how is science funded? Is there anything to be done?
To a certain extent, it is possible to live with a restrictive situation by raising the bar when choosing what to fund. After a certain point, the process runs the risk of becoming an indefensible lottery. At FAPESP, we are not yet close to that point. But CNPq, whose budget was cut by 80%, is already at that stage. The main drawback of the crisis is that we are failing to build the foundations for a future with more science—and better science. We have gone too long without establishing new scientific institutions, universities, competitive departments. There was some progress between 2005 and 2012—using criteria I would not fully agree with, but it was done. In São Paulo, UFABC has become an important place for research in Brazil and worldwide. The Federal University of São Carlos has increased its research production. Through much struggle, the synchrotron light source, Sirius, was built; a respectable achievement, but Brazil needs more. Perhaps the answer is to have more qualified organizations of manageable size. They can be universities or institutes that address issues that need solving—or even businesses that are big on research and development.

Shouldn’t this idea of having more institutions include private ones?
Of course. There is a new trend in São Paulo: private institutions dedicated to research. When we put together the indicators in 2005, they did not show up on our radar. Now we see an institute linked to the Sírio-Libanês Hospital, another to the Albert Einstein Hospital, the Eldorado Institute, CPQD, FUNDECITRUS, and many others. With support from FAPESP, Mackenzie University has invested significant resources into building an important graphene research center. New research or higher education institutions can be private or public. Comparing the state of São Paulo with Spain—both with over 40 million inhabitants—the latter has more than 40 public universities. São Paulo has six. It’s something to look into, don’t you think?

What will you do as of May?
Here at FAPESP I had the pleasure to work with an exceptional team, employees, and panel members. It is hard to even put into words the joy of interacting with the researchers on these panels. They value good research because they know what it means to do research; they love science and technology, and they are full of ideas they are passionate about. This kind of environment is not often found. The boards have always been very constructive and professional, both during agreements and disagreements. I’m not sure what I’m going to do after April. The world has turned upside down with this virus business; everything has become harder. I think the research group at the Institute of Physics of UNICAMP will take me back. But I may look at the classified ads just in case.

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