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Combined efforts

FAPESP resorts to a set of initiatives to make São Paulo research more competitive abroad



The internationalization of research in São Paulo state has become the target of a set of FAPESP initiatives. One of the examples of this strategy was seen in São Paulo, in early August, when 350 Brazilian and foreign graduate students plus 20 experts of several nationalities met, to honor the American mathematician John Nash and to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Nash Equilibrium, the theorem that forms the cornerstone of game theory. The speakers included four Nobel Prize laureates: John Nash himself, who was awarded the prize in 1994, Robert Aumann, the 2005 laureate, and Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson, the 2007 laureates. This was the fourth event held as part of the ESPCA program (São Paulo School of Advanced Science Program), a form of FAPESP aid designed to increase the international exposure of those areas in which São Paulo research has achieved world standards of competitiveness. Released last year, the program enables São Paulo researchers to organize short courses of one or two weeks, to which professors from around the world and from São Paulo state must be invited. It is a requirement that the courses be attended by a certain number of students, at least half of whom must be from abroad. “In this way, we plan to garner global exposure for these research areas, in order to awaken foreign students’ interest in working as scientists here in São Paulo,” said the scientific director of FAPESP, Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, in an interview to Pesquisa Brasil [Brasil Research], a Pesquisa FAPESP radio program. “We want to show them what is best here in São Paulo. The public calls establish that each event is to include a reserved session in which someone from FAPESP presents the Foundation and the research opportunities available in São Paulo state. I did this presentation at three such events with an excellent reception. There were lots of questions and the students from several places abroad, such as Chile, the United States, France, China and India, seemed genuinely interested” he states. The program provides for two public calls a year; the third call should be published shortly.

The Foundation’s internationalization strategy brings together a set of other efforts, such as cooperation agreements with agencies, companies and/or scientific institutions in Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Mexico, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Switzerland (see list of agreements here). One such example is the cooperation agreement signed in 2004 with France’s CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), which aims to encourage an interchange of scientists and the submission of joint projects from researchers at São Paulo institutions and their French colleagues. To date, this has given rise to four calls for proposals and has provided grants for 27 projects. Likewise, FAPESP has an agreement with DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), Germany’s main research promotion agency. Last year, the Foundation established a bridge to British research, when it signed cooperation agreements with RCUK (the Research Councils of the United Kingdom) and with King’s College London, which became the first British university to partner FAPESP.

Foreign institutions have been showing a rising interest in partnering São Paulo researchers. Last month, for instance, six representatives of CAS (the Chinese Academy of Sciences) visited FAPESP headquarters in São Paulo with the aim of initiating scientific collaborations. “We wanted to find out how agencies such as FAPESP operate,” commented Pan Jiaofeng, the CAS secretary-general. “We are especially interested in biomass, biodiversity and the neurosciences.” According to him, this was the first visit to Brazil. “There is concern as to how we select the areas of priority,” said Celso Lafer, the FAPESP chairman. “We talked about the possibility of future cooperation and agreed to explore this at a later date.”

To attract foreign researchers, opportunities for FAPESP post-doctoral grants are offered in monthly advertisements in the journal Nature and on the Foundation’s website, in Portuguese and English. The Foundation’s major initiatives, such as the Biota program, which studies São Paulo state biodiversity, the Bioen program, which researches bioenergy, and the Program of Research into Global Climate Change have been holding workshops and seminars attended by foreign researchers, in order to encourage the participation of São Paulo state researchers in international networks and to keep them in contact with the state of the art in their respective fields of knowledge. “There’s no silver bullet to solve complicated problems, because there are many points to be resolved. That’s why, when it comes to the issue of making São Paulo research more international, it’s important to maintain several articulated initiatives,” stated Brito Cruz.