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letter from the editor | 274

Constitution, 30

A constitution is the maximum applicable legal framework of a state; the set of its fundamental principles. It confers powers and establishes their limits. Constitutions vary in form and content depending on the history and traditions of the nation, and they are often replaced at times of significant political change. Brazil is no exception: the seventh and current constitution was drawn up shortly after the country’s redemocratization, replacing the constitutional charter written during the 21-year military regime.

A constitution can be seen as a snapshot of a nation at the time it was written, and of the future that the country sees for itself. The 1788 United States Bill of Rights shows a great concern with the risk of the central government oppressing the states that compose the federation. The Brazilian Constitution of 1988, which became known as the citizens’ constitution, seeks to guarantee individual rights and freedoms and to establish the limits of governmental powers.

This resulted in a comprehensive and detailed document, including many innovative elements, such as universal access to education and health care. It was also the first to incorporate the rights of minorities such as indigenous peoples and quilombolas (descendants of escaped Afro-Brazilian slaves). The breadth and depth of the document, understandable given its historical context, has raised a number of questions that have been studied and debated over the last 30 years. Some are economic in nature: when creating a state with greater obligations, you have to find a way to fund them. Others are political, such as those related to governance. Such a highly detailed document can often result in contradictions and require amendments in order to be fully effective, as well as frequent consultations with the constitutional court, known in Brazil as the Federal Supreme Court. Today, academic debates about the virtues and problems with the 1988 Constitution remain alive and more relevant than ever.

This edition includes three interviews with three very different personalities. Virologist Pedro Vasconcelos helped identify the first cases of dengue in Brazil in the 1980s, and in 2015 his research group established an association between the Zika virus and microcephaly. He is director of the Evandro Chagas Institute in Belém and believes new Zika and yellow fever outbreaks are only a matter of time. English geneticist Magdalena Skipper is the first woman to be named editor in chief of the journal Nature, one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific journals in the world. Skipper spoke to Pesquisa FAPESP about the challenges of making research and dissemination more transparent, as well as the rise of open-access publishing, which is gaining important support—and is incompatible with the subscription model practiced by the Nature group. Computer scientist Fabrício Bloisi, from the state of Bahia, is one of the founders of Movile, a privately held company worth more than US$1 billion. He began his entrepreneurial career by creating a startup while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), when he was also the recipient of a FAPESP undergraduate fellowship. Bloisi champions the disruptive potential of technology and the importance of continuous learning in order to remain innovative in business.

On behalf of the entire Pesquisa FAPESP team, I would like to wish you all a happy new year.

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