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Public policies

From two ministries to one

Gilberto Kassab: Minister of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications

GILBERTO SOARES/FLICKR/MCTIGilberto Kassab: Minister of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications GILBERTO SOARES/FLICKR/MCTI

The scientific community has criticized the merger between the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) and the Ministry of Communications after a reform cut the number of federal government ministry portfolios from 32 to 24. A statement issued by the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC) and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC) said the merger was artificial. The document, signed by biochemist Helena Nader and physicist Luiz Davidovich, who chair the SBPC and ABC respectively, indicated that “the MCTI agenda is based on criteria of scientific and technological merit […]. This system is unlike the Ministry of Communications’ system, which involves political relationships and management practices that have little to do with everyday MCTI activities.” The reform aims to curtail government spending. Former São Paulo mayor Gilberto Kassab heads the new ministry. The minister defended the merger at a May 25, 2016 meeting with researchers, including Helena Nader from the SBPC, Marco Antonio Zago, president of the University of São Paulo (USP), and geneticist Mayana Zatz. “There is considerable synergy and linkage between communications, science, innovation and research,” Kassab says. The scientists argued that the merger could affect states and municipalities and lead to disruptions in their science and technology departments. Funding allocation is another concern. The estimated 2016 budget for the National Science and Technology Development Fund (FNDCT) is about R$1 billion, compared to R$3.01 billion in 2015. “We discussed program continuity and holding the ministry’s budget at levels of previous years,” Helena Nader says. Some positions in the ministry have already been filled. Engineer Elton Santa Fé Zacarias is now executive secretary and Álvaro Prata, former president of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, is Secretary of Technology Development and Innovation.