This issue of Pesquisa FAPESP presents three reports that offer some important considerations about the institutional organization of science in the world and in Brazil.
The current scale of particle physics megaprojects is such that no country is capable of shouldering the burden of funding them alone. For the first time ever, the United States has proposed hosting a billion-dollar international project on its own soil for the purpose of studying neutrinos, the mysterious particles abundant in the Universe. This change in stance is due to U.S. perception that it has begun to lag behind in the field of particle physics after inauguration of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which, although it receives funds from North America, is operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). In an interview, the director of Fermilab, Nigel Lockyer, explains that on the basis of a report prepared by a group of experts in the field, the United States has decided to focus its efforts on particle physics and set up a huge experiment on neutrinos. The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), based at the Chicago laboratory, is now looking for international partners like Brazil.
The search to expand the sources of funding for research and development (R&D) has also motivated the Argentine government to seek new alternatives. Public-private partnerships are one of Argentina’s strategies for increasing the level of investment by Argentine companies in R&D activities, a figure that currently stands at only 24%. Lino Barañao, Minister of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation, since the ministry was established in 2007, explains in an interview given during a recent visit to São Paulo that Argentina would like to assimilate the good practices seen in what he considers to be innovative private initiatives in São Paulo as a way to move forward on projects with potential applications in the short and medium terms. The minister contends that comparisons with successful examples, close to the reality of Argentina, allow him to demonstrate to Argentine business owners just how profitable investing in R&D can be.
An example of a successful research institution that has implemented an unusual funding model for Brazil is the National Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA), under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI). The institution’s profile shows how the recognition it has received derives from a series of factors such as the high degree of internationalization on the part of its faculty and students and the academic flexibility it demonstrates by admitting students to graduate study programs without their first having completed high school or an undergraduate program. The decision made in the early 2000s to become a social organization (OS), which is a non-profit legal entity, helps explain the institute’s current status. The institution’s main source of funding is a management agreement signed with the MCTI, but endowments also constitute a portion (2% to 3%) of its total annual operating budget. One of the advantages to being an OS is the autonomy it provides for an entity to determine its own hiring and compensation policies, which contributes to attracting highly qualified staff.
The concession of sovereignty on scientific projects in exchange for partnerships and co-financing, as well as the search for new models and systems are just some of the complex reporting topics that make up this issue. May you enjoy the contemplation.