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Impulse for scientific culture

Foundation assesses impact of its programs and creates news agency

FAPESP is launching a project for assessing the results of its policies for fostering research and a news agency to expand the range of its popularization of science. “The two ventures, apparently isolated, are linked together conceptually and philosophically, as far as the institutional role is concerned”, explains the Foundation’s president, Carlos Vogt. For Vogt, scientific culture draws a spiral that moves through four quadrants. Its starting point is producing and making known science among peers, a function that involves researchers and the institutional apparatus for fostering and producing knowledge; it widens to the teaching of science and the education of scientists, involving scientists, professors and students, all the way from basic schooling to postgraduate studies; it advances in the direction of teaching for science, where the actors range from professors and directors of museums to young scientists, and the circle is completed with the popularization of science, when the knowledge produced reverberates through society as a whole, before restarting the cycle, which gets wider and wider. “The institution’s self-knowledge, by means of the assessment of its programs, and the news agency, contribute towards the dynamics of this spiral”, Vogt explains.

The project for assessing the results of FAPESP’s foster policies is to cover aten-year period. It is divided into four subprojects. In the first, already under way, an inventory is being drawn up of the park of medium and large sized equipment financed by the Foundation in its various special programs, its programs for technological innovation and the grants for research, taking into consideration its conditions of use and the environment to which it has been added. This data will be gathered in the processes for rendering accounts – which are being computerized – and by means of electronic questionnaires that will be forwarded to the researchers and groups that received the benefits. The information will be gathered together in a database, accessible to any researcher by the Internet. The project will be concluded in the middle of the next half year. “The idea is to form a diagnosis for a policy for granting new equipment”, Vogt explains.

The second subproject is going to outline the profile of the demand for finance from FAPESP, since 1992, looking for data both on the researchers who had projects approved and on those who had their projects rejected. “We know little about them”, Vogt explains. With the same perspective, the third subproject will be tracking the scientific and professional trajectory of the researchers who, in the last few years, have enjoyed in some way assistance from FAPESP. “This data is going to help the institution to get to know its role in the process of forming scientists”, Vogt says.

And, finally, the fourth subproject is going to assess the effects of the institution’s support for the companies that are part of the Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) and the Partnership for Technological Innovation (PITE) programs, and to create indicators of performance. The two programs have, respectively, 185 and 58 projects approved at various stages of development. The details of the two programs will be collected at the Foundation’s Data Processing Center and by means of a questionnaire sent to the coordinators of the research groups, so as to establish criteria to make a comparison possible between the distinct enterprises.

The project is coordinated technically by the special advisor to the presidency, Jocimar Archângelo, who was responsible for the entrance exams at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and for the implementation of the National Examination of Secondary Schooling (Enem), of the Ministry of Education (MEC). The researcher responsible is Geraldo di Giovanni, from Unicamp’s College of Economics. The subprojects will be coordinated by Helena Maria Cunha do Carmo Antunes, from the São Carlos School of Engineering, of the University of São Paulo (EESC-USP), and Eugênia Maria Reginato Charnet, from the Mathematics, Statistics and Scientific Computing Institute, at Unicamp.

At the end of June, FAPESP inaugurated a science and technology news agency, the FAPESP Agency, which has a website (www.agencia.fapesp.br) and daily bulletins distributed by e-mail to a wide and diversified public, made up of researchers, directors of development agencies, universities and research institutes in Brazil, politicians, journalists, and others interested in science and technology. The FAPESP Agency is integrated with the communication department, run by journalist Maria da Graça Mascarenhas. It is not an agency that produces news just related to the Foundation, but has a much wider cover.

It produces news, interviews and special reports on matters relating to scientific and technological policy, and to making public the results of research carried out in Brazil and abroad. Subscribing to the agency’s bulletins is free, and can be done on the website itself. “The main role of the FAPESP Agency is to disseminate the culture of science”, says Vogt. “It emerges as a natural need, since it is important to understand how science is done, but it is even more important to understand how science develops and evolves. The news agency may be something new for FAPESP, from the point of view of an isolated novelty, but not from the point of view of the Foundation’s culture, which has always been oriented towards this kind of concern”.

The agency liaises with other of the Foundation’s enterprises in the area of the popularization of science, like the Pesquisa FAPESP magazine, its electronic version (http://revistapesquisa.fapesp.br/) and the Foundation’s website (www.fapesp.br). With this liaison in action, the information by each one of the products can be used by the others. The agency, however, has its own team, coordinated by journalist Heitor Shimizu. The first bulletins were sent to some 15,000 readers, but straight away in the first week this mailing list grew considerably, chiefly by virtue of the requests made directly through the website.

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