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Letter from the editor | 106

In the hand-to-hand struggle with society

It is possible that some people still think that the answers and, in particular, the crucial inquiries of science are formulated in laboratories isolated from the world of common mortals, at some place so many times negatively associated with unassailable ivory towers. If this is how it is, they are certainly an increasingly smaller number, because the healthy dissemination of scientific culture shows little by little that scientific and technological knowledge is produced in well equipped laboratories, just as much in the streets, schools, health centers, hospitals, in short, in the midst of the hubbub of the current social life. This issue of Pesquisa FAPESP has the good fortune of demonstrating in practice, with two fine articles that contended for the cover, the two situations.

Let us begin by the article that made it to the cover and shows, from page 24 onwards, results of some of the most successful projects of the Public Policies Research Program, in fields as diverse as health, education, supply and municipal finances, amongst others.  This program, started by FAPESP in 1998, and with 221 projects under way today, has the objective of encouraging partnership between, on the one hand, universities and research institutes, and, on the other, bodies from the public sector and from the third sector, bearing in mind the solution of concrete and significant problems that disturb the daily life of the citizens. Encouraging them, let it be said, in the particular way of the Foundation, that is, by means of financing research projects. In the text, the editor for policy Claudia Izique and special editor Fabrício Marques, the authors of the article, show with a wealth of details how, following a direct examination of given problems, in loco, in the dialog with other social players, and with the support of tools of scientific research, specialists can extract from the problem itself the solutions that overcome them. Or how a problem like, for example, the floods in a city, can be the starting point for the solution of a second problem: the city’s water supply. This is a report of how to create knowledge in the contact with society, furthering at the same time new solutions for old questions.

The second story to which we refer deals with a new generation of photonic optical fibers, which, as reported by journalist Simone Biehler Mateos from page 70 onwards, both opens up perspectives for an increase in the capacity of the telecommunications networks and promise improvements in equipment for astronomy, precision clocks and image diagnosis equipment, amongst other items. What is on stage here is the creation of vanguard technology, which, in Brazil, is now being the target of investigation by some research groups in São Paulo, like the ones that are part of the Optics and Photonics Research Center, in Campinas.

Also recommendable is the reading of the article about a new compound, based on prostaglandins, which destroys plaques of fat in the arteries (page 49), amongst other texts that are not highlighted for the absolute need for commenting here on two novelties. The first is that, exceptionally, we are publishing an article by a scientist, physicist Roberto Salmeron, about the 50 years of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which constitutes magisterial lesson on particle physics. And the second is the debut on Radio Eldorado, on December 12, thanks to a partnership between this magazine and the station, of the Pesquisa Brazil program, a contribution towards the dissemination of scientific culture (page 37).  This is also how we are going to help researchers to enter more into the hand-to-hand struggle with society, in this case represented the Eldorado’s listeners, since these will be able to forward their inquiries to the production of the program, for the former to present their replies.

A good year’s end for everybody.