The year 2003, which began for FAPESP almost like a continuation of the austerity measures started in the previous year, ended with the harvesting of the first sweet fruits of the bitter decisions taken. After adapting its funding for scientific and technological research to the currency crisis to be seen in the course of 2002, and, simultaneously, to adjust meeting the growing demand for scholarships and grants to its financial capacity, the São Paulo development agency ended the financial year with available funds of R$ 602 million, 9.5% over what had been established as a target by the Board of Trustees.
This recovery is indispensable for ensuring, without upheavals , the continuity of its support for scientific and technological research in the state of São Paulo, to the extent that the Foundation’s capital revenues have always been an important supplement to the money passed on from the State Treasury. In 2003, the transfers from the Treasury added up to R$ 320.7 million, while other revenues (especially capital revenues) reached R$ 144.44 million.
This has made it possible for FAPESP to resume gradually its purchases abroad, suspended in 2002, except in cases that were indispensable for avoiding a loss for the research, going so far as authorize imports of goods and services for projects already approved and in force until 2007. It also made it possible for disbursing, in the year, R$ 354.8 million in support for research, 22.1% less than was spent in the previous year, as the 2003 Report on Activities shows, now being issued.
“The currency crisis that led FAPESP to take a series of restrictive measures also made it possible for the Foundation to formulate a new management program, with the objective of, on the one hand, reconstituting, on expanded levels, its net capital Capacity, and, on the other, maintaining all its programs, strengthening them or even expanding them in some cases”, says FAPESP’s president, Carlos Vogt. With this, he adds, measures were taken whose instrumental expression came to be carried out by means of regulations for governing the procedures. “Compliance was met with all the demands lodged with FAPESP, and the objective conditions were constituted for attending to new programs.”
But 2003 was also a year for administrative organization at the Foundation, so as to make attending to the researchers more agile and efficient. The computerization of its management of programs and processes was started, with the development of the Development Management Support System, in partnership with the Recife Advanced Studies and Systems Center (Cesar in the Portuguese Acronym). Already in the second half of 2004, tests were started on the system, which will begin to work in January 2005. From that date onwards, the entry at FAPESP of the processes of applications for scholarships and grants will he handled electronically, as will their all their follow-up (advisors’ opinions, applications for deadline alterations, resources uses and so on).
“The process of computerization is today at an advanced stage of development, and the Foundation should begin operating effectively an electronic manner in the beginning of next year, both for the internal procedures and for those linked to the Foundation’s end-activity”, claims Carlos Vogt. According to him, computerization will result in greater nimbleness, flexibility and visibility in all these procedures, to the benefit of the scientific community.
Also to improve the exchange of information and communication with researchers, in 2003, the Foundation’s website was redesigned , and the on-line service Talk to FAPESP created, to direct the researcher’s doubts to the competent sector within the institution, to answer them by e-mail in an average period of 48 hours. Also created was the electronic science and technology news agency, Agência FAPESP, which currently sends daily bulletins to about 28,000 people all over the country and receives 8,000 hits a day on its website.
In 2003, FAPESP approved 7,466 new research projects, of which 3,838 were new scholarships, 2,944 new regular grants, and 684 new scholarships and grants connected with the special programs and the programs for technological innovation (see above table). In total, for the scholarships (the new ones and those granted in previous years still in force) R$ 135.87 million was set aside in the year, which corresponds to 38.3% of the total of R$ 354.8 million disbursed by FAPESP. R$ 146 million was set aside for the regular grants – or 41.2% of FAPESP’s spending on its end-activity – and R$ 72.9 million, or 20.5% of the total was directed towards the special programs and the programs for technological innovation together.
In the Graph on the following page, it is possible to see the percentage share of FAPESP’s disbursement by line of support, in 2003 and in a historical series started in 1996. It is important to realize, for example, that the disbursement with scholarships, in the last financial year, notwithstanding the greater rigor in the selection and approval of applications and the 11.3% fall in spending in relation to 2002, was one of the highest of the last eight years, practically tying with the disbursements in 2002, which amounted to 38.4%.
The high spending of support funds to scholarships has as its cause the increase, over the last decade, in the demand for this support modality, which had been accompanied in part by the increase in the number of approvals on FAPESP’s part. If we take 1994 as a point of reference, applications for scholarships went up from 2,256 to 8,081 in 2003, amounting to a growth of 258%. In the same period, the number of scholarships approved leapt 199%: it went from 1,282, in 1994, to 3,838 last year. It should be pointed out that in 2000 – before implanting its policy of greater rigor in the assessment of new applications for scholarships and carrying out a comparative analysis of the proposals – approvals had arrived at 5,213 scholarships, corresponding to an increase over the new approvals in 1994, in the order of 306%.
“The greater rigor in the assessment of the applications for scholarships reflects the competition for these funds”, says FAPESP’s scientific director, José Fernando Perez. For him, the growth in qualified demand was very great, and the Foundation is not managing to meet it, in spite of directing 38.3% of its disbursement towards scholarships – that is, to form human resources. “The State’s research system has an installed capacity for forming more people and is not doing so. This ought to be an object for reflection on the part of the federal agencies.”
Doctorate and postdoctorate
It is worth pointing out the importance given by FAPESP to scientific initiation – there were 1,846 new projects approved in 2003, from a total of 3,838 new scholarships – and to doctorates and postdoctoral studies. For the first, through both scholarships for doctorates and for direct doctorates, R$ 78.8 million was set aside, from a total of R$ 135.9 million laid out with scholarships, which corresponds to 58%. With the postdoctoral studies, R$ 28.8 million was spent, or 21.3%. Together, the two modalities ate up 79.3% of the whole disbursement with regular scholarships. The areas of knowledge that received a greater volume of funds last year – both in total and in the scholarship modality – were health, biology and engineering, as has been happening in the last few years.
The share of the regular grants, including the thematic projects, in FAPESP’s spending on support in the year remained over 40%. Even so, there was a reduction of funds in the order of 26.1%, in relation to 2002. For the special programs and the programs for technological innovation, the reduction of funds was in the order of 30.4%.With the special programs and those for technological innovation, R$ 29.4 million and R$ 43.4 million were spent, respectively. Amongst the special programs, the largest amounts were set aside for the Support for Young Researchers in Emerging Centers program (or simply Young Researchers) – which aims at forming new leaderships in research, fixing young doctors in the state, and diversifying the research centers – and for the program Support for the ANSP (Academic Network at São Paulo) Network, responsible for connecting the academic computer networks and those of scientific and technological research institutes and centers amongst themselves and with Brazil and abroad.
Then there are the programs for technological innovation, where the largest disbursements went to the Small Business Innovation Research Program (PIPE) – which funds research in São Paulo companies with up to one hundred employees – and for the Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers (Research, Innovation and Diffusion Center (Cepid) program, which finances ten centers of excellence in the state. For Carlos Vogt, the follow-up that the Report does of the activities carried out FAPESP shows that the course followed by the Foundation is correct and point to a role that has been proving increasingly more solid and important in supporting the system for cultural, scientific and technological production of the state of São Paulo and of the country.Republish