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More memory, less waste

Program to finance archive collections and management of waste

FAPESP is starting one more phase in the Program of Support for the Infrastructure of Research in the State of São Paulo. The Foundation will now be supporting plans to restructure and reorganize institutions like museums, libraries, and archives, which gather vast material for research that is not always easily accessed by researchers, and financing projects for the management of chemical waste, presented by laboratories and research centers.

Launched in 1994 as an emergency measure to recover the physical foundations for research in the state of São Paulo, which, then,  were severely decayed, the Program for Infrastructure has invested since then about R$ 500 million. This amount of funds has effectively recovered and modernized hundreds of research installations of universities and institutions all over São Paulo, linked to various spheres of knowledge.

In this new phase, one of the focuses of the Program is Support for the Infrastructure of Depository Centers for Information and Documents, which, strictly speaking, offers the investments intended for the recovery and modernization of libraries, museums and archives, provided for in the Emergency Program for Infrastructure, for institutions that do not have teams of researchers, but which are a source of consultation for scientific research. With the closure of the emergency program in 1999, the Foundation transformed the support for the infrastructure of research institutions into regular mechanisms, by means of technical reserves, both for thematic projects – corresponding to 40% of the of the total of the grant awarded to each one of them – and for ordinary research projects, in which case the amount corresponds to 25% of the value of each grant, as well as for post graduate scholarships, corresponding to 30% of the amount. There are, however, according to Luiz Henrique Lopes dos Santos, FAPESP’s scientific advisor responsible for the project, many libraries, archives and museums that are not benefiting from the technical reserve because they do not have research groups, and for that very reason, do not ask FAPESP for scholarships and grants. And these institutions are important for many research activities. Hence they have become the target of a new program for supporting infrastructure. “Our objective is to enable these institutions to make their collections more accessible and readily available to researchers”, explains Luiz Henrique.

The program will provide support for the infrastructure of museums, archives, libraries and database companies, on the basis of the assessment of their importance to research and of their ability to maintain, expand, and make available to researchers the collections for which they are depositories. Funding  will be provided for essential equipment, furniture and supplies, needed for the conservation of the collection, material and labor for small repairs to the installations, and part of the cost of outsourcing services for the arrangement, cataloging, and bringing IT to the collection. The program does not cover the construction of new buildings, nor large-scale works, or those that result in an increase in the constructed area.

Proposals from interested institutions, which must be presented by this November 30th, will be judged by specialists from other states, and published in a period of no more than five months. The assessment will take into account the importance of the collection for the groups of researchers, the innovative nature of the policy of perfecting the infrastructure, the suitability of the criteria for organizing and documenting the institution’s collection, and the ease of access for researchers, as well as the ability to expand the collection on a regular basis.

In the case of libraries, the list of researchers served directly, who coordinate the carrying out of research supported by development agencies will be also taken into account. In the case of archives, museums, and databases, the importance of the collection should be attested by two or more researchers who coordinate the carrying out of research projects for which the collection is relevant, with the respective list of projects approved by the development agencies.

Safety in research
In the area of chemistry, in particular, R$ 13 million was invested just in renovations, adaptations and modernization of laboratory equipment. But today, these well-equipped laboratories are producing considerable quantities of chemical waste, and they lack suitable installations so this waste can be treated or disposed of.  “20 years ago, the chemical waste used to be thrown into the laboratory sink, without any concern, not even for the safety of the researcher. A few years ago, some care started to be taken, such as the replacement of benzene, used as a solvent, by toluene, which is less toxic”, says Marco Aurélio De Paoli, from the Institute of Chemistry of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), the coordinator of the new program for the management of chemical waste, along with Hans Viertler, of the Institute of Chemistry of the University of São Paulo (USP), and Elias Zagatto, from the Center of Nuclear Energy in Agriculture (Cena/USP), in  Piracicaba.

More recently, De Paoli observes, concern also started to grow over the environment, and with the risks of contamination of the water tables. Chlorated solvents, now prohibited in some European countries, ethers, hexanes, toluenes and benzenes, or heavy metals like lead, mercury and cobalt, or acids, have to be treated properly before being disposed of. Others can even be recycled, provided they are purified. Several institutions now have collection programs, and reagents are disposed of selectively. “But the majority of laboratories do not do this systematically, with the support of a laboratory that analyses waste”, the researcher reveals.

It is precisely to revert this situation that the Program of Infrastructure for the Treatment of Chemical Waste was launched, with an initial budget of R$ 10 million. And the projects submitted to FAPESP in the ambit of this program should aim to make the installations of the laboratories suitable for the treatment or temporary storage of waste, and for the purchase of individual and collective safety supplies and equipment. In special situations, the interested laboratories can organize themselves, and, if appropriate, implement systems for incinerating the waste.

“The immediate objective is to eliminate the impact of chemical research on the environment. But there is also an educational objective, which is to get researchers and students ready for working in the chemical industry”, the coordinators explain.

All the research laboratories that have projects financed by FAPESP are eligible for seeking funds under the program. Besides the project for the management of the use and disposal of waste, the interested institutions should present, in addition, a project for the reduction of waste or for monitoring landfills. “We want to bring the São Paulo research centers and laboratories into line with the existing legislation, the responsibility for inspecting which lies with Cetesb, the Company of Technology of Environmental Sanitation”, concludes De Paoli. “In the next stage, all the projects in the chemical area financed by FAPESP should include programs to do away with the waste”, adds the coordinator.

Support for the institutions
In the first stage of the Emergency Program of Support for Infrastructure, a total of R$ 77.1 million was invested, to finance 849 projects.

In the second stage, the Program was divided into five modules, and the demand for funds rose from 1,103 to 3,017 projects. 1,261 proposals, in a total of R$ 146.4 million, were placed under contract. In 1996, at the beginning of the third stage, proposals for financing under Module I, which refer to the acquisition of multi-user equipment, started to be received throughout the whole year. In this stage, FAPESP received 1,825 proposals and invested R$ 122.2 million in financing 1,045 projects.

In 1997, the Foundation’s Board decided to extend the Program, considering that there were still shortcomings in the infrastructure of the state research system and a repressed demand to be met.  The number of modules was, however, reduced to three.  FAPESP received 1,797 applications, and approved 1,054 projects with a total value of R$ 133.3 million.